The great work of most social workers goes unrecognised while the profession gets pilloried in the media for its mistakes. The campaign to reverse this starts here
For too long, media coverage of social work has been hostile, inaccurate, misleading – or completely absent. Social work is often treated as a second class profession in news reports and much of the press focuses disproportionately on child protection, leaving other aspects of children’s and adults’ services invisible.
Portrayals of social workers in the wider media, such as TV shows, also often pander to an inaccurate stereotype – storylines perpetuate myths about social workers and fail to reflect the fact that many clients say they have a positive experience of social workers.
This type of coverage, together with generally low levels of awareness about what social workers do, leads to a low public opinion of them. Such attitudes damage the profession’s credibility in the eyes of service users and other professions, make it difficult to keep hold of experienced staff and find new recruits, and ultimately put vulnerable children and adults at risk.
You have told Community Care that enough is enough – and we agree. For the past two months we have been calling on The Sun to improve its coverage of social work issues and now we are launching our Stand Up Now for Social Work campaign. The campaign’s first three initials – SUN – are a timely reminder of the recent poor coverage in the nation’s most popular red-top. But the problem is bigger than one paper and so is our campaign. We are reaching out to the media as a whole – and to government and social work leaders – in a bid to curb inaccurate and misleading reporting and promote social work’s success stories.
Community Care spoke out in 2006 in its Stand Up for Social Care campaign, when social work was under threat as traditional social work departments were disbanded and social care was increasingly becoming an after-thought rather than an integral part of public policy. Today that threat to the profession continues – in the form of unfair portrayals in the media and subsequent low public opinion. Once again we are taking a stand. Join us and Stand up Now for Social Work.
To achieve our demands (above) we are calling on:
● The media to portray social work in an accurate and balanced way, be accountable for the information they provide, and agree and adhere to guidelines for reporting on social work
● The government to do more to support and promote respect and positive images to enhance the professional standing of social work, as it has done for teachers.
● Social services departments and councils to improve their media skills to help improve their responses to the press in times of crisis and increase opportunities for positive coverage.
What Community Care will do
In the next few weeks we will publish articles in the magazine and online, run special podcasts and videos on our website, and lobby the media and politicians. Our plans include:
● Protesting against the Press Gazette’s decision to shortlist The Sun’s Baby P campaign for the best editorial campaign of the year accolade in the newspaper’s British Press Awards.
● Holding the media to account by highlighting good and bad coverage of social work.
● Drawing up guidelines to advise journalists and the wider media about what social workers do and how to accurately portray the profession.
● Promoting positive stories about social workers and the difference they make to people’s lives, and highlighting positive social work role models.
● Demanding that government offers more support to the profession.
● Continuing to collect more signatures to our petition and parliamentary motion calling for better media coverage of social work
To comment on these plans, suggest other campaign actions or leave message of support, visit Community Care’s CareSpace discussion forum
Make a difference – what you can do
1 To see what you can do to support the campaign, visit our action page.
2 For the latest information about the campaign, our partners and our progress, visit our expert guide.
3 To discuss the issues raised by the campaign with other social workers, visit the campaign section in CareSpace, our discussion forum.
4 You can contact us about the campaign by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
A version of this article was published in Community Care 12 March 2009 under the heading Enough is Enough