Ninety-three per cent of a 1,000 public polled think the contribution of social workers in the community is very or fairly important.
Two-thirds of the sample say they would trust social workers to help them or their families.
The poll, carried out exclusively for Community Care and sponsored by the General Social Care Council and the British Association of Social Workers, is welcome news for a profession lacking in confidence and unaccustomed to positive headlines.
One reason for the change of heart is that, as the population ages and the number of people with complex disabilities grows, more people have personal experience of social services.
Anne Williams, adults’ services director at Salford Council and president of the new Association of Directors of Adults’ Social Services, says: “With the changing demographics, a large majority of people now are going to have had contact with social services because of themselves or relatives.
Lynne Berry, chief executive of the General Social Care Council, is urging social workers to build on the survey’s positive findings and “start supplying stories of success”.
She says: “There’s a feeling they should be talking about the challenges of social work. But let’s have stories about how social workers have really changed people’s lives.
Let’s use this opportunity to get brave and tell a few stories and stand up and be proud of what they do.”
But Berry also accepts that it cannot be down to individuals alone, and that her organisation, among others, has an important role to play. “The GSCC will champion good practice,” she promises. “We will champion social work. We will champion the fact that social work is an independently and emotionally demanding job that uses the expertise these people have.
The Department of Health and Department for Education and Skills will launch the next phase of the government’s social work recruitment campaign in the autumn, which Berry insists is about “delivering a positive message about social work being a serious profession of choice”. It will follow on from the current social care recruitment campaign, which promotes the benefits for both the care worker and the client of working together.
Social workers win public backing in GSCC and BASW poll