Social work is not just about people

Roberts believes that the government’s recruitment campaign betrays a
Disneyworld view of social care.

government’s £2m campaign to attract 5,000 recruits to social work includes a
visually striking comic strip in newspapers and magazines, which is fighting a
strong battle to draw the reader’s eye.

art work, however, is accompanied by stupefyingly condescending advertising
copy plainly directed at individuals with no objections to being patronised and
an insatiable appetite for adult fairy stories.

can be fascinating, mystifying, rewarding. They’re never boring…” is the banal
recurring theme of the campaign. Never boring? Well, yes and no. The hurdles
many have to overcome – such as bad housing, low income and poor education –
can be monotonously repetitious.

variation focuses on support for an autistic child. It asks: “What are the
rewards?” The answer? “The children change. Inside, so do you…”

the Disneyworld of social care. The truth is, of course, that when and how a
child changes – if at all – depends on many factors, such as the type of
autism, the resources available and the commitment of the family. As for the
social worker’s personal state of internal combustion – that, in the long term,
will be influenced by good management, a decent wage and a manageable workload,
as much as by casework satisfaction alone.

government, nevertheless, is extremely pleased with itself. Since mid-October,
it has received over 5,000 calls and 3,700 visits to its website. However, I
would contend that the biggest recruitment officer for social work hasn’t been
the advertising campaign, but events since 11 September.

then, the narrative that has seized the hearts and minds of the public hasn’t
been the customary one involving the rich, ruthless and    famous. Instead, as we all know, it has
been tales of personal sacrifice and bravery; the merits of public service; and
a greater recognition and value given to empathy, compassion and connectedness
with those less fortunate – including the millions in Afghanistan starved,
frozen and on the receiving end of bombardment from the “civilised” West.

month, Community Care raised the issue of values and social work (“Value
judgements”, 11 October). It seems to me that today, as for the past few
decades, those who will both give the most and, in turn,  receive some satisfaction from the
profession are those who understand that social work isn’t – as this daft
campaign insists – “all about people”. The campaign promotes the view that
social work is a privatised, one-to-one, de-politicised activity, which has
little to do with a system that militates against those who begin life with
little. The message that tomorrow’s potential professionals ought to be hearing
is that social work is about people, but it’s also about politics and power.

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