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“Human rights are often deep at the heart of important social work decisions”

Our 96 participants have now completed the second week of their Summer Institute.

This week they learnt about some of the legal and ethical aspects of social work, including a strong focus on human rights and liberty. These issues have a real impact on social work practice day-to-day, because social workers have to make tough decisions about the extent to which the state should interfere with an individual’s personal freedom.

“Human rights are often deep at the heart of the important decisions social workers make,” says Amanda Colclough, an experienced mental health social worker and one of Think Ahead’s Practice Specialists. “For instance, in my role as a Best Interests Assessor I would often visit people living in care homes, and decide whether it is in their best interests to live alone, or if their needs were best served by restricting their liberty.”

Reflecting on the way human rights, principles, and legislation interact with social work has been invaluable – it’s made me really reflect on the personal values that drew me to social work. I’ve particularly enjoyed discussing and sharing ideas amongst the cohort about navigating the complex legal framework of social work.

– Alistair Walker, 2016 cohort

“These are always extremely tough decisions”, Amanda adds, “because it can be quite distressing for the person – and for their family members, even if they understand that their loved one could come to more harm outside of the care home.”

Participants also learnt specifically about the Mental Health Act which covers whether a person with mental health problems should be detained against their will for either their own safety or the safety of others.

“These types of decisions about whether the state should interfere in a person’s private and family life are often challenging for social workers, as they can be in tension with social work values which are focused on empowering people and supporting their independence,” says Amanda.

This week’s teaching covered a range of other topics including childhood disorders, dementia, and the roles of other professionals working alongside social workers in mental health teams.

You can follow more from our Summer Institute at #ThinkAheadSI.

Read all about Week One here.