Why is the law so important in social work?
When the new degree in social work was being planned, all four countries in the UK outlined an understanding of the law as being a required part of the course. It is now more necessary than ever before that social workers understand the laws which are relevant to their own conduct and to service users. They must also possess the skills to use those laws for the benefit of the service user and society as a whole. In this essay I will explain why the law and social workers having an understanding of it, is such an important part of social work, in both theory and practise.
The most important function the law provides is to be a framework that ...view middle of the document...
Many laws and Acts that are put into place exist because certain groups of people are not adequately catered for well enough by older more conventional laws, or because with sociological progress and change, new groups, with new needs are distinguished and acknowledged.
Understanding and to an extent, learning the fundamentals of these Acts and laws, is beneficial to both the social worker and the service user. It enables the social worker to use the law to empower the service user, by explaining their legal rights, and allaying fears that may arise from the service user being misinformed, or making uneducated guesses about a situation. Even something as simple as explaining to divorced parents that under the law:
More than one person may have parental responsibility for the same child at the same time.
(The Children Act 1989, Section 2, Subsection 5)
Could inform and comfort them in the knowledge that they are still a parent in their own right. Similarly a quote from the same section of legislation:
The fact that a person has parental responsibility for a child shall not entitle him to act in any way which would be incompatible with any order made with respect to the child under this Act.
(The Children Act 1989, Section 2, Subsection 8)
Could simply and effectively illustrate to a child just one of the ways in which they are protected by the law. Hugh Brayne and Helen Carr state that by understanding the law, social workers can be:
…more effective in harnessing the lawyer and the lawyer’s toolkit to achieve better outcomes for the service user (2005:9)
It is surprising how relatively recently a lot of the laws that affect social work have been introduced and implemented. It was not until the mid 1960’s for instance that race discrimination laws were introduced, and it was even later in the mid 1970’s that sex discrimination laws were put into place. It was even later than that, in 1989 in fact, when the first clear and substantial child legislation was set out in The Children Act 1989.
Neil Thompson suggests that the introduction of newer legislation in Britain coincided with changes in thinking:
The influence of sociological thinking had the effect of producing a more critical and politically aware social work with a stronger emphasis on social...