‘Think before you post’ – HCPC issues social media guidance

The regulator is seeking views on draft advice for practitioners on ensuring online postings meet professional standards

Social media
Photo: Rex

The HCPC is seeking views from social workers on draft guidance to help practitioners make sure their use of social media meets professional standards.

The guidance has been published after feedback indicated more registrants were using social media but some were fearful about falling foul of the regulator.

The HCPC said the “vast majority” of professionals used social media without any difficulties. However, several social workers have faced fitness to practise over their online postings.

In September 2014, a social worker was sanctioned over Facebook comments about a child protection case she was involved in. Last year, a social worker who sent abusive tweets to David Cameron also faced a fitness to practise hearing but he was later found fit to practice.

The document focuses on the “ethical aspects of social media use” and aims to strike the right balance between acknowledging the benefits of social media and the need to meet standards, the HCPC said. It sets out a series of ‘top tips’ for practitioners, including advice to ‘think before you post’ and consider your sharing and privacy settings.

Michael Guthrie, the HCPC’s director of policy and standards, said: “The vast majority of registrants who use social media already do so responsibly, in line with our standards, and without any difficulties at all.

“However we know that registrants can sometimes be anxious about using social media because they want to make sure that they always meet our standards. The guidance, therefore, explains what our standards mean and how we expect registrants to apply them.

“We would encourage our registrants, service users, carers, education providers and anyone with an interest to respond with their views on the draft guidance.”

The consultation runs until 13 January.

20 Responses to ‘Think before you post’ – HCPC issues social media guidance

  1. A Man Called Horse October 4, 2016 at 3:34 pm #

    The message is clear Big Brother HCPC is watching you. Don’t expect to have any private life when the Stazi HCPC are watching you.

  2. Martin Porter October 5, 2016 at 8:44 am #

    This really needs sorting. I blog about everything and anything, except Social Work, because you just will not be backed up.

    Unless you post everything completely anonymously, which frankly only abusive trolls do, you could potentially be breaching somebody’s ‘confidentiality’ and in trouble.

    Part of the problem, I suspect, is that upper management are largely of a generation that do not use social media regularly. To people younger than myself, the idea of denying what your job is online must seem very strange, but that is what we are mostly told to do.

  3. Dave October 5, 2016 at 9:22 am #

    Another confirmation to say you can’t be yourself and have a private view. What about artical 8 and right to private life as a freedom of speach? We may not always agree on all of the things we do.

    Although Anyone making comments about specific cases needs shooting …

    • Anon October 5, 2016 at 4:39 pm #

      Dave, you sound like a lawyer and given we are still in a so told democracy thank god for you and that legal point. It must have been cited and discarded before now though? I agree absolute with ‘the shooting’ if case info et al is shared. There is no excuse for that. And who really has time or needs to find time to talk about work after 9-10 hours work/graft a day?

    • Sl October 6, 2016 at 3:50 pm #

      Sadly in this day and age there are no such liberties! As professionals we are not entitled to a private life or indeed any issues in our private lives. We are not allowed to have a differential opinion either. Even if the posts are completely non work related are pertaining to our own families and woes we cannot and must not post about them. You can set your privacy settings to as private as can be but if your employer can and will access it and violate your right to a private life,rights to a family life and your rights to an opinion. I have been in this very situation and found myself in high waters because I voiced an opinion about how I was being treated unfairly by a service. I have proof they were treating me wrong too but that doesn’t matter. As a professional you are prohibited from being negative even if your are being mistreated. If you contest it you are deemed ‘difficult’ and are treated like a child and forced to writing lines about what a naughty professional you are for saying you are being victimised by social care!! How dare I be human!

  4. ivan October 5, 2016 at 9:40 am #

    The message is quite clear. Don’t put confidential information online. Simple. However, if you want to post anything else about your own private life then you can do this:

    1) use a pseudonym. Using your own name enables you to be found easily.

    2) don’t use your face or anything identifiable as your cover or profile picture.

    3) lock your profile settings to the minimum and never post anything as ‘public’

    4) it’s really wise to be selective about your friends. Only have people on your list whom you know and trust well. Having 3000 friends is just ridiculous! Adding colleagues and friends of colleagues is often asking for trouble. Believe me, no matter how much you think you’re liked ar work, somebody will always stick the knife in when it suits them. Keep your closest friends and family, ditch the rest and don’t accept random people onto your list.

    5) Some service users WILL look for you online . They will want to discredit and embarrass you. They will use any opportunity tell you what they know about you and your family to scare you.

    6) if you are foolish enough to think that social media is totally private or indeed anything in the internet, well, frankly you’re attracting the trouble to your door. Don’t cry when your bosses pull you in about “that naked video you put online” et al.

    7) you’re a social worker. You chose the profession. You’re a public servant, not a public figure. The choice is yours to leave or stay within it. Social media can be a blessing or a curse but essentially it’s aimed at people who want to get noticed, attention seekers and wababee celebrities. The reality is that it’s a tool fir huge corporations to gather as much information about you as possible about you for advertising purposes. Use you brain!

    • Ian Clark October 7, 2016 at 1:05 pm #

      Well said Ivan. #wisewords

      • Anon October 9, 2016 at 9:59 pm #

        Speech Extract: Michael Mansfield QC. For #EvenWiserWords on Big Brother.

        “[They] do what the Brits are very good at doing – which is just quietly getting on with the job of watching what I was doing, and then feeding the info back……Nudge nudge, wink wink ….. it’s the British approach to governance. I SUSPECT IT GOES ON MUCH MORE THAN WE SUSPECT. [Laughter] “.

  5. Martin Porter October 5, 2016 at 2:09 pm #

    The Social Worker sanctioned for the facebook post was a particularly strange judgement. She did not name the client and expressed agreement with the court decision. She posted under her own name and identified the court, but as Family Court proceeding are secret nobody could have used that information to find out anything about the client. The client though Google the social worker, found the post and because she could identify herself the HCPC sanctioned the worker!

    Given that the police, fire, ambulance etc regularly post about how many offenders they’ve collared, fires they’ve put out or RTCs they’ve attended this was a very odd decision. Surely the lags you’ve been nicked could claim their confidentiality has been breached, as they would know it was them.

  6. Jonathan Ritchie October 5, 2016 at 2:21 pm #

    As long as someone obeys the law outside of work including Data Protection legislation, then what people do in the private lives is none of the HCPCs fucking business.

    Speaking as a member of the public, I would like to inform the HCPC that they do not represent me and I hereby forbid them to speak on my behalf regarding the repute of and trust i the social work profession.

    The HCPC in my view is a corrupt fascist quango which only serves its own interests and does nothing to protect the public.

    • A Man called Horse October 5, 2016 at 5:09 pm #

      The HCPC are doing what the Tories want. It will be even worse if the plan to give them direct control over training and education of Social workers goes ahead. They want to control what Social workers know and want them to view clients as deviant and deserving of their own situation. Social workers need re-education to know that the poverty and distress, homelessness they see all around them is all their own fault, nothing to do with welfare reform, Austerity. Big Brother wants control of what you think and feel. 1984 is already here, be careful what you say out there in cyberspace and make sure you don’t identify yourself. Fight back against the Nazi HCPC but do it discreetly.

  7. Deborah Pearson October 5, 2016 at 2:31 pm #

    I guess the key is to never ever mention work, be careful what work colleagues you are friends with and never add your manager.

    • Martin Porter October 6, 2016 at 2:17 pm #

      Yes it’s rather bizarre. I’m on LinkedIn, which is supposed to be the social media site for professionals, but if you look at my profile I appear to be unemployed!

  8. Anon October 5, 2016 at 4:17 pm #

    A ‘man called horse’ you are defiantly the new man standing up for the people! In fairness I dont think it is just the HCPC that are the big brother watching. Sure you know that anyway though 🙂

    Martin, please be advised, on very good authority, that not mentioning your job and not speaking about work is not a guarantee that you won’t be sacked and disciplined. Anything you say that potentially offends your employer or a (intent on a getting negative response) troll, or even an anonymous person, can lead to dismissal. Even if your defence is defending yourself and others from constant abuse; you are at risk.

    Dave, you sound like a lawyer and given we are still in a so told democracy thank god for you and that legal point. I feel sure it must have been cited and discarded before now though. I agree absolute with the shooting if case info et al is shared. There is no excuse for that. And who really has time or needs to find time to talk about work after 9-10 hours work/graft a day?

    Martin, I agree with you re the other public services and what they are allowed to do and get away with. Murder in some cases; with no consequence. I don’t get that from that day till this.

    Johnathon, that made me laugh thanks for that. Man after my own heart.

    Deborah, please see paragraph two re note to Martin. Agreed re the company one keeps, always have to watch out for the one eyed bandits. They are everywhere.

  9. Mandy Miranda October 6, 2016 at 8:22 am #

    Obviously I would never discuss work, why would I? But if HCPC are offended by my private posts, including criticism of government, then bring it on, always happy to discuss my analysis. Maybe HCPC could focus on what they are paid for and butt out of my PRIVATE life.

  10. Anon October 6, 2016 at 9:44 am #

    George O didn’t write 1984 for us to hide otherwise it will be toooo late and militia law will be here but I hear what you are saying. I know people who do that job. Just here as a tax paying member of public having their say which is still legal in democracy or an elected dictatorship. I must admit your post gave me a flashback memory of The Amistad movie. Where the mother of a new born, intentionally falls over board with the baby, knowing that if she had been enslaved, given birth being chained amongst excrement, vomit, violence and death, treated in no way ever experienced by anyone on that ship in Africa, then the ocean and freedom was a better option than to where they were heading. She knew the truth and the vision. And that led me to remember Ernesto Guevara De La Serna, (the global humanitarian) who said to the trembling executioner before he was shot, “I know your here to kill me. Shoot coward, you are only going to kill a MAN!”

    More strength & Hasta La Victoria Siempre!

  11. Anon October 6, 2016 at 2:02 pm #

    & Akala always timely in reminding us of the apparent hypocrisy…… https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/video/2016/oct/05/akala-the-propaganda-of-british-values-is-a-distortion-of-history-video?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

  12. Jackie October 7, 2016 at 7:48 am #

    Caution when posting stuff ia always needed. I do have some concern about the level of ‘big brother’ type approach is being implemented ando punitive judgements by the HCPC

  13. Elcee Osagie October 12, 2016 at 5:06 pm #

    Ivan wise words, i hope we all take note of the advuce given. Anything else is irrelevant and will not change the reality.

  14. fred October 26, 2016 at 12:40 pm #

    The HCPC is just terrible.

    The problem for social workers is the double bind HCPC fitness to practice hearings put us under. So we make a mess-up and we are first subject to our employer’s own disciplinary procedures. then as a result of exactly the same error we face the dreaded HCPC investigators who can sack us for a mistake our employers decide warrants only a warning.

    And we wonder why recruitment to qualified social worker posts is tricky and why so many go for agency work.

    Abolition of the HCPC would be a significant move to support social work as a profession and a huge boost to social workers