Social Work, Law and Ethics: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Social Work, Law and Ethics

1st Edition

By Jonathan Dickens


208 pages

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pub: 2012-09-18
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Law and ethics are two vital aspects of social work – all social workers need to practise according to the law and their codes of ethics and conduct. However, the relationship between the law and social work values and ethics is not without its tensions and this book takes a problem-based approach to explore the dilemmas and challenges that can arise.

The first part of the book sets out frameworks for thinking about the law and ethics, and how they relate to social work. It also introduces some of the big philosophical and sociological questions about the purposes of law and of ethics and how they relate to society more generally. In the second part, the book explores a series of areas where profound dilemmas arise – such as end-of-life decisions, respecting peoples’ choices but ensuring their safety and that of others, responsibility and blame, making allowance for different cultural traditions and breaking confidentiality. In each of the problem-based chapters, this accessible text:

  • outlines the relevant law
  • discusses court judgments in leading cases
  • considers the implications of different ethical frameworks
  • pulls out key ethical questions and challenges for social work.

Social Work, Law and Ethics highlights what the law says and what it offers, what ethical principles are at stake, and what these imply for social work policy and practice. In this way, it uses real-life scenarios to analyse the dynamic interactions of social work, law and ethics. It is essential reading for all social work students.


‘Knowledge of law and ethics are both central to social work practice. This book explores the interaction and inter-relationship between the two, discusses the inevitable tension and conflict, and explains how they link to contemporary practice. It tackles head on a number of pertinent issues for social work emerging from law and ethics, including: freedom, choice, responsibility and protection. Jonathan Dickens brings many years of social work practice and academic experience to this subject and this is evident in the manner in which he capably engages with the issues. I highly recommend this text to social work students undertaking their qualifying training and for qualified social workers wishing to explore in more detail the relationship between ethics, law and social work practice.’ – Christine Cocker, Principal Lecturer in Social Work, Middlesex University, UK.

Table of Contents

Introduction Part 1: Principles and Frameworks 1. Key Concepts 2. Fairness 3. The Legal Framework 4. The Ethical Framework 5. Freedom and Society Summary of Part 1 Part 2: Questions and Cases 6. End of Life Decisions 7. Choices, Capacity and Competence 8. Responsibility and Circumstances 9. Responsibility and Blame 10. Crime, Punishment and Protection 11. Culture and Difference 12. Confidentiality, Information-sharing and Openness 13. Organisations and Individuals

About the Author

Jonathan Dickens is Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of East Anglia, UK. He is the author of another book in the Routledge Student Social Work series, Social Work and Social Policy: An introduction.

About the Series

Student Social Work

This textbook series is ideal for all students studying to be qualified social workers, whether at undergraduate or Masters level. Covering key elements of the social work curriculum, the books are accessible, interactive and thought-provoking.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MEDICAL / Allied Health Services / General
MEDICAL / Health Care Delivery