How social work can win over the public

Roberts argues that only if evidence of good results is publicised
can the lot of social work improve.

All last
week, while The Sun gave copious coverage to members of
the police force commended for bravery, The Guardian
extended a daily invitation to another group of employees in the
public sector, teachers. It invited them “to speak directly to all
of us about (your) work, achievements, frustrations and

result was hugely varied and highly instructive not least in
exposing how the problem of failing schools is frequently so much
more complex than the simple cause, so heavily pushed by
politicians, of “bad” teachers. In spite of the horror stories,
what came across is the degree of dedication, the difficulties
inherent in the job and the capacity of many teachers to innovate
and adapt to a culture of change.

parallels with those who work in the field of social care are
obvious – except that, while teachers, nurses and the police are
regularly allowed space in the media and their lives make up the
bulk of popular drama in prime time television, the social worker,
as we know, either has a negative profile or no profile at all.

week, in London, Unison is holding a one-day conference, Building
Quality Social Services, Raising the Standard. Part of its remit is
to consider the public perception of social services and how it can
be made more positive. The answer is obviously multi-stranded (a
social worker moving into Coronation Street or the square
in EastEnders wouldn’t go amiss) but dealing with it is
neither trivial nor a dilemma to be pushed to the margins of the
profession’s main agenda.

On the
contrary, the issue is bound to play a vital part in the prospects
of social care. Social work has to find a way to free itself from
the stereotype of the inept busybody. Until that change is brought
about, a lack of public support will make it easier for the
government to push the profession around.

In other
words, a concern with image isn’t about packaging but politics.
It’s the vital route to cultivating the kind of clout that can
deliver the three Rs: recognition for social care professionals,
respect for their work and resources to do the job properly.

How will
it come about? All the organisations in the social care field are
overstretched and underfunded. Perhaps, it is the government that
must take the lead. Social care requires a PR strategy which –
backed by evidence of excellence in delivery – results not just in
a professional facelift but also a change of heart on the part of
the general public. 

Conference details from 020 7222 2176

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.