Social work students who have recently begun their degree courses have been issued with new guidance on the types of behaviour that could land them in trouble with their university and the social work regulator.
The General Social Care Council (GSCC) has handed out the advice as a part of a campaign to raise awareness amongst students of professional regulation and what it means for them.
It follows feedback from GSCC university inspectors that students are unclear of the standards expected of them, which has led to some students being disciplined by their university and by the regulator.
The guidance includes a section on internet misuse following cases of students looking at inappropriate websites whilst on their work placement, one of which resulted in a student being given a formal caution (admonishment) from the regulator.
Another area highlighted in the GSCC’s guidance is the issue of plagiarism. Some universities say plagiarism is becoming such a big problem they are now using special computer software to detect it.
De Montfort University (DMU) has carried out research on how the university responds to plagiarism on professional degree programmes. Brian Stout, Associate Head of School of Applied Social Sciences, at DMU said:
“There has been a recent increase in the detection of plagiarism and academic misconduct across all universities and all disciplines. This is probably due both to students finding it easier to copy material from the internet, and to a greater ability of universities and colleges to detect plagiarism using electronic software.
“An adjudication of academic misconduct has particular implications for students on professional programmes, such as social work, where integrity and honesty in written communication is so vital. The guidance from the GSCC is very welcome, as it will encourage students to think of themselves as professional social workers from the first day of their studies, and to apply the same high standards to their essays as to professional reports.
“In addition, my research into plagiarism on professional programmes indicates that is vital for employers, professional bodies and universities to present consistent messages about academic misconduct. The GSCC guidance is an important step toward achieving this united approach.”
Sherry Malik, Director of Strategy at the GSCC said:
“It’s vital that students know from the very start of their career that, as a member of the social work profession, there are certain standards that they must live up to in order to gain the trust and confidence of service users.
“We recognise that the concept of being a professional and one that is regulated will be new to most students and so we want to be as helpful as possible in guiding them through this.
“By registering with us, students are signing-up to the standards set out in the Code of Practice for Social Care Workers and so it is vital that they take some time to familiarise themselves with the code and be mindful of it during private study and with interaction with others.”
The guidance also includes advice on other conduct issues such as the importance of maintaining professional boundaries with service users and the consequences of misrepresenting their qualifications.