An attractive career?

There’s good and bad news from our national opinion poll on what
the public thinks of social workers. The good news is that they
remain more popular than traffic wardens and estate agents – and
journalists come to that. Of course it would be difficult to score
higher than nurses in the popularity stakes. But the rather
disturbing news is that more than 40 per cent of those surveyed
viewed even police officers more positively than social

It seems part of the problem is that most of the public have little
or no idea of what social care staff actually do – apart from
unfairly seizing people’s children in dawn raids or failing to
seize them when they should have done. These media stereotypes are
proving well nigh impossible to shake off. Even after three years
of the government’s social work recruitment campaign, which has
spelled out in national advertisements the varied nature of the
work and how satisfying it can be, the public perception of social
work is still unclear, social care’s image remains tarnished and
the recruitment crisis shows little sign of abating.

Community Care‘s separate survey of social work degree
students suggested the lack of clarity over the role may also
extend to them. While more than one-third said they wanted to
specialise in children and families, only 3 per cent said they
wanted to work in child protection, as if the two roles were
totally separate.

Meanwhile, 93 per cent of the students said the recruitment
campaign had not led them to apply to do social work training.
Unfortunately, the survey did not shed any light on what did prompt
them to apply.

Clearly, image is a key factor and one that it is very difficult to
address. One member of the public quoted in Community
‘s new report The Changing Face of Social Care
said that, as the mother of two daughters, she would not encourage
them to go into social care as she did not see it as “a career for
intelligent girls”.

This sort of comment does not bode well for the future – unless,
that is, the battle continues to improve social care’s public
image. That must be a priority for the whole profession.

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