You may have heard about a petition receiving a lot of support this week. No, it isn’t the one about shamed Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson, nor is it the one trying to remove the best in show title from this year’s Crufts winner.
It is the petition started by a children’s social worker, Zowie Overy, who called on the prime minister to support social workers, not imprison them. It followed David Cameron’s controversial announcement last week, which could see social workers face five years in prison for failing to prevent sexual abuse.
The announcement, it seems, was a step too far for most of the profession, and Overy as well. “In this job, we often advocate for the needs of children and young people and we forget that there is no-one really advocating for us,” she tells Community Care.
She feels social workers fear a backlash if they speak out. “More often than not, [we are] the professionals who have to bear the brunt of things when we have serious case reviews.
“It is always the social worker who will grab the headlines. It’s definitely knocked the confidence of professionals,” she explains.
She adds: “We get so caught up in the day-to-day social work. There are a million and one things we need to be thinking about, which doesn’t always include fighting for the profession.”
Nearly 10,000 signatures
Overy has certainly tried to do that and her petition has just surpassed its 10,000th signature. But she isn’t satisfied yet: “I don’t think the word is getting out there as much as I would like it to… People in my own organisation are only hearing about it now, which is bizarre.”
A direct stand against Cameron’s plans to extend the criminal charge of wilful neglect to children’s social workers, her petition is also about challenging the culture that allows such announcements and sees them receive public and press backing.
“I want the government to take note and think about the preventative stuff, rather than scaremongering,” Overy says.
These are lofty ambitions, but she hopes this petition will be the first of many if people are inspired by her standing up for social work.
“It makes other people think you can be a frontline social worker – you don’t have to be management, you don’t have to be an organisation – and stand up and be counted and have your voice heard. I hope that it does inspire others.”
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