Legal framework for social work in United Kingdom

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7 August 2015

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Social work is defined as a professional and academic discipline that will seek to have improvement on the individuals, groups’ and communities’ quality of life and their well-being through having policies, conducting researches, organizing communities and teaching for the good of the people affected by social limitations that may include poverty, mental and physical sickness, social injustice including violation of human rights. International (Federation of Social Workers 2000). These groups may include school dropouts, the elderly in the society, juvenile offenders, drug and alcohol abusers and the homeless

Social workers will work in different settings within a set of framework of legislation and practices. The setting may include a school situation, the service users’ home, a hospital or a public sector premise

Social work values

Social work is argued to be value based. Since it is a profession on, social work ethics (values) thus refer to a set of guidelines that have to govern the way professionals treat the people they interact with and the sort of actions that are regarded as right or wrong. They offer a vision and discernment (Bernstein 1970)

Social work in the United Kingdom occurs in four spheres. The first sphere is majorly a concept relates to the moral philosophy that creates the ethical arguments on social work. The second sphere is based on the legislation that has created an environment for practice of social work with reference to the social work cases. The third sphere is the political ideas and concepts and their influence in shaping and sculpturing the social work models, social work methods and practices. The last sphere presents the historical part of the beginning of social work as a profession and its struggle for professional identity. These spheres are extended, mid range and restricted definitions of social work ethics and values (Bernard et al 2008, p. 6)

This paper will focus on the second sphere in reference to the United Kingdom.

Social work and law

Social work as a profession has to follow certain laws and regulations which govern the profession. The legal framework involves the statute laws and case laws and tries to explain the relationship that links them. Moreover, it details legislation of the government under acts of parliament, the international laws, policy guidance, and the local government circulars that articulate the purpose and guidance principles of legislation.

The Health and Care professional Council code of practice

As a social worker, it is paramount to be aware of the legal obligations required of them to cretae a healthy and safe working conditions. The General Social Care Council code of practice imposes more duties for employers of social workers. The code states that (Brayne & Carr 2002, P. 49)

The social worker shall protect and promote interests of the service users

The social worker will strive to establish, maintain trust and confidence of the service users

The social worker will promote independence of the service users while giving them protection from possible harm

The social worker shall respect the rights of the service users while ensuring that their behavior will not harm other people and themselves

The social worker shall uphold the public trust and confidence in the social care services

The social worker shall be accountable for quality in their work and taking responsibility for maintenance and improvement of their knowledge


The Carew standard Act 2000

This Act has a significant role in the social care work as it did extend the registration regime for the social care in England and that of Wales for provision of the children’s services, the Act requires the following:

Registration of children homes

Registration of family centre’sRegistration of the independent fostering agencies

Registration of voluntary adoption agencies

Registration of support agencies

To be a permanent registered member one has to meet a set of regulations tailored to each individual service. In coming up to a decision whether the regulatory requirement shave been fulfilled, the registering authority must have a regard to minimum National standards. England’s registration authority is Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (OFSTED). The Social workers and the social care services cannot function without having satisfied the above requirements. As a social worker or a social care service provider, there is a need to have knowledge to avoid prosecution by Law

The health and social care Act 2012

This bill was agreed upon by both houses and obtained the Royal Assent on the 27th of March to become an act of parliament. The bill created an independent National Health Service Board to promote choices made by the patients in regard to their health issues and reduced the administration tool of the National Health Service. A National Health Service Board was also created to allocate resources and provide guidance on commissioning of social care services. Powers of the government’s ability to commission services on behalf of patients were increased. The function of the Care Quality Commission was strengthened and Section 209 of this Act amended. The powers of the new law under Section 60 of the 199 Act gave her majesty the power by order in the council to regulate social workers and social care practitioners of England. This placed the role of social workers and the role of social health care providers directly under her majesty (Britain 2012, p. 9). This Act placed a lot of Significance on Social Care services being provided in the United Kingdom. A consideration on the adult social care was emphasized. For example, allowing the transfer of public health to the local authorities through local health and the well being boards. Various new bodies have emerged such as the Local health watches which have a function of checking on health and the social care standards.

Children’s Act 2004.

In England, the law protects the right of children. Section 11 and 12 of this Act places a statutory duty on all agencies to co-operate and promote the welfare of the children. The government guidance for social workers and other professionals that interact with children is that: the social worker has a duty of keeping the children safe. There should be constant feedback to the children social care local authority on suggestions and assessment and lastly every person who has a role should not think that he/she has the absolute right to the child’s needs. Professionals sometimes fail to report the abuse and neglect cases do not face penalties for crime however; they might be subjected to professional discipline

Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012

The bill got a Royal Assent on 8th of March. The bill aimed to give strength to the social enterprise businesses sectors and make relevant the concept of social value and its importance in the placing and providing of public services. With this bill a National Social enterprise strategy was created to encourage the engagement in social enterprises. The local government act 2000 section 4 was then required to have a sustainable community strategy proposal that promote the engagement of social enterprise in their areas.

The Local Authority Social Services Act 1970

This Act brought together the different fields of social work into a single Social service department in every local authority. With this establishment, an emphasis was laid on a co-ordinated and comprehensive system of approach to the social care, the support of families and identifying the need for people to seek aid. The formulated departments then became responsible for domestic aid, residential accommodation and recreational services.

Care council of Wales

All social workers should be registered. It is one of the bodies mandated to register and regulates the activities of the social workers and all other social care in Wales. The care council is set up under the Care Standards Act 2000. It includes the codes of professional practice, conduct rules, and a well established guideline on the complainant’s procedure. Some other features accessed include consultation services, annual reports, the newsletters and the e-bulletins. Registration of workers ensures that there is as constant data of available social workers and social health care workers in a given state or region. It is easy to verify a genuine worker and avoids imposters who might be out on criminal activities

Care and Social services inspectorate Wales

This is a body mandated to regulating and inspecting the establishment of agencies that offer social care services in Wales region. It carries out duties on behalf of the ministers of Wales. It has been given power under Act 2003 of the Social and Health care to look into the handling of social services by the local authorities. On their website, one is able to raise a query on social workers conduct for necessary action.

Rights and freedoms of Social workers and limitations

Guide to information sharing

Social work is a professional duty. When dealing with children, England places emphasis on effective information sharing between the local agencies and the social workers on identification and assessment of service provisions. These are defined in “Working together to safeguard children (PDF). Under this guidance, paragraph 1.24 states clearly that fears that arise on sharing personal information should not hinder promotion of a child’s welfare and safety. All social workers and social care provider thus are required to have an efficient information discernment process to avoid a scenario of neglect in believe that another individual will do the task.

Limitations to this guide

These provisions however do have limitations. In Wales’s guidance on information sharing is found in chapter 14 of Safeguarding children working together under the Children Act 2004 (PDF). In these guidance paragraph 14.5 overlaps the guidance for professionals in England. It states that “The safety and welfare of a child or young person must be put into consideration first when making decisions about sharing information about them” and that must be, “an overriding public interest in disclosing information.” The guidance then further goes on to give the way forward in sharing on information. Paragraph 14.6 states that “the best way of ensuring that information sharing is properly handled is to work within carefully worked out information-sharing protocols between agencies and professionals involved, and taking legal advice in each case where necessary.

Guide to Loss and damage

Social workers have been mandated with a legal duty of caring and service providers. In essence these role places the employers with responsibility of paying up damages their employees suffer while in line of duty. In the event those being taken care of suffer adverse damage as a result of social work interference, then they are entitled to sue the social work company for negligence. These may be as a result of physical damage, emotional or psychological damage. While this is the case, the law prohibits the suing of social workers when performing certain statutory functions like safeguarding children. Employers need to understand the times which their employees may be liable to protection under the law and when not.

Legislation on discrimination on Personal privacy

In line of duty, social workers provide aid services. In order for them to carry out these functions effectively, it is paramount for them to have knowledge of the raft of legislation that protects individuals for discrimination basing on their gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, disability or ethnicity. These are domestic laws of the United Kingdom and are complemented by European Convention on human right which protects the citizens of the United Kingdom against unjustified state interference with their life. It is always possible for government and social work agencies getting into people’s life when they are not willing. In this event then the public can resort to the human rights protection of privacy and autonomy. Social workers and social work agencies need to have knowledge of the rights and privileges granted to the masses under the European convention for both parties to avoid violating them while at the same time helping individuals who have had their rights contravened

The Human rights

Human rights are legal obligations that are to be adhered to universally. Human rights are defined as “the universal right to standard living that is adequate for healthy and well being of individuals and their families.”(Roosevelt 2000, p.5). The global social work perspective embodies this by stating that “The struggle for dignity and fundamental freedoms, which allows for the full development of human potentials, boils down to two words: human rights.”(IFSW 1996). With this law, special work in the United Kingdom is bound to human rights which are considered sensitive to human race and collective citizenship. The social work must then be conceptualized and sensitized to the culture in which the services are offered. Thus a social worker in England should be able to accept the culture and laws of a state or region in which he/she is working in.


Social work and social care has a pivotal role in service delivery to the society. This view cannot go unnoticed. The values, ethics of social work such as respect for humanity, equality and service to all have played a major role in helping the less privileged in the United Kingdom. The beneficiaries have included the mentally ill, the old, women and children. The United Kingdom having realized the vital role of social care came up with various laws not only to check but to guide the professionals in their field of work. These laws have been defined in various Acts of parliament, Scholarly publications and various codes of ethics and conduct of the Social work profession. Social workers and social care workers interact with different people on daily basis. In order for a harmonious and efficient system of operation to uphold, these laws and various publications have played a major role. However the legal stipulations have also had a negative side of the story being felt where they have had to hamper the operations of social workers and social care practitioners. Technological advancements and constant reviews of challenges that have risen in the working environment of this profession I believe can act as a catalyst to new ideas to command this noble profession to greater heights in the United Kingdom


BRITAIN, G. (2012). Health and social care act 2012: chapter 7. [S.l.], Tso.

BRAYNE, H., & CARR, H. (2012). Law for social workers. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

BRITAIN, G. (2012). Health and social care act 2012: chapter 7. [S.l.], Tso.

BARNARD, A., HORNER, N., & WILD, J. (2008). The value base of social work and social care. Maidenhead, England, Open University Press.

ROOSEVELT, E. (2000). Universal declaration of human rights in English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Russian, Arabic. Bedford, Mass, Applewood Books.

HEALY, L. M. (2008). International social work: professional action in an interdependent world. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

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BERNSTEIN, P. (1997). American work values: their origin and development. New York, State Univ. of New York Press.BANKS, S. (2012). Ethics and values in social work. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, Palgrave Macmillan.

(2004). Children Act 2004: Explanatory notes. [S.l.], Stationery Office.

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"Legal framework for social work in United Kingdom" StudyScroll, Aug 7, 2015. Accessed Jun 9, 2023.

"Legal framework for social work in United Kingdom" StudyScroll, Aug 7, 2015.

"Legal framework for social work in United Kingdom" StudyScroll, 7-Aug-2015. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 9-Jun-2023]

StudyScroll. (2015). Legal framework for social work in United Kingdom. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 9-Jun-2023]

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