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Code of Ethics for Icelandic Social Workers


The grounds of social work are respect for human values and individuality and to maintain the belief that each individual should be able to explore his or her talents to the fullest.
The aim of social work is to find solutions to social and personal problems and prevent social injustice.
A social worker fights violations against human rights whenever and wherever they may occur.

Basic duties:

1. Social workers must perform their duties without discrimination and respect the rights of each individual. They must treat their clients with honesty and respect, and strive to form a relationship of mutual trust.

2. Social workers inform the client of his or her rights and duties, offering the client solutions and a direction toward help. Social workers respect and protect each person’s right to privacy and self-determination, as long as there is no damage inflicted upon others. In cases where clients cannot defend their own interests, the social worker must see to it that these rights are not dismissed

3. Social workers maintain confidentiality on matters that become known to them during the course of their work. The only exceptions to this are emergencies and acts of law.

4. Social workers must explain the rules of confidentiality to their clients, and explain the methods of gathering information and documentation of a particular case – including how data is handled. Social workers see to it that their clients have access to the documented information.

5. Social workers will not attempt to obtain information about their client from other parties without their client’s consent, except under order of law, in which instance only information relevant to the case can be used. Audio or video recordings can only be made with written consent from the client. Breach of confidentiality is permitted if the client makes a written request to the effect that information is to be handed to a certain person or establishment.

6. If a client has been assigned a social worker against the client’s will, the social worker must, as thoroughly as possible, inform the client of his or her rights. The social worker has to explain to the client the objectives of the intervention and the results that it’s expected to yield.

7. Social workers must not use their positions or professional knowledge to damage, oppress or extort a client, or to exploit the situation their client may be in. Social workers will not use their connections with clients for personal or professional gain.

8. Social workers will not initiate or partake in sexual relationships with clients or with anyone, such as a student, who may be dependent upon the social worker with regard to work.

Responsibilities and competence related duties:

9. Social workers are responsible for their competence and work in accordance with what is entailed in their position as stipulated by law. A social worker shall engage in academic and research activities

10. Social workers carry out their duties guided by professional oversight and their profession’s norms. They base their work on academic theory, research and professional social work experience. Social workers maintain their expertise, keep up with developments in the field and comply with current requisites of the profession.

11. Social workers must follow their consciences and convictions. If social workers do not feel capable of taking professional responsibility for certain tasks, they can refuse to perform those tasks.

12. Social workers take the initiative to develop new ideas for social work and implement those ideas in practice. Social workers take care to ensure the accuracy of their speech and written work, making sure that no material – oral or printed – can be misinterpreted and thereby cause harm to others.

13. A social worker must not practice under the influence of alcohol, other drugs or any other chemicals that may affect his or her alertness or reasoning.

Social responsibilities

14. Social workers present their educational and occupational credentials as appropriate. In public functions, a social worker must state if he or she is speaking as an individual or as a professional social worker, and if he or she is speaking on behalf of his or her colleagues or his or her employer.

15. When undertaking a project, a social worker must always be aware of the objective of the project and must work on the basis of existing laws, regulations and guidelines, as long as they do not contradict the ethics of social work.

16. A social worker shares his or her expertise with other social workers, with students of the profession, with other experts and to the general public.

17. A social worker strives to gain and maintain the public’s trust in social work and the professional competence of social workers.

Sisterly/brotherly duties

18. A social worker will not do anything to diminish the reputation of the profession or of social work as a professional and academic field.

19. A social worker respects the skills, duties and responsibilities of his or her colleagues as well as those of other experts and seeks knowledge from other fields of study when appropriate. In case of professional differences, a social worker shall attempt to act as a mediator, keeping his or her client’s best interests in mind.

20. A social worker that has knowledge of a colleague’s breach of the social workers code of ethics shall take action by making suggestions, engaging in a discussion and providing support to him or her with the goal of amending the situation. If this does not provide results, the matter shall be referred to the Ethics Committee of the Icelandic Association of Social Workers.