A care home manager from Surrey has lost her job as a result of posting images of residents on Facebook. Rachel Burns had spent 21 years working at a Park Hall Resource Centre in Reigate prior to posting photographs and a video of residents singing at a Halloween party last October but was later found by Surrey County Council to have breached its social media policy by identifying a resident.
Following her suspension as part of a disciplinary investigation for alleged inappropriate use of social media, Ms Burns claims she was offered the option of accepting a role with a 50% pay cut or dismissal but chose to accept dismissal from her post.
This incident highlights the continuing risks posed by the use of social media in care settings and the need for clear guidance to avoid placing vulnerable individuals at risk. Read on to learn more about the steps you should take to ensure safe use of social media within your service.
The use of social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, has never been more widespread and, used well, can offer real benefits to your service. In the right hands social media can be a great communication tool and enhance the lives of your residents. However, every member of your team needs to be aware of their responsibility to manage the use of social media professionally.
4 Tips for Safe Social Media Use
- Have a clear policy. Operate a simple and easy-to-understand policy that staff should not take photographs of residents using personal mobile phones or cameras. If photography is necessary, either for clinical purposes or to record a social activity, use a camera owned by your service. This will ensure you have ownership of all the data on the camera, can control its use and will also be compliant with the Data Protection Act 1998.
- Seek consent. Always ensure that you obtain consent before taking a photograph of any resident and that they understand the purpose of the photograph. A resident may be happy to have a photograph taken on the understanding that it will be posted on a resident’s notice board but not be willing to see it posted on your website or Facebook page. Within any care setting, it is good practice to use a consent form that provides a separate section for the resident to indicate for what purpose they are happy to have their photograph taken, e.g. for clinical reasons, internal use only or for wider use externally and online.
- Confidentiality. Update your confidentiality policy to make specific reference to the use of social media and clarify your expectations of staff behaviour. A policy on social media use is also advisable to offer more general guidance on safe and appropriate use.
- Provide training. Include the use of social media in your safeguarding training. Without a clear understanding of the reasons for your actions, staff may underestimate the risk of misuse. For example, there is always the risk that a staff member will take a photograph of themselves with a resident on a group outing and share it inappropriately but linking these actions to discussions about safeguarding will emphasise the potential risks of this behaviour.