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Social Workers, Politics, and Political Opinions – A #SWSCmedia debate @SWSCmedia (06 March 2012)


The question of the extent to which social workers can participate in politics and political discussion and/or express political opinions is a challenging and difficult one.

In fact, one of the fundamental objectives of social work and social workers is to achieve positive social change and greater social justice which clearly has political implications and ramifications. While on the other hand social workers (particularly those working in a statutory capacity) are bound by general as well as specific legal obligations to protect the interest and the reputation of their employers. However, at times the interest (or at least the perceived interest) of social workers’ employers and users of their services may be incompatible (or even conflicting).

Furthermore, social change has political implications and therefore, any action or advocacy for social change (even for positive social change) cannot be free from politics.

This challenge is further complicated by the use of social media where professionals must be careful about what they do or say, since even if your tweets are only revealed to your followers they are still considered to be in public dominion and as evidenced by this example it can put you out of work. In a world where one can lose his/her job by tweeting about a bad day at the office where is the boundary for freedom of expression and appropriate and open engagement?

In our debate on Social Workers, Politics and Political Opinions, we wish to explore some of these and other questions such as:

  • Social workers are bound by a clear code of conduct and ethics in all their expressions and interactions. Does this mean that they must limit themselves to “Politically correct” expressions only? If yes, then how about their right to freedom of expression and their duty to advocate for positive social change?
  • Individuals often face competing rights and responsibilities in their social interactions. What are some of the competing rights and responsibilities of social workers in relation to political engagement and political expression?
  • Carrying the name social worker carries important powers and responsibilities. How can social workers ensure a balance between use and applications of those powers and responsibilities as a professional in relation to political engagement and expression?
  • Social workers are required to clearly distinguish and separate their professional and personal life (including their rapport, engagements etc.). However, can such a separation be achieved when expressing political views?
  • Social media further blur the boundaries of personal and professional. Does this mean social workers should be extra vigilant about their expressions and engagement, in order to ensure that they do not breach the professional code of conduct and social work ethics?

We will explore these and other questions during our debate on Tuesday (06-Mar-2012) at 8:00 PM GMT / 3:00 PM EST @SWSCmedia and look forward to seeing you in our debate.

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