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The law and social work in England and Wales

This module examines the legal frameworks that shape and regulate social care and social work decision-making. It considers how social work can make use of the law in a positive way and examines the value of law from the perspectives of service users and professionals. The module deals with a range of legal issues related to social care and social work practice, including children and families services; youth justice; community care; and mental health.

If you’re interested in this module but work in Scotland, you can take the similar module K207 The law and social work in Scotland.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code
Study level
2 9 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
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What you will study

The policy issues raised by social care and social work practice are often controversial. They include the pressure on local authority resources that limits provision of, for example, community care services, the abuse scandals that surface regularly in relation to children, older people and those with learning difficulties, and controversy over professional decision-making and interventions in family life. This module examines the role of law in regulating the complex range of tasks and issues raised by modern social care and social work practice.

We explore how the law influences and shapes social work practice, not forgetting how social work practice can use the law in a positive way; and we consider the different views that service users and professionals have of the role and value of the law.

The module will develop your knowledge and understanding of the law as it relates to social care and social work practice. It covers a wide range of legal issues raised by social care and social work practice, including:

  • the relationship between values associated with social work and social care and legal values
  • implications for professional practice in legal settings, including: the tension between welfare rights, professional power and empowerment, working in partnership, accountability, and anti-discriminatory practice
  • the legal framework that regulates social care and social work in England and Wales
  • child protection and the role of the local authority
  • youth and criminal justice and the role of the welfare professional
  • adult care and the Care Act 2014
  • the law related to work with service users in all sections of society.

Professional recognition

This module is one of a set of modules that together constitute an approved programme that leads to the Social Work degrees for England and Wales. If you would like to know more about the BA (Hons) Social Work for England or Wales, please request one of our BA (Hons) Social Work prospectuses. 

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We offer group tutorials that you are encouraged to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module. Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2015. We expect it to be available once a year.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


This is an OU level 2 module and study at OU level 1 or equivalent work at another university is desirable. Some previous knowledge of the subject area would also be an advantage. Our OU level 1 module An introduction to health and social care (K101) offers ideal preparation for study at OU level 2 in this field.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

Preparatory work

You will receive guidance of how to get started online in your first module mailing. This will provide you with information on using your computer for OU study and working with the Computing Guide. For example, it explains how to access and use your website and online discussion forums. If you have time before the module starts, you can work through this and explore all the online services available to you.

Please note that a significant part of the study material is available online, so the use of a personal computer and internet access is essential for successful completion of this module.


Start End England fee Register
03 Oct 2015 Jun 2016 £2700.00

Registration closes 10/09/15 (places subject to availability)


You may need to apply for some payment or funding options earlier. Please check the Fees and Funding information or contact us for information.

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2017.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after you register.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time that is convenient to you.

Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2016. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

This information was provided on 28/07/2015.

What's included

You will have access to a website through which teaching and library resources are available. You will also receive printed versions of the online learning guides.

You will need

The facility to play DVDs.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as the study materials and activities are accessible via a web browser. Any other computer-based activities you will need to carry out, such as word processing, using spreadsheets, taking part in online forums, and submitting files to the university for assessment, are specified in the module materials. If any additional software is needed for these tasks it will either be provided or is freely available.

We recommend either of the following:

  • Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system
  • Macintosh desktop or laptop computer running OS X 10.7 or later operating system.

A netbook, tablet, smartphone or Linux computer that supports one of the browsers listed below may be suitable. The screen size should be at least 1024 (H) x 768 (W) pixels. If you intend to use one of these devices please ensure you have access to a suitable desktop or laptop computer in case you are unable to carry out all the module activities on your mobile device.

We recommend a minimum 1 Mbps internet connection and any of the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 9 and above
  • Apple Safari 7 and above
  • Google Chrome 31 and above
  • Mozilla Firefox 31 and above.

Note: using the latest version for your browser will maximise security when accessing the internet. Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.

See our Skills for OU study website for further information about computing skills for study and educational deals for buying Microsoft Office software.

Materials to buy

Set books

  • Long, L.-A., Roche, J. & Stringer, D. (eds) The Law and Social Work: Contemporary Issues for Practice (2nd edn) Palgrave Macmillan £26.99 - ISBN 9780230543034

If you have a disability

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader. Online material will normally have printable versions available. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future. 

As much of the study material is delivered online you will need to make extensive use of a personal computer and the internet. If you use specialist hardware or software to assist you in operating a computer or have concerns about accessing the types of study materials outlined you are advised to contact us about support which can be given to meet your needs.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.