Employers should support social workers to engage with the media to increase public understanding of the profession, according to new guidance from the Local Government Association.
In a major victory for Community Care’s Stand Up Now for Social Work campaign, the LGA is urging employers to allow frontline staff to be interviewed by journalists to showcase their achievements and “explain the profession on a day-to-day basis”.
The guidance is intended to boost morale and address vacancy rates in children’s social work, currently 11% in England.
Co-operating with the media “can pay dividends for your social work teams by giving them a reason to hold their heads up and be proud about what they do, as well as encouraging other people to consider social work as a career”, the guidance says.
The association was due to launch a booklet, “Giving Social Work a Voice”, in London this week before an audience of councillors and children’s services directors.
The Social Work Task Force report found the public image of social work in England was “unremittingly negative, with damaging consequences for recruitment, morale and public perceptions”.
Improving public understanding of the profession is one of 15 strands of the Social Work Reform Programme, which includes a commitment for a long-term media relations strategy to address misconceptions among the public and other professionals.
Community Care has endorsed the guidance as part of its Stand Up Now for Social Work campaign, launched after the relentless tabloid attacks on social workers involved in the Baby Peter case at the end of 2008.
Our campaign has called on the government, mainstream media and social work employers to raise the public perceptions of social work through positive, balanced and accurate media coverage.
The LGA guidance encourages employers to
- Develop relationships with individual journalists
- Consider easing social workers’ workloads to make space for media activities
- Accept that social workers will express their own opinions – don’t expect them just to repeat corporate messages
- Allow a more senior practitioner or communications officer to sit in on the interview