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BASW publishes Social Media Policy, placing 'e-professionalism' centre stage

The BASW Social Media Policy, launched today, emphasises how Facebook, Twitter and other similar online platforms offer the means to benefit social work practice, boost CPD opportunities and open up new ways of supporting service users.
 
The policy encourages social workers to be responsible in their use of social media, to always ensure their practice is informed by BASW’s Code of Ethics and to observe what it terms ‘e-professionalism’ which includes supporting service users to protect themselves from being exploited through social media.
 
The Social Media Policy, developed by practising social workers as part of a group supporting BASW’s Policy Ethics and Human Rights Committee, offers a clear endorsement for the use of social media at work, but urges the need to observe clear boundaries.
 
The policy states: “BASW encourages the positive uses of social media for networking and communication. Social media can enhance communication and be used as a positive tool in social work. 
 
“BASW believes that good practice in social media is no different from that in any other form of communication. Social workers should ensure they maintain appropriate professional and personal boundaries and take responsibility for recognising ethical dilemmas presented by the use of different types of social media.”
 
Highlighting the benefits social media offers to creative practitioners, the BASW policy explains how the same online tools that have changed how people run their social lives can also revolutionise support for service users. 
 
“Technology has the capacity to bring about a radical shift in care services and change how families care for people alongside work, family, community and social lives. Social workers will need to be competent in using technology, for solving problems and using it creatively. For example, care packages can be coordinated between workers and family members using online apps, and reviewing and purchasing care or sharing records online.”
 
The policy adds: “The use of social technology and social networking enables people to collaborate, build relationships and share information and resources.”
 
The risks of misuse of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media are clear, however, with the policy urging social workers to exercise caution in what they post online, who they engage with and the advice they give to their friends and family. 
 
For instance, the policy states: “Social media is being used in safeguarding investigations and social workers need to consider the ethical implications of obtaining information through these channels.”
 
The document, which will be revised regularly to reflect this rapidly evolving space, urges social workers on Facebook to continuously “review your security settings so that only those people on your ‘friends’ list can access your information”.
 
Equally, it adds: “Never make reference online to any service user or work related issue, including stating your employer/ place of employment on social networking sites; putting photos online which identify your place of work or service users; accepting service users or their family members as online friends. 
 
“Social workers should also consider asking family members not to publish or tag photos and other information which could compromise their professional standing or safety.”
 
The UK-wide document cites related guidance published by the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) and the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC) to explain that “anything social workers write online is in the public domain and may leave them open to scrutiny from the public/service users and could potentially be viewed as misconduct”.