This topic covers some of the issues around your responsibilities to your clients and to other workers. As a worker, you have a legal and moral responsibility to keep your clients safe from harm whilst they are using a service. This responsibility is known as 'duty of care'.

Task 1
Workers' responsibilities
Case studies
Task 2
Summary

Task 1

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

Answer - (Write your answer, then check the possible answers page.)

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.

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.
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 of 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)
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Case studies

Please read the following scenario and write down some options for the worker.

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?

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

Additional 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?

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

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.

If possible, discuss your answers to the following questions with colleagues or other learners.

Question - Should you try to protect yourself, the client or the other clients who are at risk? 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?

Additional 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?
Answer - (Write your answer, then check the possible answers page.)
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Task 2

Question - What types of skills and knowledge do you think a worker should have?

Answer - (Write your answer, then check the possible answers page.)

Summary

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.