Duty of care for your work role - Care Certificate

What is duty of care and how does it affect your role as a care worker?

This page is designed to answer the following questions:

Duty of care is a very important responsibility 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 legal action being taken against you.

Therefore, it is important understand how 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 also extends beyond the individuals you support to your co-workers and the public.

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.

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 ensure others are safe and promote their wellbeing.

Risk assessments minimise the risks to others, hand washing prevent germs spreading, personal care ensures the hygiene and dignity of the individual, taking clients to activities promotes their well being, and balance checks prevent and identify possible financial abuse.

Reporting potential hazards is a 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 must do for 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 the procedure by your manager verbally) they must still be followed.

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 in their care and if something goes wrong that causes or has the potential to cause harm or distress they must tell the individual, apologise, explain the ramifications and, if possible, offer a remedy or support.

Duty of candour relates to duty of care because they both promote the safety and wellbeing of individuals that are receiving care.

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

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

Duty of care means that care workers have a responsibility 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 looking after 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, whilst safeguarding is more of a set of guidelines, policies, procedures and actions.

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 about 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:

Ai What is meant by the term “duty of care
Aii How the duty of care affects the work of a social care worker
Aiii What having a duty of care means for a care giving organisation
Aiv How the duty of care contributes to safeguarding individuals

Notes for supervision with John to explain and discuss duty of care in the role of the social support worker.

What is Duty of Care?

Duty of care is the moral or legal obligation to ensure the safety and well-being 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 you have suspicions that there has been abuse. It is also important to remember that our role involves promoting choice for individuals, sometimes in difficult circumstances and to take choices away from them would constitute as abuse in itself.

How Does Duty of Care Affect Our Work?

Social care workers are bound to work with 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 advisable 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. All of these factors contribute to a safe working and living environment for all.

Still struggling? Discuss this question