Value, Skills and Code of Ethics in Social Work

One of the most important social worker skills is to comply with a social worker code of ethics. Social work values are based on the National Association of Social Workers' Code of Ethics and ensure that all professional social workers are making the best decisions when ethical issues arise at any point in their careers. This code of conduct provides a foundation or guidelines on how a social worker should act in certain situations, but doesn't outline exactly what decisions they should make; decision-making is up to the social worker and they need to consider their core values and ethics at all times. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has developed a series of basic ethical principles for all social workers; these are based on social work values of service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence.

The Social Worker Code of Ethics

The National Association of Social Workers is the largest membership organization of professional social workers in the world and sets the professional standards for social workers in all fields. The NASW's Code of Ethics is based on the following broad ethical principles:

  • Service - the social workers' primary goal should be to help people in need and address various social problems. The social worker has to make sure they are more focused on service to others than self-interest.
  • Social Justice - the social worker's job is to challenge social injustice and work to correct problems on behalf of vulnerable or oppressed individuals.
  • Dignity and Worth of the Person - social workers must treat everyone in a respectful manner and understand that the relationships between different people are an important vehicle for change.
  • Integrity - all social workers must behave in a trustworthy manner and consistently uphold their mission, values, ethical principles, ethical standards, and practices.
  • Competence - social workers must strive to expand upon their professional knowledge and skills, and apply them to their practice throughout their careers.

Other Social Worker Skills and Responsibilities

Social work professionals also have some specific responsibilities to all clients and must acquire certain social worker skills throughout their training and careers. They need to exhibit the following characteristics in order to abide by the social worker code of ethics:

  • Commitment to clients
  • Self-determination
  • Informed consent
  • Competence
  • Cultural competence and social diversity
  • Effectively managing conflicts of interest
  • Maintaining privacy and confidentiality
  • Providing clients with reasonable access to records
  • Refrain from engaging in any physical contact or sexual relationships with clients
  • Using derogatory language in speech or in writing
  • Setting fair and reasonable fees
  • Making an effort to ensure continuity of service in the event of unavailability

By the nature of their role, social workers must maintain a high level of confidentiality and ensure that their colleagues also abide by the same rules. They can also refer clients to other professionals and service providers to ensure their clients receive the best possible services. All social workers are required to take steps to ensure they document everything and have accurate records of their communications and meetings with clients.