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.

chapter |7 pages


part |62 pages

Principles and frameworks

chapter |10 pages

Key concepts

chapter |13 pages


chapter |11 pages

The legal framework

chapter |12 pages

The ethical framework

chapter |12 pages

Freedom and society

chapter |2 pages

Summary of Part I

part |105 pages

Questions and cases

chapter |12 pages

End of life decisions

chapter |13 pages

Choices, capacity and competence

chapter |14 pages

Responsibility and circumstances

chapter |11 pages

Responsibility and blame

chapter |13 pages

Crime, punishment and protection

chapter |13 pages

Culture and difference

chapter |15 pages

Organisations and individuals