Overview of Social Work Code of Ethics

Social work practice is guided by a set of code of ethics. In the US, this set is referred to as the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics.

Students during their studies learn the Social Work Code of Ethics, where they commit to always adhere to the provided standards and principles when pursuing their professional careers.

As such, just like in the case of social work theories and social work groups, students are required to extensively understand the entire Code.

For this reason, the social work values and ethics essay is quite common in social work school. As a student, you will more often than be required to come up with a Social Work Code of Ethics summary.


Purposes of Social Work Code of Ethics

When developing a Social Work Code of Ethics summary, it is important to understand the role of the Code.

Usually, the Social Work Code of Ethics serve the below purposes:

1. It outlines the core values that form the basis of social work’s mission.

2. It entails a summary of the general social work principles (ethical) that are in line with the core values of the profession and institutes a set of definite ethical standards that guide social work practice.

3. It is meant to enable social workers recognize relevant considerations in case there is a conflict between professional obligations or there are uncertainties.

4. It entails ethical standards that can be used by the general public to hold social workers and the profession accountable.

5. It works to socialize practitioners venturing into the field the social work values, mission, ethical principles, and the resulting ethical standards.

6. It stipulates the standards that can be used by the social work field to examine if social workers have been involved in unethical conduct. Through the standards, the code provides the basis of a procedure through which ethical complaints made against social workers can be adjudicated.


Values of Social Work

As a student, understanding the governing core values would come in handy when developing the Social Work Code of Ethics summary.  This is because these values form the basis of social work principles.

This understanding is also important when writing your social work values and ethics essay.

Accordingly, there are 6 social work values. Note that each value corresponds to a particular principle as illustrated below.


Value 1: Service

Ethical Principle: The primary goal of social workers is to help individuals in need as well as to address social problems.


Value 2: Social justice

Ethical principle: Social workers work to challenge social injustice.


Value 3: Dignity and worth of the individual

Ethical principle: Social workers hold with regard the individual’s inherent dignity and worth.


Value 4: Importance of human relationships

Ethical principle: Social workers acknowledge the central significance of human relationships.


Value 5: Integrity

Ethical principle: Social workers are required to conduct themselves in a trustworthy manner.


Value 6: Competence

Ethical principle: Social workers conduct professional practice within their competency areas and grow and improve their professional expertise.


Social Work Code of Ethics Summary

After understanding the respective social work principles, now you can go ahead and develop a Social Work Code of Ethics summary.

Principally, when writing such a social work values and ethics essay, you should consider the below areas of professional ethical standards.


1. Ethical Responsibilities to Clients

This is one of the most important area of ethical standards to include in your Social Work Code of Ethics summary.

Per se, ethical standards in this area as deliberated below:


a. Commitment to Clients

Under this standard, the interests of the clients are primary. The primary responsibility of social workers is to promote clients’ well-being. Clients’ interests may however in some incidences be superseded by those of the larger society.


b. Self-Determination

Based on this ethical standard, social workers are expected to respect and promote clients’ right to self-determination, and therefore support them in their efforts to determine and clarify their goals.


c. Informed Consent

Social workers are required to offer services to clients within a context characterized by professional relationship that where possible, is based on valid informed consent.


d. Competence

Social workers are obligated to provide services and claim competency in areas within the confines of their education, training, certification, license, supervised experience, received consultation, and relevant professional experience.


e. Cultural Awareness and Social Diversity

Social workers are required to understand culture and its role in society and human behavior, while acknowledging the respective strengths within different cultures.


f. Conflicts of Interests

Social workers are required to be aware of and shun conflicts of interests that could interfere with exercise of professional discretion as well as impartial judgment.


g. Privacy and Confidentiality

Confidentiality social work ethics require social workers to respect the right to privacy of the clients by acquiring and disclosing information, where applicable through consent.


h. Access to Records

This social work ethical standard requires the social worker to provide clients adequate access to the clients’ records.


i. Sexual Relationships

This standard requires social workers to by all means refrain from sexual activities, unacceptable sexual communications of any form or type, or sexual contact with current clients even in cases where the contact could be consensual.


j. Physical Contact

Social workers are required to avoid physical contact with clients particularly where it may result into psychological harm.


k. Sexual Harassment

Social workers are required to refrain from sexually harassing their clients in any way or form.


l. Derogatory Language

Social workers should refrain from using any form of derogatory language against clients.


m. Payment for Services

Social workers where relevant should set fair, reasonable, and commensurate fees, and avoid services or goods as payments.


n. Clients without Decision-Making Capacity

Social workers are required to safeguard the rights and interests of clients without decision-making capacity when acting on their behalf.


o. Interruption of Services

Social workers are required to make best possible efforts to see that services are continued where they have been interrupted.


p. Referral for Services

Social workers are required to refer clients to other professionals where necessary.


q. Termination of Services

Social workers are required to terminate services only accordingly.


2. Ethical Responsibilities to Colleagues

These entail the standards that govern the relationships between social workers and their associates.

Standards in this category should be considered core when developing the Social Work Code of Ethics summary.

These standards focus on important areas like:

a. Respect

b. Confidentiality

c. Interdisciplinary collaboration

d. Disputes involving colleagues

e. Consultation

f. Sexual relationships

g. Sexual harassment

h. Impairment of colleagues

i. Incompetence of colleagues

j. Unethical conduct of colleagues


3. Ethical Responsibilities within Practice Settings

When writing your social work values and ethics essay, you also have to consider ethical standards to be observed within practice settings.

These standards are under areas such as:

a. Supervision and consultation

b. Education and training

c. Performance evaluation

d. Client records

e. Billing

f. Client transfer

g. Administration

h. Continuation in education and staff development

i. Commitment to employers

j. Labor-management disputes


4. Ethical Responsibilities as Professionals

These entail the ethical standards social workers are required to observe in their professional practice.

These standards are derived from some areas that include:

a. Competence

b. Discrimination

c. Private conduct

d. Dishonesty, Deception, and fraud

e. Impairment

f. Misrepresentation

g. Solicitations

h. Acknowledging credit


5. Ethical Responsibilities to the Social Work Profession

There are also important ethical standards that should be observed in relation to the profession.

These standards touch on the below areas:

a. Integrity of the profession

b. Evaluation and research


6. Ethical Responsibilities to the Larger Society

Finally, there are social work ethical standards that define the duty of social workers to the society.

These ethical standards focus on areas such as:

a. Social welfare

b. Public participation

c. Public emergencies

d. Social and political action

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