Social workers should speak directly to journalists more often to try and improve the media coverage of child protection social work, the Munro Review has recommended.
In her final report on the child protection system in England, Professor Eileen Munro examined how the public image of social work might be improved. She drew on lessons from the police force which, since the 1990s, has provided media training for police at every level “as a reaction to the realisation that effective communication is essential for good policing and too important to be ignored”.
She said a priority for local authority communitcations teams should be working with social workers on strategies for helping social workers to talk about their work in the media and supporting them to do so.
“The review has heard and understood the difficulties inherent in sharing information about social work, especially when information is sought in connection with particular child protection cases. Adhering to these restrictions, however, does not affect the right social workers and their employers have to talk about their work more generally, or to work with their communications teams to discuss ways of helping the media and public to understand child protection work and what it involves, without revealing confidential or case-specific information.
“Social workers are the only people who can give a real and current account of how it feels to do their job and have a responsibility, working together with local communications professionals, to do this to help effect change,” she added.
Munro said all members of the sector had a part to play in improving public perception of child protection workers through the media.
The College of Social Work, she said, should provide an independent, national voice for social work and a source of expertise about the profession. A nationally appointed Chief Social Worker, she continued, should represent the profession within government and the media.
Social work employers, particularly local authorities, the report said, have a responsibility to encourage their press teams to work with social workers to find stories that the media will be interested in publishing. These teams should also ensure the media is as well informed as possible.
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