Social Work Practice and the Legal System

Learning Outcomes


  • Explain how the law is produced and practiced;
  • Identify what you should and should not be doing when using the law in social work practice;
  • identify legal dilemmas;
  • explain the need to make difficult decisions and be able to use a framework to enable you in the process of decision making;


Session 1 The Role of the Social Worker in Using the Law

  • explain your role when using the law in your practice;
  • have an initial understanding of the importance of law in determining action and the need for accuracy;
  • describe some key legal dilemmas faced by social workers and their implications for practice;
  • decide when to give advice and when to refer service users to a solicitor;
  • explain the benefits to social workers of having some legal knowledge;

Session 2 Duties, Powers, Responsibilities, and the emergence of Quasi-Legislation

  • describe the differences between social workers duties, powers and responsibilities.
  • outline the types of legal issues with which you will need to be familiar
  • appraise the relevance of quasi-legislation for your practice;

Session 3 The Changing Legal Responsibilities of Social Workers

  • explain how health professionals deal with relevant legal matters;
  • identify the need for consent to treatment and the ways consent can be given;
  • explain the need for confidentiality as applied to medical practitioners;
  • articulate the impact of Data Protection legislation on practice;
  • explain the relevant law on property and ownership including the ownership of ones own body, which can lead to acts of trespass;
  • make the connection as to how Registration changes your legal responsibilities as a social worker;
  • be aware of the various ways in which you can be held accountable in your practice;

Session 4 The Human Rights Act, 1998

  • explain the origins of the Human Rights Act in the European Convention of Human Rights;
  • identify the key Articles in the Convention;
  • explain how the Convention has been incorporated in the Human Rights Act, 1998;
  • identify the way rights have been protected and the implications for legal and social work practice;

Session 5 Law and the Professional Worker

  • Identify areas of accountability;
  • describe from where laws originate;
  • explain how an Act of Parliament is structured;
  • identify the Non-Statutory sources of law;
  • explain what is meant by the General Duty of Care;
  • identify circumstances in which claims of negligence could arise;

Session 6 The Courts and their Work

  • describe the overall structure of the court system;
  • outline the work carried out by the court system;
  • explain the roles of people who work in the court;
  • describe the role of the social worker in court;

Session 7 Dealing with Dilemmas

  • give examples of the dilemmas social workers face when using the law;
  • explain how the law deals with issues of discrimination;
  • identify a range of possibilities for dealing with dilemmas;

Session 8 Making Difficult Decisions

  • identify difficult decisions that social workers make;
  • explain the kind of support available through consultation, case conferences and keeping records;
  • use a framework for decision making;