The Sun’s agony aunt has challenged her critics to stop “snapping and snarling” at her and the mainstream media and find more constructive ways of tackling the public image crisis in social work.
As the row over her appearance at the General Social Care Council’s annual conference this month refuses to die down, Deidre Sanders underlines her commitment to improving the profession in an exclusive article for Community Care.
Sanders: “I’m building bridges”
Sanders, who was controversially appointed to serve on the Social Work Task Force by ministers, says: “As well as making suggestions for the Social Work Task Force report on how the whole profession can turn its image around long-term, I’ve been trying hard to build bridges between our professions.”
The GSCC’s invitation prompted dozens of angry readers to criticise her presence at the conference in London on 14 October, on our online forum, CareSpace, with many reiterating question marks over her status as a member of the taskforce.
Campaigners spell out concerns
In a separate article for Community Care, a group of campaigners known collectively as Stand Up for Social Work has called on the GSCC to withdraw its invitation to Sanders to speak at the conference.
The group has set up a petition calling on the GSCC to withdraw its invitation, which now has 432 signatures though all are anonymous, reflecting fears that social workers could be victimised for speaking out.
Its article lambasts The Sun for its relentless attacks on the profession in the wake of the Peter Connolly case and argues that, while the GSCC should be engaging with the mainstream media, inviting Sanders to speak “re-victimises” social workers.
Open dialogue “should be welcomed”
However, Community Care editor Bronagh Miskelly welcomes the opportunity for more open dialogue with Sanders and others in the mainstream media.
“By inviting Sanders to conferences social workers have the opportunity to gauge her views and her input into the taskforce process as well as share their concerns on her employer’s attitudes and approach,” she says.
Sanders accepted an invitation to appear on the annual Question Time panel at Community Care LIVE in May but she was unable to attend due to a work commitment.
While expressing sympathy for “social workers feeling unfairly judged”, Sanders described the reaction on CareSpace as a “sustained howl of outrage”, and warns that failing to engage with tabloid newspapers and rejecting the “olive branch” her involvement in the sector represents would be counter-productive in the long-term.
“Blaming me for the public image of social work is to shut your eyes to what’s needed to turn your image around,” she said. “Instead of hunkering down into a defensive bunker snapping and snarling at the media, the profession needs to grab hold of the agenda and make it work for you.”
In a post on our CareSpace forum, the GSCC said: “If we can raise understanding amongst those who put newspapers together, we can influence the views of the wider public. Deidre also sits on the Social Work Task Force which will greatly affect the future of the profession.
“Responding to criticism by turning away will not make it disappear. We are offering the opportunity not just to listen but to have an active part in the debate.”