Our Social media guidance for social service workers provides general advice however always refer to your own employer’s policies or guidance on the use of social media as it will be particular to the service where you work.

Code 5.8 of the Code of Practice for Social Service Workers says:

I will not behave, while in or outside work, in a way which would bring my suitability to work in social services into question.

This includes using social media as the important thing is how you behave online, not the fact you use social media. How you behave on social media should be at the same high standard as your day-to-day behaviour and you must maintain professional boundaries at all times.

Watch our animation to find out more about the guidance


Common questions

This is something you might want to think about if you have any doubts about having a social media profile. You could choose to have no social media profile.

This very much depends on the circumstances and it is important you use your professional judgement when you get friend requests.

If you live in a small community it’s likely you will already know or be friends with people using your service and there is nothing to say you cannot be friends on social media.

If you only know someone because they use your service you shouldn’t become friends with them.

Privacy and respect for people using services is in the Code of Practice. Don’t discuss people using your service or their care online. You should also be mindful of what you say about colleagues or your employer.

The guidance also outlines other Codes that have a bearing on social media.

Many organisations and workers use social media to promote their service, speaking about the good work they do. It can also be a useful way to share ideas and connect with others working in similar roles.

There are some things to bear in mind when doing this.

Never post confidential or personal information relating to people using services, their families or carers.

If you are taking and sharing photographs get permission from people using services to use their photograph on social media or make sure they cannot be identified. Make sure there is no confidential information visible in the area where you are taking photographs.

If you think a colleague who is registered, or is applying to register, with us has used social media inappropriately please see our guidance on raising a concern about a colleague. You have a professional duty under Code 3.5 of the Codes to tell your employer and the SSSC when a colleague’s fitness to practise may be impaired. You should never use social media as a way to raise or escalate concerns.

Making better decisions

Our online fitness to practise learning resource allows you to put yourself in difficult situations so you can decide what to do in a safe environment with no impact on people using services.

One of the situations explores what to do when someone using your service sends you a friend request, try it out to see what you would do.

If you work in a children’s service try it here.

If you work in an adult’s service try it here.

Examples of our investigations into the use of social media

Here are some examples of cases involving social media that Fitness to Practise has investigated in the past.

A social care assistant added a person who uses services as a friend on Facebook and discussed their mobility with them on a public page. Doing this was an inappropriate and insecure method of communication.

It was a breach of the trust and confidence placed in the worker by their employer to maintain appropriate professional boundaries and confidentiality.

A care assistant posted inappropriate and derogatory comments on Facebook about residents, their families and colleagues. Doing this in a public forum demonstrated a disregard for others and caused, or was likely to cause, them distress.

This behaviour was also likely to cause damage to the reputation of the employer.

A support worker posted a photograph on Facebook which was taken when they were responsible for providing care to a person using services. Although that person was not in the photograph it was taken in their bedroom when they were there.

This was unprofessional behaviour which represented a disregard for the dignity, privacy and respect of the person they were caring for.

A care assistant sent a private Facebook message to a colleague which contained sensitive information about a resident.

Doing this was an inappropriate disclosure of sensitive information about someone using services using an insecure method of communication. It was a breach of the trust and confidence placed in the worker.

A care worker posted an inappropriate photograph on Facebook while wearing her work uniform. Members of the public seeing the picture may have been concerned about its content and the professionalism of the worker.

This behaviour was an inappropriate communication in a public setting, which was likely to cause harm to the reputation and business of the employer.

A former senior staff nurse applied for registration with the SSSC. We were aware that in a previous employment the worker used a work computer while on duty to post inappropriate comments relating to hospital users and the police.

Although this behaviour occurred in a previous employment we thought it was relevant when we considered the worker’s application for registration. This is because the comments were inflammatory and contained derogatory language in a public forum.

A residential child care worker posted offensive and racist comments on Facebook.

This behaviour was an inappropriate communication in a public forum, which was likely to cause distress to others. The post had comments which would be wholly incompatible with the standard of conduct expected of a social service worker and the behaviour called into question their suitability to work in social services.

A senior carer sent a private Facebook message to a colleague that contained a discriminatory comment in terms of religion and belief.

This behaviour was an inappropriate communication which caused, or was likely to cause, distress to the worker’s colleague.

A nursery worker made derogatory and defamatory remarks about their former employer on social media and named the former employer in their post.

Doing this was completely inappropriate and likely to cause harm to the reputation of the employer.