Carer’s and UK social work law

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8 December 2015

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          ‘Carers’ need support from the civil law, not punished by the criminal law. To what extent do you consider the law treats ‘carers’?

          ‘Carers’ have become an essential aspect in the lives of the UK citizens. A carer can be referred to as anyone who cares, unpaid, for a friend or family member who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem, or an addiction cannot cope without his or her (carer) support. There are various reasons behind any individual taking on caring are varied, but can contain causes such as: Serious physical illness, Long-term physical disability, Long-term neurological conditions, Mental health problems, Dementia, Addiction, Learning difficulties.

            Just as the reason why someone becomes a carer varies, the same is the case for the tasks that a carer fulfills. These tasks include practical house hold tasks, personal care and emotional support among many others. Just like any other individual in United Kingdom, the ‘carers’ needs protection by the law especially the civil law and not being subjected to punishment by the criminal law. The justice system in the United Kingdom is the mechanism that upholds the rule of law. The country’s courts provide a forum that is effective in resolving disputes as well as to test and enforce laws in a rational and fair manner. Moreover, the courts system has formed the basis for the solving of any disputes and law breaking offences in the community and at all levels (Swain & Rice, 2009).

          “Law and social work” have become an important aspect in the United Kingdom social set up. It refers to the crossing point between the carrying out of the communal work and the legal structure in the country. This includes components of the legal system such as the: legal establishments (prisons and courts among others), case law, and legal experts such as the judges, attorneys, forensic experts, paralegals, and alternative dispute resolution, among many others. Law plays numerous significant roles in the ‘carers’ practice of social work. For example, from an environmental viewpoint, the legal structure is an essential part of any client’s social setting. Numerous social work clients are concerned with legal structures, such as criminal justice, child security, or mental health. ‘Carers’ need to be sensitive of the laws that controls or regulates every structure so as to help clients steer their way through these structures more efficiently, and to be capable of advocating for law improvement to improve the integrity of fit linking clients and their socio-legal surroundings. In addition, laws also oversee loads of interactions of interest to social work clients (McIvor & Raynor, 200). These include relationships such as tenant/landlord, employer/worker, patient/physician, children and parents as well as customer/vendor among others relationships. Hence, familiarity of the law ought to give practitioners with a realistic perceptive of their clients’ rights and responsibilities in a wide variety of social relations. Subsequent, organization-specific laws regulate a number of social agencies such as the hospitals, social assistance, schools, mental health facilities, correctional institutions, and other social agencies. Organization-specific laws may order who is qualified for services, principles for record keeping, privacy, and other client civil rights (McIvor & Raynor, 200).

          ‘Carers’ or better still ‘Social workers’ have to comprehend these laws in turn to make sure that their organizations abide by the laws, and to be able to advocate for modifications in the law so as to encourage better and bigger economic and social impartiality. Thirdly, different laws control the occupation of social work itself. Mostly there are licensing and/or authorization laws that control the carrying out of social work, as well as who possibly will practice and what values of performance are lawfully allowed for them to perform. ‘Carers’ should also be conscious of unprofessional conduct or (tort) bylaws that make out when a ‘carer’ may be legally accountable for inducing injury or harm to a customer if they carry out their practiced duties in an approach that falls below a rational level of care. In summary, some ‘carers’ has their work in forensic surroundings, conducting examinations, valuation, and treatment for clients involved in court or other legal systems. Such settings include probation, prison, child custody assessment, and uncontrolled committal to mental health foundations (McIvor & Raynor, 200).

            Despite being vital in the governance of any country, there is great difference between the civil and criminal law. The two are different as well as broad components of law with distinct of laws and punishments. “The disparity stuck between criminal law and civil law is reflected on the two varied objects which law seeks to practise, put right or penalty. The constituent of civil law is the putting right of wrongs through by forceful compensation or repayment: the offender is not penalized; he only undergoes so much harm as is indispensable to make good the wrong he has done. The person who has suffered gets a specific benefit from the law, or at least he avoids a loss. Alternatively, in the case of crimes, the main objective of the law is to discipline the reprobate; to give him and others strong enticements not to commit same or similar crimes, as well as to change him preferably and also satisfy the public sense that wrongdoing ought to meet with revenge.” For example, the criminal law entails cases such as burglary, assault, murder among others while the civil entails aspects such as malpractice and negligence (Swain & Rice, 2009).

           Over the time the social work and the law in United Kingdom has come along together forming a relationship where one cannot do without the other. The law calls for a must registration of the carers in one of the many registers organizations in the country. This allows for the effective protection of the ‘carers’ by the law. This has brought along a clear understanding of the law and in turn defining what is ethically right for the caregivers in their work. The social law has called for ‘Carers’ need to recognize diversity in the caring services. Respecting and Valuing service users, irrespective of, for example, their ethical definitions, gender or age is central to excellent practice by the . It is also about working in a way that counters the unfair or unequal treatment of individuals or groups on the basis of their race, gender, class, age, culture, religion, sexuality or ability. There is a growing body of law that seeks to prohibit and punish a range of discriminatory behaviors in various kinds of social setting, for example in the provision of services and in employment opportunities. For social workers, valuing diversity entails more than this. Social work professionals need to be aware that there are structural dimensions to discrimination.

          The law defines what the carer ought to observe when offering their services to their clients. One of the key aspects that they are supposed to observe is the need to protect the rights and support the interests of service users and ‘carers’. In addition, the law also requires the ‘carers’ to strive towards establishing and maintaining the confidence and trust of service users and ‘carers’ or themselves. Other requirement by the law to the social care givers include: promote the independence of service users while protecting them as far as possible from danger or harm. Valuing the rights of service users whilst in search to ensure that their behavior does not hurt themselves or other people. Endorse public trust and confidence in social care services, and also be e responsible for the quality of their work and take responsibility for maintaining and improving their knowledge and skills.

          Social work is a responsible and demanding job. Practitioners work in social settings characterised by enormous diversity, and they perform a range of roles, requiring different skills. Public expectations, agency requirements, resources, and the needs of service users all create pressures for social workers. The public receives only a snapshot of a social worker’s responsibilities and, against a background of media concentration on the sensational, the thousands of successful outcomes and years of hard work in childcare and with vulnerable adults are never considered. In intervening in people’s lives, social workers face practice dilemmas arising from the relationship between social work values and the law (for example, working to promote the rights and self-determination of service users and having to balance this with the need to protect them and to protect the rights of others (Swain & Rice, 2009).

           The relationship between social work and the law is part of an ongoing debate. There are those who adopt a legalistic model and argue that the law, reflected through court orders, is central to social work practice (for example, Blom-Cooper, 1985). Others have argued that over-reliance on the law fails to address the problems people face and may even exacerbate them. This seems to present a dilemma for practice. The growing importance of the law in social work practice and decision-making is reflected in the training requirements for professionals working in the field of social work (Department of Health, 2002). Yet it is essential that alongside this there is a value base with an emphasis on principles, such as partnership, equality, and empowerment, which must inform good practice (Bashir, 1999).

          Over the past two decades, there have been a number of events that raised serious questions regarding social work practice. There has been fierce debate in relation to child protection issues, the changes within the criminal justice system (for example the introduction, by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, of anti-social behaviour orders) and the effectiveness of community care. There have been well-documented tragedies and errors of judgement (Blom-Cooper, 1985), apparent over-zealousness such as in the Cleveland affair (Butler-Sloss, 1988) and the misuse of power in residential care in the ‘pin down’ affair (Levy and Kahan, 1991).

           For many professionals in the field of social work, the publicity surrounding these and other events has led to a feeling of crisis. Social work as a profession has frequently been under attack since the mid-1980s, and this has undermined the public’s awareness of social work’s successes. For example, one of the observations about the Children Act 1989 was that it was based on current best practice within social work at the time, though such practice was not sufficiently widespread. The Act represented a new start for children, families, and other professionals working with children by radically changing the legal framework regulating the care and upbringing of children (Hardy and Hannibal, 1997). No legislation or legal framework can remain static, however, and because of reviews and enquiries such as the Victoria Climbie Inquiry Report (Department of Health and Home Office, 2003), the Children Act 1989 has been significantly updated, and the way in which it is interpreted, resourced and implemented has been strengthened (Braye & Preston, 1997).

          The law is one way in which established but discriminatory practices can be and are challenged. At the same time, however, the law can be seen as supportive of the prevailing social order, shaped by dominant forces that perpetuate inequality and injustice. Nevertheless, there are some key values embedded in legislation that are supportive of social work values. For example, the Human Rights Act (HRA) 1998 incorporates the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into UK law, with the result that the principles enshrined in the articles of the ECHR are directly applicable within the UK. These principles include respect for family privacy (Article 8) and an insistence on procedural fairness in the resolution of disputes (Article 6). Further, Article 14 aims at ensuring that the rights contained within the ECHR are secured without discrimination on any ground. The impact of the HRA 1998 on social care and social work has already been considerable (Bashir, 1999).

           Thus, it is important to recognise that the law expresses some values that accord with social work values and can help you to work in a positive way to support and empower service users. However, it is also important for social work practitioners to be aware of the ways in which the law can fail people. For example, there is little legislation to protect adults who are vulnerable through age. Community care legislation may provide that certain people are entitled to an assessment of their needs, but this is largely at the discretion of the local authority and it can be difficult for service users to challenge such decision-making (Bashir, 1999).

          Although agency policies and procedures also set parameters within which discretion is exercised, often the individual social worker makes the initial decision. This choice will be influenced by a range of factors, including the knowledge and understanding of the social worker, his or her experience of similar situations, the viability of available options – including the law and ongoing policy – and the social worker’s own values (Braye & Preston, 1997).


          Social work practice is based upon assessments of situations and decisions about strategies to be adopted. Sometimes there can be a tension between the law and working within social work values; the law provides the framework for practice. In the next section, you are going to examine the legal structures and processes within which social work skills are applied. In summary, it is vital for the civil carers to have support from the law and most importantly from the civil law and the social work law in United Kingdom, and not to be punished by the criminal law. The law forms the framework of all the actions carried out by the carers and in turn, it rather than being punished should protect them.


Baker, C. (ed.) (1998) Human Rights Act 1998: A Practitioner’s Guide, London, Sweet and


Bashir, A. (1999) ‘Working in racist Britain’, Community Care, 21–27 October, p. 26.

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Blom-Cooper, L. (1985) A Child in Trust: The Beckford Report, London, London Borough of


Braye, S. and Preston-Shoot, M. (1997) Practising Social Work Law, Basingstoke, Macmillan.

Brechin, A. (2000) ‘Introducing critical practice’ in Brechin, A., Brown, H. and Eby, M.A.

(eds) Practice and Health in Social Care, London, Sage.

British Association of Social Workers (2003) Code of Ethics for Social Work [online]. [Accessed 12 September 2005].

Butler-Sloss, E. (1988) Report of the Inquiry into Child Abuse in Cleveland, London, HMSO.

McIvor, G., & Raynor, P. (2007). Developments in social work with offenders. London: Jessica


Hayes, D., Humphries, B., & Cohen, S. (2004). Social work, immigration and asylum: Debates,

dilemmas and ethical issues for social work and social care practice. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Swain, P. A., & Rice, S. (2009). In the shadow of the law: The legal context of social work practice. Annandale, N.S.W: The Federation Press

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