Why Is the Law so Important in Social Work?

Why is the law so important in social work?

When the new degree in social work was being planned, all four countries in the UK outlined an understanding of the law as being a required part of the course. It is now more necessary than ever before that social workers understand the laws which are relevant to their own conduct and to service users. They must also possess the skills to use those laws for the benefit of the service user and society as a whole. In this essay I will explain why the law and social workers having an understanding of it, is such an important part of social work, in both theory and practise.

The most important function the law provides is to be a framework that supports and provides boundaries for those people who work within it. Even if a social worker may disagree with some aspects of legislation, they still have the safety of the knowledge that if they abide by the principles and guidelines set out before them in both the law and the General Social Care Council Codes of Practise, they are practising safely and lawfully:

If practitioners enter situations and engage with service users without   adequate knowledge of how to proceed lawfully, they deny service users access to an empowering resource, and equally open up themselves and their employing agencies to liability for negligence. (Braye and Preston-Shoot et al 2006: 8)

Social workers have to account for everything they do (and indeed do not do) to managers, the public, and the government and very often, especially when dealing with children, to courts of law. Therefore it is very important for a social worker to remember that the law is in place as much to protect them themselves as it is to protect the service user. Without the law, power and decision making processes would be left to groups or individuals, which would leave too much room for disagreement, conflicts of values and beliefs and massive margins for error. Many laws and Acts that are put into place exist because...