Social workers – a misunderstood profession?

A lack of understanding about the role of social workers
continues to undermine the profession, according to research from
Recruitment Talk’s sister publication Community Care.

The survey of 1,000 people across England, launched to mark the
start of Care in the Capital Week last month, finds that nine out
of 10 people believe social work to be an important job but more
than half admit they understand little or nothing about it.

Almost two-thirds of those interviewed from London and the south
believe social workers have a worse image than nurses, while 57 per
cent and 41 per cent think it’s worse than teachers and
police respectively. However, social workers are still viewed more
positively than journalists, estate agents and traffic wardens.

Report co-author Charlotte Rastan said: “There is work
that could be done on selling the success stories because there is
still a lot of negative media coverage. This is a central problem
and one the government is trying to address.”

The first Care in the Capital Week event in 2002 highlighted the
problems recruiting and retaining staff in the London. Since then
several initiatives have been attempted to improve the

Anthony Douglas, author of the first Care in the Capital report
in 2002, said: “Generally, local authorities have got better
recruitment campaigns and selection processes, and are more aware
of how to keep staff with individual packages.”

But Douglas, a former social services director and now chief
executive of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support
Service, adds that the pressures are as bad now as in 2002, with
the cost of housing a particular problem for London councils.
Douglas said more people are being recruited from abroad and good
messages about the profession are being relayed to students, but
there is still much instability in departments, a symptom of which
is “clients still seeing four or five social

He said councils should establish consortiums to pool ideas
about how to recruit and retain staff rather than compete with one
another for them, but thinks this unlikely to happen.

Andrea Rowe, chief executive of workforce development body Topss
England, said the government’s advertising campaign is linked
to the increase in social work students. Combined with a drop-off
in competition from the Connexions and Sure Start schemes for
workers, the outlook, while still tough, looks more stable for
recruitment, she adds.

However, Rowe said employers need better retention strategies
– such as increased use of job-sharing –  with personal
development at their core rather than just incentives for
individual workers.

• The Changing Face of Social Care from 020 8652

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