Principles of Social Work

The Policy, Ethics, and Human Rights Committee of the British Association of Social Workers (2012) has the following principles that apply in general to other professionals in the social work profession.

Principles Relative to Respect for Human Rights

  1. Upholding and promoting human dignity and well-being. Social workers should respect, uphold, and defend each person’s physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual integrity and well-being. They should work toward promoting the best interests of individuals and groups in society and the avoidance of harm.
  2. Respecting the right to self-determination. Social workers should respect, promote, and support people’s dignity and right to make their own choices and decisions, irrespective of their values and life choices, provided that this does not threaten the rights, safety, and legitimate interests of others.
  3. Promoting the right to participation. Social workers should promote the full involvement and participation of people using their services in ways that enable them to be empowered in all aspects of decisions and actions affecting their lives.
  4. Creating each person as a whole. Social workers should be concerned with the whole person, within the family, community, societal, and natural environments, and should seek to recognize all aspects of a person’s life. 5. Identifying and developing strengths. Social workers should focus on the strengths of all individuals, groups, and communities, and thus promote their empowerment.

Principles Relative to Social Justice

  1. Challenging discrimination. Social workers have a responsibility to challenge discrimination on the basis of characteristics such as ability, age, culture, gender or sex, marital status, socio-economic status, political opinions, skin color, racial or other physical characteristics, sexual orientation, or spiritual beliefs.
  2. Recognizing diversity. Social workers should recognize and respect the diversity of the societies in which they practice, taking into account individual, family, group, and community differences.
  3. Distributing resources. Social workers should ensure that resources at their disposal are distributed fairly, according to need.
  4. Challenging unjust policies and practices. Social workers have a duty to bring to the attention of their employers, policymakers, politicians, and the general public the situations where resources are inadequate or where the distribution of resources, policies, and practices are oppressive, unfair, harmful, or illegal.
  5. Working in solidarity. Social workers, individually, collectively, and with others have a duty to challenge social conditions that contribute to social exclusion, stigmatization or subjugation, and work toward an inclusive society.

Principles Relative to Professional Integrity

  1. Upholding the values and reputation of the profession. Social workers should act at all times in accordance with the values and principles of the profession and ensure that their behavior does not bring the profession into disrepute.
  2. Being trustworthy. Social workers should work in a way that is honest, reliable, and open, clearly explaining their roles, interventions, and decisions, and not seeking to deceive or manipulate people who use their services, their colleagues, or employers.
  3. Maintaining professional boundaries. Social workers should establish appropriate boundaries in their relationships with service users and colleagues, and not abuse their position for personal benefit, financial gain, or sexual exploitation.
  4. Making considered professional judgments. Social workers should make judgments based on balanced and considered reasoning, maintaining awareness of the impact of their own values, prejudices, and conflicts of interest on their practice and on other people.
  5. Being professionally accountable. Social workers should be prepared to account for and justify their judgments and actions to people who use services, to employers and the general public.