Code of Ethics in Social Work

Written by carmen clarke-brown
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Code of Ethics in Social Work
Social workers help people. (help image by Renato Francia from Fotolia.com)

The social work profession embraces values in society. These values are the foundation and mission of social workers and serve to guide the professional's perspective. Corrective measures flowing from the values are based on the complexities of people's experience. Codes of ethics in social work are therefore adopted as ethical standards and principles.

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NASW Core Values

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics was approved by the 1996 NASW Delegate Assembly and revised by the 2008 NASW Delegate Assembly. The Code of Ethics sets forth values and standards to guide social workers' conduct as they address the problems faced by their clients in communities around the country. According to the NASW, the core values are as follows: service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity and competence.

Commitment to Clients

The Code of Ethics states that social workers' primary responsibility is to promote their clients' welfare and concerns. According to the code, there are times when the social workers' legal obligations may replace the allegiance owed to clients. Under such circumstances, the code requires social workers explain this fully to their clients.

The code asserts social workers should ethically respect and promote their clients' right to set goals. It recommends social workers assist the clients in their efforts to identify and clarify those goals. The code states the social workers can overrule the clients' right if the latter's actions pose an impending risk to themselves or others.

Consent

Social workers should obtain informed consent from their clients for any plan of care, the code posits. It submits if the clients are unable to understand the language being used during the communication process, an approved third-party consent should be obtained on behalf of the clients. The code emphasises clients should be made fully aware of their right to refuse involuntary services.

The ethics code also advises social workers to obtain clients' informed consent prior to any audio recording or videotaping sessions.

Competence

According to the ethical code, social workers must provide services and represent themselves as competent only within the boundaries of their education, training, license, certification or other pertinent professional experience. The code emphasises social workers are expected to have cultural competence and be aware of social diversity.

Conflicts, Privacy, Records

The code decrees social workers must be alert to and avoid conflicts of interest that can interfere with their duties to clients.

According to the code, the clients' privacy should be respected and, once a client discloses private information, the standards of confidentiality must apply. Since unpredictable circumstances can arise from disclosed private information, the code suggests the social worker advise clients about impending legal ramifications.

The code advises social workers to provide clients with reasonable access to their medical records.

Sexual Relationships

According to the code, there should be no sexual relationship between a social worker and a client under any circumstances, past or present. The ethical code extends to bar any sexual relationship between the social worker and a member of the client's family.

Additional Codes and Principles

The ethical codes also state there should be no physical contact, sexual harassment or use of derogatory language at any point during interaction with clients. According to the code, payment for services, interruption of services and termination of services are areas that should be explained fully to clients.

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