Social workers in England have been warned to think before they post online, and to follow their employers’ social media policy, in new HCPC guidance published this week.
The guidance, applicable to social workers and members of the other 15 professions regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), encourages professionals to get advice when in doubt about social media posts, but also encourages them to keep using social media platforms.
It lists the benefits of social media in helping professionals develop their skills and knowledge and helping the public understand what they do.
Social media, if used responsibly, could support professionals to raise the profile of the profession and network with others nationally and internationally, the guidance says.
Michael Guthrie, HCPC 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 sometimes have questions or concerns about using social media because they want to make sure that they always meet our standards.”
The top tips listed by the guidance are:
- Think before you post
- Think about who can see what you share
- Maintain appropriate professional boundaries
- Do not post information which could identify a service user unless you have their permission
- Do not post inappropriate or offensive material
- If you are employed, follow your employer’s social media policy
- When in doubt, get advice
- Keep on posting.
The guidance says social workers should ensure they communicate appropriately on social media, and be honest and trustworthy. It warns that social media “can blur the boundaries between the personal and the professional”, which social workers should be wary of when communicating with service users.
The regulator developed the guidance following registrant feedback about the need for clarity in this area.
The HCPC will hold a tweetchat about the new guidance on Tuesday 12 September at 6.30pm.
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