The Sun’s agony aunt Deidre Sanders is appealing to the tabloid’s readers for their views on social workers.
She is urging them to complete a survey, so she can “feed in ideas so they can be turned into reality” by asking for comments from those with direct experience of social workers as service users. She also welcomes “hearing from Sun-reading social workers too”.
Sanders writes: “Most of us believe there is a lot wrong with the social care system in this country, even social workers – perhaps especially social workers. It’s in all our interests to help this profession get back on its feet.”
The survey includes questions on the status and pay of social workers, how well they do their job and what their most important tasks are.
The news comes as controversy over Sanders’ appointment to the government’s Social Work Taskforce refuses to die down following The Sun’s attacks on social workers involved in the Baby P case.
Social work blogger Fighting Monsters, has already criticised The Sun’s survey, writing: “Dear Deidre, I suppose you are making an effort with your survey on the Sun website asking readers to tell you all that is wrong with social work. Personally though, I find it insulting that you were given a place on the Social Work Taskforce that is to report on changes and improvements to be made to social work.”
There were also angry objections to Sanders’ role at this week’s annual conference of the British Association of Social Workers.
Fran Fuller, of the association’s Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire branch, asked whether Sanders might be “eliminated” from the taskforce.
But Andrew Webb, vice-chair of the taskforce, denied claims that Sanders was chosen “to win votes” by the children’s secretary, Ed Balls.
Webb, the director of children’s services at Stockport Council, defended Sanders’ “valuable contribution,” adding: “As an agony aunt she brings the perspective of people who share problems to do with their interactions with services. She brings a view of the world that we wouldn’t otherwise have.”
Webb said the tabloid’s influence could be used in a positive way to improve public perceptions of the profession.
Also addressing members, the shadow minister for children, Tim Loughton MP, urged them to write to Sanders.
He joked: “Why don’t you tell her, ‘Dear Deidre, I’m a social worker involved in child protection. My problem is that tabloid newspapers keep dumping on me, which makes my job rather more difficult. What would you suggest?’”
Sanders originally agreed to take part in a debate by “going into the lion’s den” at Community Care Live on 13 May, claiming: “If I want social workers to be more open and proactive, I can hardly justify adopting a bunker mentality myself.”
She has since cancelled her appearance due to a prior engagement, meeting readers of The Sun instead.
For more on the survey read our blog: Sun asks readers how social work could be improved
What should Deidre ask in her survey on the future of social work? Tell us on Carespace.
Community Care’s Stand Up Now for Social Work campaign is calling for more balanced media coverage of the profession. More than 5,000 people have signed our petition to the Prime Minister to call on The Sun to back social work. Sign it here.