1.1 Define the term ‘duty of care’

1.1 Define the term ‘duty of care’

Duty of Care Answers

Care Learning

6 mins READ

This guide will help you answer The RQF Level 2 Diploma in Care Unit 1.1 Define the term ‘duty of care’.

“Duty of care” refers to the legal and moral obligation to act in the best interests of others. It means ensuring that your actions, or lack thereof, do not harm others. It involves taking reasonable steps to protect individuals from harm. This can be harm of a physical, emotional, or psychological nature.

Legal Context

In a legal context, duty of care is a requirement for professionals to avoid causing foreseeable harm. This concept stems from the law of negligence. If a care worker breaches this duty, they may be found legally liable for any resulting harm. This is why understanding and fulfilling the duty of care is critical in health and social care settings.

Moral and Ethical Implications

Besides the legal aspect, duty of care also encompasses moral and ethical responsibilities. Care workers must act with integrity and empathy. They should respect the dignity and autonomy of the individuals in their care. This means making decisions that prioritise the well-being of service users and advocating for their best interests.

Practical Applications of Duty of Care


Safeguarding is a primary aspect of duty of care. Care workers must protect individuals from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. This involves being vigilant, recognising signs of abuse, and taking appropriate action in response to concerns.

Risk Management

Duty of care includes identifying and managing risks. Care workers need to assess potential hazards and take measures to minimise them. This might involve implementing safety protocols, ensuring a safe environment, and educating service users about risks.

Competence and Professionalism

Competence is a key part of duty of care. Care workers must have the necessary skills and knowledge to perform their duties safely and effectively. They should engage in continuous professional development to stay updated with best practices. Professionalism involves adhering to ethical standards and maintaining confidentiality.


Duty of care also requires advocacy. Care workers must support individuals in expressing their needs and preferences. They should ensure that the voices of service users are heard and that their rights are upheld.

Examples of Fulfilling Duty of Care

Scenario 1: Medication Administration

Consider a care worker who administers medication. They must ensure they give the correct medication in the correct dosage at the correct time to the correct person. They must follow protocols to prevent mistakes. This demonstrates duty of care.

Scenario 2: Reporting Concerns

If a care worker notices bruising on a service user and suspects abuse, they have a duty of care to report it. They should follow the organisation’s safeguarding policies to protect the individual. This action prevents potential harm and ensures the individual’s safety.

Scenario 3: Promoting Independence

A care worker supporting an elderly person should encourage independence while providing necessary support. This balances risk with the individual’s right to make choices. It reflects an understanding of duty of care while respecting autonomy.

Breach of Duty of Care

A breach occurs when a care worker fails to meet their responsibilities. This can lead to harm or injury. Examples include:

  • Neglecting to follow safety procedures, resulting in accidents.
  • Ignoring signs of distress or abuse and not reporting them.
  • Providing care without proper training, leading to errors.

Consequences of Breach

Breaching duty of care can have serious consequences. It can lead to physical harm, psychological trauma, and loss of trust. For the care worker, consequences may include disciplinary actions, legal repercussions, and damage to professional reputation.

Tools to Support Duty of Care

Policies and Procedures

Organisations should have clear policies and procedures. These guide care workers on how to fulfil their duty of care. Regular training ensures that staff understand and can implement these guidelines effectively.

Supervision and Support

Regular supervision provides care workers with opportunities to discuss concerns. It helps them receive guidance and support. Support systems within the workplace can mitigate stress and prevent errors, thus reinforcing duty of care.


Good communication is vital. This includes clear record-keeping and effective handovers between staff. It ensures consistency in care and prevents misunderstandings that could lead to harm.

Examples answers for Unit 1.1 Define the term ‘duty of care’

Sure, I understand how examples can help clarify concepts. Below are some examples of how a care worker might answer questions related to fulfilling their duty of care in various typical scenarios.

Scenario 1: Medication Administration

What steps do you take to ensure that you administer medication correctly to a service user?

To ensure I administer medication correctly, I follow a strict protocol. First, I double-check the medication administration record (MAR) to verify the correct medication, dose, and time. I also confirm the service user’s identity, usually by asking their name and checking their identification band or other confirmation method. Before administering the medication, I wash my hands and use gloves to maintain hygiene. I then explain to the service user what medication they are receiving and why. After administration, I document it immediately in the MAR and observe the service user for any adverse reactions. If anything unusual occurs, I report it to a supervising nurse or doctor immediately.

Scenario 2: Reporting Concerns

What would you do if you suspected a service user was being abused?

If I suspected that a service user was being abused, I would follow the safeguarding policy of my organisation. Initially, I would ensure the service user’s immediate safety. Next, I would document any signs of abuse, such as physical marks or changes in behaviour, and report my concerns to my supervisor or the designated safeguarding lead. I would provide detailed and factual information without making assumptions. I understand the importance of confidentiality but still recognise that safeguarding the individual is paramount. Therefore, I would cooperate fully with any investigations and remain supportive to the service user throughout the process.

Scenario 3: Promoting Independence

How do you balance promoting a service user’s independence with ensuring their safety?

Balancing a service user’s independence with ensuring their safety requires a careful risk assessment. I begin by understanding the service user’s abilities and preferences through conversation and observation. For example, if an elderly person wants to make their own tea but has issues with stability, I would first assess if they can safely perform the task. I might then suggest adaptive equipment, like a kettle tipper, to make the task safer. I also stay nearby to supervise without taking over, allowing them to maintain their independence while discreetly ensuring safety. This approach respects their dignity and encourages them to remain engaged in daily activities, thus promoting their overall well-being.

Scenario 4: Handling Complaints

How would you handle a complaint from a service user about the care they are receiving?

If a service user has a complaint about the care they are receiving, I would first listen attentively and empathetically to ensure they feel heard and understood. I would reassure them that their feedback is important and that the matter will be taken seriously. Next, I would document their complaint accurately, noting all pertinent details. Then, I would follow the organisation’s procedures for handling complaints, which typically involves reporting the complaint to a supervisor or manager. I would keep the service user informed about the steps being taken to address their concerns and ensure they know that their well-being is my priority. Follow-up is crucial, so I would check back with the service user to see if the issue has been resolved satisfactorily.

Scenario 5: Observing and Reporting Changes

What would you do if you noticed a significant change in a service user’s health or behaviour?

If I noticed a significant change in a service user’s health or behaviour, I would act promptly. Firstly, I would assess the situation to determine if immediate medical attention is required. For example, if the change involves sudden difficulty breathing or loss of consciousness, I would call emergency services right away. If it’s a non-emergency change, like increased confusion or unusual lethargy, I would document all observations in detail, including the time and nature of the change. I would then report these observations to a nurse or other appropriate healthcare professional immediately. Continuous monitoring and clear communication with the healthcare team are essential to ensure appropriate and timely interventions.

Scenario 6: Infection Control

Describe how you would ensure infection control in your daily duties.

Ensuring infection control in my daily duties involves several key practices. Firstly, I adhere strictly to hand hygiene protocols, washing my hands thoroughly before and after any contact with service users, and using hand sanitiser where appropriate. I wear personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves, masks, and aprons, as per the organisation’s guidelines. I also make sure to clean and disinfect surfaces and equipment regularly to minimise the risk of spreading infections. I educate service users about the importance of hygiene, encouraging practices like regular handwashing. Additionally, I monitor for signs of infection, such as fever or unusual symptoms, and report them promptly to healthcare professionals to ensure quick and effective responses.

Final thoughts

These example answers demonstrate how a care worker would apply the principle of duty of care in different situations. Whether it’s administering medication, reporting concerns, promoting independence, handling complaints, observing changes, or ensuring infection control, the key is to act in the best interests of the service users. This protects their safety, well-being, and rights, fulfilling the duty of care required in the health and social care sector.


Duty of care is a fundamental aspect of health and social care. It involves legal, moral, and ethical responsibilities to act in the best interests of others. By safeguarding individuals, managing risks, maintaining competence, and advocating for service users, care workers fulfil their duty of care. Understanding and applying this principle is crucial for providing safe, effective, and compassionate care.

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