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Employers “making it impossible” for social workers to practice ethically

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has updated its Code of Ethics for social workers as evidence emerges that frontline workers being put under pressure to turn a blind eye to unethical practice.

BASW’s affiliated Social Workers Union (SWU) says it has seen a marked increase in complaints from practitioners concerned and angry at the impact of unmanageable and unrealistic caseloads which leave service users increasingly vulnerable.

Growing numbers of worried callers to SWU’s telephone duty service are backed up by a survey of members in which 81% expressed concern at unmanageable caseloads – 56% said they are very concerned.

The development coincides with BASW’s decision to revise its Code of Ethics, a definitive document that has underpinned social work practice since 1975. The code outlines the duty of social workers to safeguard the interests of often vulnerable service users by ‘whistleblowing’ on bad practice.

Commenting on the launch of the revised code and the worrying trend reported by social workers, BASW chief executive Hilton Dawson says:

“We are concerned that government cuts and local authority implementation of this resource rationing is making it impossible for social workers to practice to the standards rightly expected of them by BASW’s Code of Ethics.

“For example, we have members approaching SWU to tell us that cases are being allocated to named social workers, when crippling caseloads mean that they are sitting in a pile on someone’s desk and that no one has the time to actually work on them.

“Managers are being pressured to push cases through an administrative system, and crossing their fingers that nobody dies. Now, more than ever, the rights of social workers to stand up and blow the whistle on unethical practice must be protected.”

BASW is sending a copy of the revised code to all chief executives of local authorities, asking them to share it with staff, as well as allowing BASW to engage with social workers.

Read more in BASW’s Huffington Post blog.