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Context for Social Work - SPY00070M

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  • Department: Social Policy and Social Work
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Hannah Jobling
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2018-19
    • See module specification for other years: 2019-20

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2018-19 to Spring Term 2018-19

Module aims


This module is intended to provide students with an initial understanding of the social policy, legal and organisational context in which social work is practiced in England and Wales (consideration of the wider, international context for social work follows in the summer term).

The module will introduce and examine the professional aims, ethics and values of social work, including (but not limited to) the Health and Care Professions Councils Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics. It will encourage critical thinking about the place of the professions values and ethics within the legal and policy context for UK social work.

Social Policy

This module is designed to introduce students to the core concepts that underpin UK social policy and more importantly to show how these are related to professional social work practice. The module will cover the core theories used in the understanding of social policy. It will outline the key issues in contemporary UK social work that are related to policy and explore current topics that social workers are likely to face in their everyday working lives.


This module provides an introduction to the legal context for social work practice, primarily in England and Wales. It will familiarise students with relevant legislation, provide detailed knowledge of key sections of certain Acts, and an opportunity to begin to think through the ways in which this key legislation and official guidance can impact upon situations encountered in practice across a range of service user groups. In doing so, it will also seek to help students to consider ways in which the law may operate for the benefit of vulnerable people and social groups and the ways in which it could oppress them. It will seek to encourage the development of a critical stance in relation to the effects of the law in practice and the social work role in relation to this.

Values and ethics

The module aims to introduce students to the values and ethics of social work.  Critical thinking about the nature of those values, and about the application of those values to the legal and policy context for social work will be encouraged. The module will enable students to develop a framework for understanding the following themes:

  • ideas about moral philosophy
  • art versus science
  • the relationship between knowledge, skills, values and ethics
  • power, diversity and anti-oppressive practice
  • rights and responsibilities
  • problems of application

Relationship to the domains of the PCF

This module aims to contribute to the ability of students to demonstrate their readiness to practice in the following principle domains:

  • values and ethics
  • rights, justice and economic wellbeing
  • contexts and organisations

and to contribute to their capabilities in these additional domains:

  • professionalism
  • diversity
  • knowledge
  • critical reflection and analysis


Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students will be able to demonstrate:

  • The ability to describe current social policy and its influence on professional social work practice in the UK
  • An understanding of how political decisions inform the work they will be doing
  • An understanding of some of the theories that shape concepts such as needs, rights, poverty and inequality
  • A critical understanding of the context within which social work exists and of the issues and decision making that impact on the lives of service users, carers and professionals
  • An understanding of how the law is created and how the legal system is structured and administered
  • An understanding of the key legal duties and powers of social workers and of the agencies they work within
  • An initial working knowledge of key legislation as this relates to:

-human rights and equality

-children and families social work

-youth justice social work

-community care social work

-mental health social work

  • An understanding of the value base and ethical concepts of social work including the Health and Care Professions Councils Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics
  • An understanding of key concepts underpinning power, diversity and anti-oppressive practice
  • The ability to identify and challenge their own personal value base
  • The ability to relate personal values to the social work value base
  • The ability to identify and analyse issues of values and ethics in the delivery of social work services and in work with individual service users

Academic and graduate skills

Having completed the module, students will:

  • be able to use primary and secondary texts to identify their legal responsibilities in particular practice situations
  • be able to use primary and secondary texts to recognise and work with the moral aspects of social work
  • be able to recognise moral dilemmas and problems associated with the social work practice

Other learning outcomes (if applicable)

Having completed the module, students will:

  • be able to use the legal and policy framework as a knowledge base in a critical and creative way in dealing with their employing agencies and with service users so as to protect vulnerable individuals from harm and to promote the individuals right to respect and fair treatment within their caring networks and within society and its care and protection systems



Task Length % of module mark
Ethics and values essay
N/A 33.3
Social policy essay
N/A 33.4
University - closed examination
Social Work Law
1 hours 33.3

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Ethics and values essay
N/A 33.3
Social policy essay
N/A 33.4
University - closed examination
Social Work Law
1 hours 33.3

Module feedback

Students will receive written feedback within four weeks

Indicative reading

Adams, A., Dominelli, L. & Payne M. (2009)

Social Work: Themes, Issues and Critical


. Basingstoke, Palgrave

Banks, S. (2006)

Ethics and Values in Social Work

. Basingstoke, Palgrave


, A. (2010)

Social Work Law

, 3rd end: Harlow, Pearson

Brayne, H. and Carr, H. (2010)

Law for Social Workers

, 11th edn: Oxford, OUP.

Thompson, N (2012)

Anti discriminatory practice

. Basingstoke, Palgrave

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

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