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Social workers advised to keep social life offline this Christmas

BASW is advising social workers not to blur professional boundaries during the festive season and to think about the consequences for their own privacy and safety.

The call comes ahead of the Association’s launch of a policy to encourage responsible and positive use of social media by members, due in the New Year.

In line with BASW's Code of Ethics, the Association believes that social workers have an obligation not to post any information online that may compromise their professional status.

The new policy aims to support social workers with ethical dilemmas when using social media. BASW Fran McDonnell, who has co-authored the policy, explains: “Social workers need to be vigilant to keep their own identity safe and that of friends and families. Social workers need to consider the implication and risks of putting personal information on sites such as work, contact details and photos of work colleagues and family members and should not do so if they think their privacy and safety will be compromised.”

The Professional Integrity section of the BASW’s code of ethics states that “Social workers have a responsibility to respect and uphold the values and principles of the profession and act in a reliable, honest and trustworthy manner”.

Supporting BASW’s call, social worker and blogger Andrew Ellery said: “As professionals we need to be aware of our responsibilities and project a professional image. We should be aware that those we work with, in various sectors and services, will be naturally intrigued by our online presence.

“There is a need to be friendly and personable with others, but there is an equal need to be mindful of relevant codes of conduct. We should protect ourselves by regulating our own online conduct, to prevent questions being raised over fitness to practice”.

The Association will be launching the policy in January. It recognises the opportunities and challenges social media presents for social workers in their practice and the possible risks both for social workers and service users.

Note to editors

Clause 2.3 Professional Integrity of BASW’s Code of Ethics states:


1. Upholding the values and reputation of the profession

Social workers should act at all times in accordance with the values and principles of the profession and ensure that their behaviour does not bring the profession into disrepute.

2. Being trustworthy

Social workers should work in a way that is honest, reliable and open, clearly explaining their roles, interventions and decisions and not seeking to deceive or manipulate people who use their services, their colleagues or employers.

3. Maintaining professional boundaries

Social workers should establish appropriate boundaries in their relationships with service users and colleagues, and not abuse their position for personal benefit, financial gain or sexual exploitation.

4. Making considered professional judgements

Social workers should make judgements based on balanced and considered reasoning, maintaining awareness of the impact of their own values, prejudices and conflicts of interest on their practice and on other people.

5. Being professionally accountable

Social workers should be prepared to account for and justify their judgements and actions to people who use services, to employers and the general public.