Social workers are expected to maintain key boundaries to defend themselves, their customers, and the company with which they work, as in all professions. These restrictions are designed to ensure that, particularly though operating on very personal and challenging topics, partnerships between social workers and customers remain professional.
There are a number of significant boundaries that may have consequences for your actions and practice.
You are supposed to put the interests of service consumers at the forefront of all choices you make about them and their lives on your caseload.
You should not disclose information about yourself and your personal life to your clients.
You should not have more than one form of relationship with a client, such as not being able to work with you, being a family member or getting additional private assistance from you, as well as being one of your customers.
It is crucial that you consider the limits of your position and your personal capabilities and when referring to other professionals or finding more guidance and support for yourself and your customers.
It is your duty to make sure that you are in a strong condition to perform the work that you are expected to do. This applies not only to your out-of-work behaviour but also to how you handle your tension and feelings within work and triggered by your work.
The reality of social care work is that, for a number of reasons, lines can be crossed at different times, whether it be simple human negligence, exhaustion, tension, client manipulation, tough circumstances, poor luck, or simply a bad day at the job. It is your duty to detect possible and specific breaches of boundaries and to take effective action.
Typically, a boundary-crossing is part of a trend or a behaviour build-up between you and your client. For either of you or both of you, most of the build-up will be internal. It is not realistic for us to question anything a client tells or does that might be a crossed boundary, but we have to operate in a world where we simply do a constant situational risk evaluation of the situation, interfering where required.
Understanding the distinction between a professional and a personal relationship and ensuring that your actions still stay on the right side of the line is the secret to managing all of these boundaries.
Throughout all social work roles, we have defined some core expertise areas that we deem to be essential for autonomous professional practice. They are:
These four elements are best known to be ‘organising themes’ for thinking about technical knowledge in a holistic way. For example, self-management requires several distinct areas of skill, such as being alert to professional expectations and actions or being involved in one’s own development. Such skills are also required for good communication, risk control, and security. Likewise, being a proficient communicator requires skills and strategies that form the foundation of effective leadership and defence.
In order to promote professionalism in the fields of self-management, collaboration, risk and safeguarding, and leadership, we propose that there are eight main factors that need to be in place. They are:
Therefore, as a final point, we want to acknowledge the challenging circumstances of jobs for social workers, which can impair discipline and self-management. Many social workers have heavy caseloads, little time to connect with service consumers personally, and limited funding for preparation. It is important that the push to improve the professionalism of social workers should not remove organisations from their responsibility to have the requisite frameworks to facilitate professional practice.
We advise you to do a professionalism course for social workers if you are a social worker and are facing difficulties in handling all these things. You can visit Probity and Ethics for more information about this course.