Induction Standards for Northern Ireland

Standard 2: Understand the organisation and the role of the worker: Your role as a worker

As a care worker you owe a duty of care to the people you support, your colleagues, your employer, yourself and the public interest. Everyone has a duty of care – it is not something that you can opt out of.

Duty of care is defined simply as a legal obligation to:

When acting in a person’s best interests you must do so with their consent unless you have evidence that the person lacks capacity to make that particular decision at the time it needs to be made.

If you are employed directly to support someone in their own home, duty of care still applies. Do you have access to supervision where you can talk about this?

Understand how duty of care contributes to safe practice

Your duty of care means that you must aim to provide high-quality care to the best of your ability and say if there are any reasons why you may be unable to do so.

When professionals act within a duty of care they must do what a reasonable person, with their training and background, can be expected to do. So, for example, an accountant must get their sums right and apply for the right tax exemptions for their clients. In the same way, a care provider is expected to be trustworthy, in accordance with their code of practice, and apply suitable skills when carrying out care services.

Providers and care workers must always take reasonable care. This means you must:

All of these things help to ensure that you are working safely and professionally.

Look at the following resources:

Check your understanding

  • With your supervisor, explain what is meant by each of the points above about taking reasonable care. Make sure you clarify anything that is not clear.
  • Think of a person you work with. How do you carry out your duty of care to them?

Did you know?

  • Duty of care exists in every type of work. For example, when you get on a train, the operating company has a duty of care to you to ensure you arrive safely.

Record what you have learned

  • Your organisation may have a Learning Record Form. If so, use that to write down what you have learned and any questions you might have. Otherwise you can use our Learning Record Form.

Know how to address dilemmas that may arise between an individual’s rights and the duty of care

Sometimes care workers may feel that there is a conflict between their duty of care and the wishes of the person using the service. Best interest decisions can only be made for individuals who cannot decide matters for themselves at the time a particular decision needs to be taken. So before starting to think about best interests, you need to be certain that the person doesn’t have the capacity to make this decision.

Think about this situation. Mr J has decided that he will go and collect his pension himself. You don’t feel this is wise as he has to cross a busy road and his sight and hearing are not good, but he is perfectly capable of making a decision. What is your response as a carer?

Look at the following resources:

Supporting people to make informed choices

‘Most of the choices that people make in life naturally involve some element of risk, and the decisions made by people using health and social care are no different. Avoiding risks altogether would constrain their choices and opportunities. Risk is a concept that tends to have negative connotations but people take considered risks all of the time and gain many positive benefits. As new health and social care choices and opportunities arise, they are likely to involve the consideration of taking risks.’

Check your understanding

Consider the decision by Mr J to collect his own pension. Does he have capacity to make this decision at this time? Is there any evidence that he may lack capacity or that is he making an unwise decision with capacity? The law states that you cannot assume that a person cannot make their own decisions simply because of their condition (in this case a sight and hearing impairment). Mr J may, for example, know that a school crossing patrol officer will help him across as she always does. If his behaviour or history suggests that he may lack capacity to make this decision, then you must carry out a capacity assessment.

This is a two stage process:

  1. Is there an impairment or disturbance in the functioning of the mind or brain?
  2. Does this prevent Mr J from making this decision? Mental capacity policy provides guidance about how to assess capacity.

The legal principles of the MCA state that we must:

  • assume people have capacity unless there is evidence to suggest otherwise
  • do all we can to maximise someone’s capacity to make their own decisions
  • not assume that someone who makes an unwise decision lacks capacity
  • act in a person’s best interests
  • apply the least intrusive intervention.

You need to do all you can to support Mr J to understand the risks and your concerns. A duty of care does not mean that you have the automatic right to override Mr J’s wishes. Working within this process may sometimes create an uncomfortable situation, when you think a person is planning, with mental capacity, to take a risk that you may consider ‘unwise’. Discuss your concerns with the person, and explain your worries. If the risk seems great, you could discuss the matter with other involved professionals, such as the commissioners, medical practitioners and the local safeguarding team.

  • Why is it important to let people make their own decisions whenever possible?

Did you know?

  • People can become depressed, demotivated and more dependent if they are not allowed to make their own decisions and take risks.

Record what you have learned

  • Your organisation may have a Learning Record Form. If so, use that to write down what you have learned and any questions you might have. Otherwise you can use our Learning Record Form.

Working in partnership with others

It is essential that you work in partnership with other professionals, volunteers and carers in order to provide the best possible care. This includes paid and unpaid workers as well as friends and family. Other people such as relatives, health professionals will be able to provide useful information to help you in your work with service users and you may be able to provide useful information to support them.

Look at the following resources:

Skill Check 3: Working together. Look at the diagram under ‘Care partnership’. Now consider the following three questions:

Check your understanding

  • Why do you think it is important to work in partnership?
  • Make a list of all the people you work with. What do they all do? How do you relate to them?
  • Think about a service user’s friends and family members. Should you relate to them in a different way to the way you relate to professionals?
  • When would trust between a carer and a service user be important? What about trust between two carers?
  • What might happen if the public lost confidence in our care service?

Did you know?

Record what you have learned

  • Your organisation may have a Learning Record Form. If so, use that to write down what you have learned and any questions you might have. Otherwise you can use our Learning Record Form.