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What are Duty of Care and Duty of Candour how do they affect your role as a care worker?

This page is designed to answer the following questions:

NOTE: This page has been quality assured for 2021 as per our Quality Assurance policy.

Duty of care and duty of candour are both very important responsibilities for all care workers.

On this page, you will learn exactly what the term ‘duty of care‘ means, how it relates to your own role and the links between duty of care and duty of candour.

So, what is ‘duty of care’ exactly?

Duty of care can be defined as:

The legal, professional or moral obligation to ensure the safety and promote the wellbeing of others.

Your duty of care to the individuals you support, your co-workers and the wider public is a legal obligation, so failure to do your duty could result in disciplinary or legal action being taken.

Therefore, it is important to understand how your duty of care fits in with your work role.

How does ‘duty of care’ affect your own work role?

As soon as you begin caring for an individual, you have a duty of care to (reasonably) ensure that they are protected from harm, abuse or injury and to promote their wellbeing.

Your duty of care extends beyond the individuals you support to your co-workers, employer, other professionals and the wider public. It should underpin everything that you do, including accountability for your own conduct (even outside of the work setting), maintaining professional boundaries, engendering trust, the effective use of resources and the reduction and correct disposal of waste.

As well as being an important legal requirement, your duty of care will also be referenced in your job description and in your employer’s agreed ways of working. It is also part of The Code of Conduct for Healthcare Support Workers and Adult Social Care Workers in England as well as other industry standards.

Many of your day-to-day duties and responsibilities will relate to your duty of care including:

  • Writing risk assessments
  • Hand washing
  • Personal care
  • Taking clients to activities
  • Doing balance checks
  • Reporting potential hazards

The common theme with all of the tasks listed above is that they help to ensure that others are safe and their wellbeing is promoted.

Risk assessments minimise the risks, handwashing prevents germs from spreading, personal care ensures the hygiene and dignity of the individual, taking clients to activities promotes their wellbeing, and balance checks prevent and identify possible financial abuse.

Reporting potential hazards is the duty of employees under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. You should also report any suspicions of abuse to safeguard the individuals you support, even if they ask you not to. Your employer will have agreed ways of working for any reporting you are required to do to fulfil your duty of care. These will vary between organisations and should be documented in policies and procedures but even if they are not (for example, if you are only told procedures by your manager verbally) they must still be followed.

In general, your duty of care means that you should work in a way that keeps yourself and others safe and is in the best interests of the individuals that support.

Lead adult care workers also have a responsibility to monitor work practices to ensure that they are carried out safely.

How does ‘duty of care’ relate to ‘duty of candour’?

Duty of candour is legislated by the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014: Regulation 20.

It is a legal obligation for organisations to be open, honest and transparent to the individuals that they provide care for. If something goes wrong that causes or has the potential to cause harm or distress, then organisations must tell the individual, apologise, explain the ramifications and, if possible, offer a remedy or support.

These actions should all be performed in a supportive way with a focus on empathy, compassion and honesty.

Duty of candour is regulated by the Care Quality Commission(CQC), who set out the requirements for how organisations should put duty of candour into practice. They also have powers to take action against organisations if duty of candour regulations are breached.

Duty of candour encourages the practice of learning from mistakes to prevent them from happening again as well as demonstrating professionalism and adhering to legislation, regulation and best practice.

Duty of candour relates to duty of care because they both promote the safety and wellbeing of individuals that are receiving care. Duty of candour also enables duty of care to be fulfilled as it demonstrates a commitment towards providing the best possible care services.

And, of course, it’s the right thing to do!

How does duty of care relate to the safeguarding and protection of individuals?

Duty of care means that care workers have a responsibility to ensure the safety and promote the wellbeing of others.

Safeguarding means protecting individuals from harm, particularly types of abuse or neglect.

So these terms are obviously very closely connected. They are both concerned with protecting the safety and welfare of individuals.

The difference between duty of care and safeguarding is that duty of the care is a paid carer’s responsibility that should underpin their entire practice, whilst safeguarding is more of a set of guidelines, policies, procedures and actions. Safeguarding is a single aspect of the wider responsibility of duty of care.

Example question and answer

As an experienced social care worker, you have been asked to mentor a new social worker. You plan to use a supervision session to explain the duty of care and how this helps to protect individuals from harm and abuse.

Prepare a set of notes to help you in this supervision session.

In the notes, you must include an explanation of:

  • What is meant by the term “duty of care
  • How the duty of care affects the work of a social care worker
  • What having a duty of care means for a caregiving organisation
  • How the duty of care contributes to safeguarding individuals

Notes for supervision with John to explain and discuss the duty of care in the role of an adult care worker

What is Duty of Care?

Duty of care is the moral or legal obligation to ensure the safety and wellbeing of other individuals. We all have a duty of care towards the clients that we support, whether this be ensuring they take their medication or making sure that their home is free from dangerous hazards. It can also mean working with other professionals on the client’s behalf, such as getting advice from their GP if they refuse their medication or contacting the police or social services safeguarding team if there are suspicions of abuse or neglect. It is also important to remember that our role involves promoting choice for individuals, (sometimes in difficult circumstances) so to take choices away from them would constitute abuse itself.

How Does Duty of Care Affect Our Work?

Adult care workers are bound to work within the law as well as adhering to company policies, procedures and agreed ways of working (e.g. CQC’s Key Lines of Enquiry). It is also best practice to follow the Code of Conduct for Healthcare Support Workers and Adult Social Care Workers in England. Risk assessments may need to be written for certain activities and situations.

Practically, this involves things like reporting hazards, keeping records of incidents and contacting other professionals (e.g. GP, social services, psychologist etc.)  when needed. It also means ensuring individuals have all the facts necessary to make informed choices and to respect their choice when they make it (even if we don’t agree with it ourselves).

What Does Having Duty of Care Mean For Our Organisation?

Duty of care benefits the organisation as a whole because it means that all employees work within the same guidelines and ensures that everyone has the best interests of the clients in mind. It also means that the environment is safe for all and that the organisation is working within legislative boundaries.

How Does Duty of Care Contribute to Safeguarding Individuals?

Duty of care is very important in safeguarding individuals because everyone will be working to agreed standards that protect our clients from abuse. We have reporting procedures in place to ensure that any potential risks or suspicions of abuse can be documented and escalated swiftly and a whistleblowing procedure that allows employees to report any suspected wrongdoings by their employer without any backlash. Promoting choice and independence by balancing risks against rights also help to safeguard individuals from abuse. All of these factors contribute to a safe working and living environment for all.