Don’t jail social workers, join the Stand up for Social Work campaign

A blame culture, budget cuts, increasing stress levels and demand mean it has never been more important to stand up for the profession and service users

Community Care is re-launching its popular Stand up for Social Work campaign to raise the profile of social work in the face of budget cuts, unprecedented demand for services and even threatened jail terms.

When we first launched the campaign in 2006 social work was under threat as traditional social work departments were disbanded and social care was increasingly becoming an after-thought rather than an integral part of public policy. We relaunched the campaign again in 2009 when social work’s profile was at rock bottom following the tragic death of Baby P.

Readers galvanised the push for a more positive portrayal of social work, even succeeding in getting a consumer magazine to create and give away badges with the slogan ‘thank god for social workers’.

Overwhelming caseloads and vacancies

However, six years on and our surveys and stories show social worker stress levels are rising across both children and adults services due to overwhelming caseloads, vacancies and budget cuts.

Our duty to you is as great as your duty to the vulnerable in our society.

Combined with more high profile abuse cases and the relentless media and political thirst to blame social workers, Community Care believes it’s time to regroup and once again, stand up for social work.

Not only do we need to raise the profile and increase awareness of the life-changing work that social workers do day-in and day-out, but we also need greater honesty about the challenges facing social work.

Need for greater transparency

We need to showcase the inspiring work that is being done every day by social workers but we also need greater transparency about the impact of budget cuts and the huge increases in demand seen over the last few years. The toll this is taking on dedicated and skilled professionals cannot be ignored if service users are to stay safe.

Politicians cannot be allowed to threaten social workers with jail terms, when children are harmed, if they are not also willing to prioritise and provide the resources and support needed to allow social workers to do their jobs properly.

We believe that standing up for social work means three things:

  • Taking pride in the great work you do and talking about it to inspire others
  • Being honest about the challenges you face
  • Giving you the support you need to protect vulnerable people



Taking pride in the work that you do is remembering why you trained for this great profession. It is recognising the difference you make each day. It means standing tall in the face of setbacks. It means providing inspiration to others.



But positive stories alone are not enough. We need greater honesty about the challenges you face – huge increases in demand, larger and more complex caseloads, budget cuts, long hours, a lack of support, too little time for reflection and personal development. The toll this is taking mentally, physically and emotionally on social workers needs to be acknowledged by those in power.



Giving social workers the support they need to do their jobs should be something every single person takes seriously, be it government ministers, policy makers, senior managers, other professions, the media or the wider public. The work you do is a public service and for the benefit of the public. Our duty to you is as great as your duty to the vulnerable in our society.

Social workers deal with the biggest challenges facing our society today – child abuse, lack of adequate support for people with disabilities, a shortage of beds for people in mental health crisis and too little funding to enable all older people to live with dignity.

Politicians, national newspapers and the general public care when something goes wrong – when a child dies, when they watch a person with learning difficulties being abused, when an older is maltreated in a care home – but they don’t seem to care enough about the vital role social work plays in preventing these scandals.

Good social work is at the heart of any decent society, but it only flourishes with adequate funding and support. As the public sector faces more spending cuts, join us and once again, stand up for good social work.

To support this campaign, we’re asking you to do one thing to stand up for social work. It can be large or small.

We have created a list of the top 85 actions social workers, managers, politicians and members of the public can take to stand up for social work.

Tell us what you are doing and we’ll add it to our interactive map so everyone can see what is happening in their area and be inspired to do something themselves.

Get some friends or work colleagues together and do something bigger. Get on Twitter or Facebook and do something huge. Who knows where it could end up?

In 2015 Community Care will be standing up for social work by providing:

  • Inspiration: Sharing and promoting stories where social workers have made a difference and changed somebody’s life as well as sharing good practice happening around the country.
  • Honesty: Using cutting edge investigative journalism to reveal what’s really happening in the sector – from burnout to high caseloads, to rising child protection thresholds and the impact of mental health cuts, we pledge to investigate and reveal the reality of social work in 2015.
  • Support: Publishing easily accessible resources, tools and guidance to help social workers and their managers in their jobs. This will be through time-limited free guides from experts, currently available on our premium data sites Inform Children and Inform Adults. It will also include webinars and conferences to provide that vital space and opportunity for you to reflect and connect with others.

Tell us what you are doing to stand up for social work by commenting on this article or emailing us at and keep up to date with all the campaign news.

More from Community Care

13 Responses to Don’t jail social workers, join the Stand up for Social Work campaign

  1. Charles Cope March 4, 2015 at 1:17 pm #

    I’m retired now but it depresses me to read the sort of twaddle that is written in the tabloids about social workers. Even when the journalists are wrong, eg in the Shannon Matthews case, when the Mail ran headlines about social services “not doing enough”, an apology is never issued. All my working life I had to endure this form of ignorant vilification, yet when we surveyed people who had actually used social services, we got an overwhelmingly positive response. (Audit Commission surveys). It used to be that the police and nurses got more positive media coverage, but that has changed too. Public sector workers are expected to work for lower salaries but do a better job than is ever expected of, for example, workers in the financial sector. It’s always worth remembering that it was social services that exposed Fred West (not the police and certainly not journalists) and that it was journalists that had to pay out huge compensation for libelling an innocent teacher for the Joanna Yeates murder.

  2. Sue Williams March 4, 2015 at 1:26 pm #

    Well done Community Care for relaunching this campaign. Its the hight of hypocracy to threaten front line workers with jail over the recent CSE revelations when major celebrities, leading members of the establishment and politicians were not punished for their actual abuse of children over decades. It was only in 2009 that the DCSF/DfE changed its focus and vocabulary in statutory guidance to sexual exploitation as opposed to child prostitution where blame was laid at children’s doorstep for their ‘behaviour’ It was only 2013 when a judge in a CSE case blamed a 13 year old for being ‘predatory’ and victimising her abuser.

    As a society we have all failed to take the necessary action, in the past, to protect children from criminals who drug and rape them. Seeking to blame social workers and other front line staff is unacceptable and we have to stand up for our profession now. We should also join the campaign to remove references to child prostitution from UK legislation.

    • Judy Cooper March 11, 2015 at 1:33 pm #

      Hi Sue- thanks for your support. I agree, I think social workers often get blamed for the problems that society doesn’t want to deal with because it’s too difficult!

  3. Planet Autism March 4, 2015 at 3:50 pm #

    The sad thing is, that this law to criminalise not reporting suspected child abuse will have the adverse effect of amplifying already over-zealous and ill-judged SW actions and innocent parents will be “caught in the net” which will make whole families suffer, including the very children purportedly being protected. Emotional abuse (along with the physical abuse and neglect children suffer at the hands of state employees whilst in care homes or by foster or adoptive families) caused by the state should likewise be criminalised. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

  4. Lyndsey Simpson March 5, 2015 at 12:31 pm #

    I don’t know why we non-social workers don’t accept more responsibility for the disadvantaged in our society. The social workers are operating on our behalf in these situations. We pay them because we need them to help sort out some of the messiest domestic situations. “No man is an island”: John Donne. When one man hurts, we all hurt. We think we can just close our doors, ignore the problems out there, and leave it to Social Services, whom we will hold to account if it all goes wrong? Where is our sense of social responsibility?

    • Judy Cooper March 11, 2015 at 1:36 pm #

      Well said Lyndsey! Do let us know what kind of actions you think non-social workers could do to help stand up for social work or any you might be taking yourself. I’ll add them to our list!

  5. Sarah James March 5, 2015 at 5:44 pm #

    A few years ago I used the banner of “Stand up for Social Work” when compiling an academic piece of work showing how social workers were vilified – not only by the tabloid press. The respected papers, MP’s, local councillors, various celebrities, all had contributed to some vile statements about social workers. I think Bob Geldorf was one such misinformed celebrity accusing social workers and the courts of kidnapping children. I also contacted the complaints department of the local authority I worked for. Over a three year period there had actually been more compliments than complaints. Yet these are not promoted, a theme noted above in another comment. There are plenty of examples of good practice around, and whilst bad practice should not be tolerated, it is worth spending time on this campaign to remind people of the good that can be achieved with social work intervention.
    So, well done for bringing back the campaign. I for one am proud of what I do.

    • Judy Cooper March 11, 2015 at 1:39 pm #

      Thanks Sarah. Your academic piece of work sounds really interesting. Particularly the compliments vs complaints.

      • Sarah James March 12, 2015 at 10:56 pm #

        I would be quite happy to send you my powerpoint if you think it would be useful Judy. When I started the work I though it would only be the likes of the Sun and the Mail that were tearing into social workers. I was quite shocked to find that it wasn’t, as I was shocked to realised there were more compliments given to the local authority I worked for than complaints.
        My email address is if you would like more detail.
        I have been quite disappointed that there have not been more replies to this article as the legislation is actually quite mind blowing.

  6. carol March 5, 2015 at 8:49 pm #

    Sorry shout all you want debate all you want nothing ever changes and no-one is listening.
    Front line children’s social worker of 7 years.

  7. Atiq March 6, 2015 at 7:10 am #

    I regard the ‘jail social workers’ a highly political statement against a very apolitical profession.

  8. MEGAN KAPUSA March 6, 2015 at 1:16 pm #

    i believe social work is a profession that requires support and enough resources which politicians and the public should be focused on providing not harsh punishment and threats,jail term is disproportionate and absurd.

  9. Sarah James March 12, 2015 at 11:02 pm #

    I have been a social worker since 1996. I am also a Practice Educator and have the ability to pass or fail students. In 10 years I have failed one, for dishonesty and bringing the profession into disrepute. I am passionate about being a social worker, and believe I do not do any harm. I am actually quite shocked at how few people have left comments on this subject as I believe we are all working our socks off at the grass roots level to advocate on behalf of our young people and children. However, we are thwarted by management and such like to reduce expenditure and resources. It really is a time to speak up.