Task - brainstorm exercise
Workers' responsibilities
Overhead transparency 1
Overhead transparency 2
Reading exercise

Task - brainstorm exercise

Question - Can you suggest some ways in which young people might come to harm at your organisation or in your work context?

  • Physical injury (from an unsafe environment)
  • Physical injury (as a result of violence from other clients or workers)
  • Sexual abuse (by another client or a worker)
  • Infectious disease
  • Misinformation

Workers' responsibilities

Workers have a responsibility to their clients to reduce or limit the amount of harm or injury they may experience. This responsibility is known as 'duty of care' and it can sometimes seem overwhelming. For example, our responsibility to one party (for example, our employer) might conflict deeply with our responsibility to our clients. It helps to remember that duty of care is a balancing act.

Overhead transparency 1

There are several aspects to duty of care:
  • Legal - What does the law suggest we do?
  • Professional/ethical - What do other workers expect us to do?
  • Organisational - What does our organisation and its funding body say we should do?
  • Community - What do the parents of our clients and other community members expect us to do?
  • Personal - What do our own beliefs and values suggest we do.
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Overhead transparency 2

We need to balance the safety of the young person against other concerns such as:
  • the safety of other people/our personal safety
  • other rights young people (e.g. the right to privacy)
  • the aims of the service (e.g. to empower young people)
  • the limits of our organisation (e.g. money and other resources).

Reading exercise

Please read the scenario in your Learner's Workbook and write down some options for the worker. Discuss your answers with a colleague.

Case study - Sula

Sula visits your centre on a regular basis for counselling. One day she arrives and is clearly very unwell. You think she needs medical attention but she says that she does not want to see a doctor. Are you carrying out your duty of care if you call the doctor yourself?

Task - group activity

Question - What do you think is the right course of action?

Question - Describe the process by which you would come to a decision. What factors would you need to consider? For example, would the quality of your relationship impact on your decision?

Question - How do you perceive the rights of young people? Are your values reflected in your practice?

Case study - Jack

You are a worker at a youth accommodation service and Jack, one of your residents, arrives one night after curfew. He is clearly under the influence and demands to be let in. You know that he will not go away because he has nowhere else to go and you feel reluctant to call the police because of his history. You decide to let Jack in but he quickly becomes more and more aggressive. He wakes the other residents and verbally abuses one of them. It emerges that he has a weapon and he threatens to harm himself and take you all with him.
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Task - writing exercise/group activity

Question - What do you think is the right course of action?

Question - How can we balance the right of young people to control their own lives with our duty to prevent them from coming to harm?

Question - Where does our primary responsibility lie?

Question - How do we balance our own safety with the safety of others?

Question - When you are faced with situations where there are conflicting responsibilities, how do you come to a decision? Can you think of an example from your own workplace?

Question - Can you think of some situations from your workplace where you have had to make decision which complies with the policy of your organisation but which sits uncomfortably with your own value system?
  • What was the situation?
  • What did you do?
  • What could you do if this situation arises in the future?
  • Always consider guidelines of your organisation
  • Balance these with your own values and commonsense
  • The law does not expect perfect care, rather what is considered 'reasonable' care.
Question - What types of skills and knowledge do you think a worker should have?

Answer - We can reasonably expect that workers will:
  • act within the law
  • have knowledge of workplace policies
  • have the skills and training to work with young people
  • have knowledge about legal and illicit drugs and their effects
  • use their common sense.


The principle of duty of care is that you have an obligation to avoid acts or omissions, which could be reasonably foreseen to injure of harm other people. This means that you must anticipate risks for your clients and take care to prevent them coming to harm. Remember that harm encompasses both physical and emotional harm.