A social worker has complained to the BBC over an “appalling” lack of respect for social workers and foster carers in a recent EastEnders storyline.
The social worker, who declined to be named, said the storyline about a long lost child in foster care being contacted by her birth family is “infuriating”.
“If it wasn’t bad enough the family were able to track her down at her foster placement so easily, we also discover the foster carer she is placed with will accept cash bribes from the family in order to agree to a DNA test and facilitate contact with family members the girl has never met,” the social worker said.
“The foster carer’s response to the family was ‘as long as children’s services don’t find out’. I know it’s ‘just a soap’ but I just find the lack of respect shown to social workers and foster carers appalling.
“Quite frankly our jobs are hard enough without rubbish like this making it harder,” she said.
The BBC responded to the social worker’s complaint, and said that guidance and advice was sought from “a number of experts” in the field.
Not a documentary
The broadcaster said while EastEnders aimed to reflect real-life, it was ultimately a fictional drama series and not a documentary.
“Therefore an element of dramatic licence is sometimes necessary – as Jade’s foster dad is not meant to be representative of all foster parents.”
It added: “We must also point out that although we don’t condone the actions of all of our fictional characters all of the time, we believe that they should be able to express views/opinions or actions, even if we don’t personally agree with them.”
Maris Stratulis, England manager for the British Association of Social Workers, said the risk of such storylines was that many people could gain a wrong impression of how fostering works.
“While we appreciate the programme uses dramatic licence to create storylines, why do they have to get it so wrong when it comes to social work?” Stratulis said.
EastEnders caused controversy with social workers a couple of years ago, with the infamous ‘Lexi and Lola’ storyline.