SW0510 - Social Work Law and Ethics

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This module enables students to develop their understanding of the detailed application of the law relating to social work practice and the contexts in which it is applied with children, young people and adults. It examines the interface between the law and social work ethics and values, promoting a rights based approach and considering how the law may be used to promote anti-oppressive practice. The learning outcomes reflect the complexity of contemporary law and the social and political context within service delivery settings. A combined lecture and enquiry based learning approach is adopted, using seminars, interactive e-learning resources and observations of legal settings, with teaching and learning both before and after students go out into practice placements. Assessment is designed to demonstrate breadth, depth and critical application of knowledge.


Alcock, P., M. May and S. Wright (Eds.) (2012) Students’ companion to social policy. 4th edn. Oxford: Blackwell.
Beckett, C, & Maynard, A (2013) Values and ethics in social work. 2nd Edn. London: Sage.
Brammer, A. (2010) Social work law. 3rd Edn. Harlow: Pearson Education.
Brayne, H. & Carr, H. (2012) Law for social workers. 12th Edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Companion website: www.oup.com/uk/booksites/law
Dickens, J. (2013) Social work, law and ethics. Abingdon: Routledge.
Hothersall, S.J. & Maas-Lowit, M. (Eds) (2010) Need, risk and protection in social work practice. Exeter: Learning Matters.
Hugman, R. (2013) Culture, values and ethics in social work: Embracing diversity. Abingdon: Routledge.
Johns, R. (2011) Using the law in social work. 5th Edn. Exeter: Learning Matters
Jones, P. & Walker, G (2011) Children’s rights in practice. London: Sage.
Laird, S. (2010) Practical social work law. Harlow: Pearson Longman
Mandelstam, M. (2009) Community care practice and the law. 4th Edn. London: Jessica Kingsley.
White, R. (2009) Law and the social work practitioner. Exeter: Learning Matters. (also available as an e-copy)
Journal Articles
Barnes, V. (2012) ‘Social work and advocacy with young people: Rights and care in practice’. British journal of social work, 42(7), pp. 1275-1292.
Braye, S, Preston-Shoot, M. & Wrigley (2013) ‘Deciding to use the law in social work practice’. Journal of social work, 13(1), pp.75-95.
Murdach, A.D. (2011) ‘Is social work a human rights profession?’ Social work, 56(3), pp. 281-283.
Newton, J. & Browne, L. (2008) ‘How fair is fair access to care?’ Practice, 20(4) pp. 235-249.
O’Brien, M. (2011)’ Equality and fairness: Linking social justice and social work practice’. Journal of social work 11(2), pp.143-158.
Renshaw, C. (2008) ‘Do self-assessment and self-directed support undermine traditional social work with disabled people?’ Disability and society 23(3) pp.283-286.

Electronic Resources
Social Care Institute for Excellence website: www.scie.org.uk


The syllabus will focus on legal and ethical issues in social work practice across a range of different contexts, service user groups, and policy frameworks. These will also be addressed in relation to service user perspectives and social work values, including partnership working, social justice, inclusion and equality. The module will cover both overriding principles and specific aspects of law as follows:
- The function of law in society
- The role of the Court system and Court procedures
- The social, political and policy context of social work law and its dynamic nature
- The tensions, rights, responsibilities and power imbalances in protection and control
- The specific areas of legislation and guidance underpinning social work with all people who use services and their carers and in particular the statutory frameworks for assessment of adults and children
- The interface between the law and social work ethics and values, examining how the law may be used to promote anti-oppressive practice


This module builds upon learning in SW0414 (Values and Social Justice) and aims to support learners to move from identifying and understanding their own values and the perspectives of service users to applying specific legal and ethical frameworks in practice and understanding the tensions inherent in this process.
This module will enable students to understand and interpret the ways in which the law underpins social work practice. Students will develop a critical awareness of the legal system and its changing nature and be able to identify and apply legal frameworks in respect of all people who use services and their carers. Students will develop their knowledge and understanding of specific areas of legislation and guidance that inform, guide or control their practice. They will demonstrate awareness of the complexities inherent in the application of law to social work practice. They will develop their understanding of the interface between the law and social work ethics and values, examining how the law may be used to promote anti-oppressive practice.
This module is the second part of the thread which scaffolds learning in relation to Values, Diversity, Law and Social Justice within the Professional Capabilities framework.


On successful completion of this module, students should be able to:
1. Identify and apply the law underpinning social work and social care provision, recognising its complexity within the context of service delivery.
2. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the social and political context of social work law and the influences which shape the dynamic nature of law.
3. Understand the interface between social work law and ethics and apply this to practice situations, promoting anti-oppressive practice.
4. Analyse the tensions between protection and control when balancing rights and responsibilities in social work practice within a legal framework.
5. Identify the rights and perspectives of service users and carers and articulate the implications of these for good social work practice
6. Critically apply the principles of partnership working and social work values.


SW0411, SW0412, SW0413, SW0414, SW0415, SW0416


SW0507, SW0508, SW0509, SW0511, SW0512


Lead lectures and interactive e-learning resources will provide the knowledge base and will be linked to seminars which will focus on identified themes. Seminar discussions will be facilitated by the use of case studies which require reflection and analysis in relating legislation to social work practice with people who use services and their carers. Extensive use is made of case studies as exemplars of how practice issues are underpinned by legislation. Involvement of practitioners and people who use services will be part of the lecture and seminar delivery.


Summative Assessment
An unseen exam paper (100% weighting), drawing on case studies related to a range of service user groups, undertaken in exam conditions. This paper rigorously assesses the students’ understanding of law, its application to practice situations and the interface with social work ethics and values. The summative assessment will require students to demonstrate breadth of knowledge of law across all user groups and to demonstrate the ability to relate legislation to practice issues.
b. Additional formative assessment – detail of process and rationale
The assessment strategy is designed to enable students to demonstrate learning and understanding of the context and process of social work law as well as the legislative and policy underpinnings of social work practice and the interface with social work values and ethics. Learning is reinforced by a variety of formative assessment tasks such as short ‘mock exams’ and quizzes, e-learning self-test questions, case scenarios and discussions undertaken in seminar groups. These are designed to embed knowledge and familiarise students with the techniques required for the summative exam.
By completion of an observation in a legal setting, students will develop their understanding of legal processes. Learning from this task will be presented, shared and evaluated by peers and staff in seminar groups. Formative assessment will therefore encompass the broad knowledge base of social work law as applied to all service user groups and the settings and processes in which it is located.
c. Indication of how students will get feedback and how this will support their learning
Feedback on the formative assessment tasks will be provided throughout the module delivery by seminar leaders, peers, practitioners and service users. This will take the form of verbal feedback, discussions and, where relevant written feedback either individually or via group feedback on the e-LP.
Feedback on the summative assessment task (exam) will be provided on a template giving both the summative mark and individual formative feedback and feed-forward comments. Students will receive an annotated copy of the exam script giving additional feedback. Generic feedback will be posted on the e-LP.
Assessment support
Specific assessment support sessions (covering both formative and summative assessment tasks) will be integrated into the teaching period. In addition seminar groups will receive ongoing assessment support by means of short mock exams and case study exercises.

Course info

UCAS Code L502

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time

Department Social Work, Education & Community Wellbeing

Location Coach Lane Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2020 or September 2021

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