Guidance: Use of Social Networking Sites (Facebook) by Social Care Staff in the Course of Their Work
This chapter is currently under review.
- Protocol for Authorising Access to Facebook
- Appendix 1: Social Network Search Request Form
- Appendix 2: Social Network Search Evaluation Form
This guidance is not intended to cover use by Social Care staff of social networking sites in their private and personal lives. It concerns the use of such sites for the purpose of work, and specifically in relation to the gathering information about service users and their families, and known associates and/or suspected associates.
Where a member of staff maintains a social networking profile for their own personal use, this must NOT be used to communicate with service users, or to convey official information.
Social networking sites are constructed by individuals who are able to specify through the use of privacy settings and by making decisions about who they will be "friends" with, who sees the information which is posted on their profile.
By posting information, including text and photographs, on a profile which is not protected by privacy settings, the person who makes the material available is, in effect, publishing it to an unrestricted audience. It is reasonable therefore that this material can be read and used in the course of an assessment, or the supervision of a case.
Where information is restricted to "friends" there is a clear intention to limit the use of the material and it cannot therefore be described as in the public domain.
Except in exceptional circumstances, social work staff must not examine the social networking profile of service users using their own personal profile. In order to address this issue Wakefield Council have introduced a corporate private profile, with access limited to a small number of key staff which will be framed by an authorisation protocol. An example of exceptional circumstances would be when a search of a client's Facebook Account is required immediately when an issue arises during a court hearing and it is not practical to return to the office and use the corporate profile. However in these exceptional circumstances verbal approval should be sought from a line manager and the Appendix 1: Social Network Search Request Form and Appendix 2: Social Network Search Evaluation Form documents be completed on return to the office.
2.Protocol for Authorising Access to Facebook
Originating Social Worker - Social worker who is undertaking an investigation or an assessment and has cause to believe that there may be relevant Facebook information.
Authorised Access Worker - Social Worker or Family Support Worker who is authorised to access Facebook using Wakefield Council log on.
Originating Social Worker is alerted to the need to check some aspects of a service user's and/or their family's/associate's account of current or recent events which might affect the safety of a child or children, i.e.
- Reasonable ground to believe that information given by a family as part of the assessment is misleading or untrue e.g. the claimed separation of a couple where domestic abuse is known to be a significant risk factor;
- Possible relationship between child and a known or suspected abusive adult;
- Presence of known risky behaviour, drug taking, drinking etc;
- Persons Posing a Risk to a child said to be present in family relationships.
Originating Social Worker examines concerns with his/her Team Manager in context of supervision and identifies potential ways in which concerns can be triangulated.
If Team Manager agrees that checking Facebook is an appropriate triangulation, the Team Manager will then request permission from Service Director to make contact with Authorised Access Worker to request a check of Facebook.
The Originating Social Worker needs to be as specific as possible about the people and timescales to be interrogated. Normally the process will include a one off review of currently available information on a Facebook site If it is envisaged that longer term monitoring is required, this should be specifically stated.
The Originating Social Worker must complete the Search Request Form (Appendix 1: Social Network Search Request Form) and include the name and as many details as possible of each adult whose Facebook site it is proposed to check. This may include known associates and/or suspected associates. If there are suspected associate(s) whose name(s) is/are not known, these should be referred to in as much detail as possible (e.g. an allegation that the mother of children is engaged in an online relationship with an unknown man believed to be behaving inappropriately).
Authorised Access Worker has authority and responsibility to satisfy themselves that log-on is legitimate. If they have any doubts regarding the validity of this search they should refer back to the Service Manager and Service Director for further discussions on the subject.
Authorised Access Worker logs on and searches for requested information.
Throughout the process the Originating Social Worker and Authorised Access Worker should work together to identify what is relevant information is identified on Facebook. If there is any uncertainty or disagreement about the process, or the information which is being identified, there should be a discussion with Service Manager whose team is managing the case.
If it becomes apparent during the viewing of the site that it may be useful to look at Facebook pages belonging to another person, this needs to be processed as a separate request, and should be specifically brought to the attention of the Service Director.
A copy of any information which is identified as relevant must be taken and saved as an electronic document which should then be provided to the appropriate Service manager and Service Director.
Once obtained the copied information becomes part of the service user's formal social care record. It should be placed on Care Director in the "Assessments" box and must be retained and if requested made available as part of a data protection disclosure.
Authorised Access Worker completes an Evaluation Form (Appendix 2: Social Network Search Evaluation Form) and passes to Originating Social Worker.
Originating Social Worker assesses the information and finalises the Evaluation Form.
Originating Social Worker must then share the Evaluation Form with their team manager, Service Manager and Service Director.