Fury over Eastenders’ ‘misleading’ social work storyline

Social workers and campaigners have condemned an 'inaccurate' and 'misleading' storyline on the BBC soap Eastenders, which showed a social worker removing a baby from a teenage mother

The plotline showed a social worker taking a baby into care (Pic: BBC)
The plotline showed a social worker taking a baby into care (Pic: BBC)

An Eastenders plot line has sparked outrage among social workers who have criticised the BBC for misrepresenting their work and putting children at risk.

Last Friday’s episode of the popular soap, which is watched by millions around the UK, featured a social worker removing a baby from a teenage mother, apparently without sufficient grounds to do so.

As soon as the storyline aired social workers took to social media to voice their concern over the ‘inaccurate’ and ‘misleading’ events seen on screen.

Many said they would complain directly to the BBC, while others posted the responses they had already received from the broadcaster.

On Twitter, the charity The Who Cares? Trust called the soap’s storyline line an “unhelpful portrayal”, saying it had already received calls from members of the public “distressed about the Eastenders scene where a social worker snatches a baby from its mother’s arms”.

The British Association of Social Workers also condemned the storyline, accusing BBC producers of being “too lazy and arrogant” to get their portrayal of the child protection process right.

One social worker in a looked-after team said the soap’s portrayal of her profession had reduced her and a colleague to tears.

“Accurate procedures were not followed…” she wrote. ”Was it police protection, section 20? Where was the immediate risk to the baby? As a social worker, I was in tears, as was a colleague of mine, watching how our profession was portrayed on television.”

Read the BBC’s response to one social worker’s complaint

Social workers writing on facebook and Twitter said the episode made a ‘mockery’ of their profession.

One wrote: “It makes a mockery of our profession and does not appear to uphold any public trust, appreciation or understanding about what we do day in day out – in fact [it] only fuels further anguish, frustration and disrespect of the general public view of social services!”

Another called the BBC’s response to her complaint “a joke”. “I complained straight away to the BBC – because my daughter looked at me with disgust and asked if that’s my job, ‘do I take children off people when they didn’t do anything wrong?’ – the reply the BBC sent me was a joke.”

One facebook user, however, said the storyline was accurate. “I would have to say, from personal experience, the storyline was very accurate. There is good and bad in all professions, at least it shows how not to behave.”

Bridget Robb, acting chief of the British Association of Social Workers, called the storyline “shabby” and said it had provoked “real anger among a profession well used to a less than accurate public and media perception of their jobs”.
 
“It is disgraceful to see a publicly funded broadcaster deliberately spreading misinformation about the child protection process because it is too lazy and arrogant to get it right. We regularly give advice to programmes about social work storylines; we would like to know who advised Eastenders so badly.
 
“Social workers have a difficult enough job as it is. Unlike the writers and actors on Eastenders, they have to step through those front doors that no one else wants to step through, and they do it on a daily basis, to protect children, not to target families.
 
“Eastenders’ shabby portrayal of an entire profession has made a tough job even tougher.”

Community Care is awaiting a response from the BBC. 

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