The Big Question

Should social workers always be sacked if they are found to have had an intimate relationship with a client?

LEN SMITH – Gypsy activist
There must be scenarios where an intimate affair has some legitimacy, for example, when it leads to marriage or a long-term non-exploitative relationship between mature people. Mostly, however, the balance of power is so much in favour of the social worker the relationship would be exploitative and the worker should face dismissal.

ANGIE LAWRENCE – Single mother
Social workers are employed in a position of trust. Any client they serve is in a position of need and is, by definition, vulnerable. The boundaries are clear and should never be broken, so it goes without saying that any social worker who crosses them should lose their job. There is no justification for a relationship of this kind.

KERRY EVANS – Parent of two severely autistic children
Teachers, GPs and social workers all hold positions of trust. While social workers might often become emotionally close to clients, if detachment is not possible it follows that they are in the wrong job. There are no circumstances where social workers may become involved with clients.

RICHARD WEST – Inspired Services
Social workers need to help young people have the fullest lives at school and in their careers. But what would happen if they had a physical relationship? How could we trust them? The thought of this is worrying for parents of young people with learning difficulties. The young person might not be able, or in a position, to tell anyone about it.


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