Behan tells social workers to stand up for themselves

David Behan

The government’s social care chief David Behan has called on directors and social workers to stand up for themselves and stop “playing victims” in the face of public criticism. 
Behan, director general of social care at the Department of Health, emphasised the importance of positive media stories about social workers and adults’ services.
“How much have you been doing to get stories into the Guardian and Community Care on adult care?” he asked delegates yesterday at the Association of Directors of Adult’s Social Services spring seminar .

Under threat
Behan said that failings exposed by the Baby P case had placed the entire profession “under threat”.
“We need social workers to be more confident about the contribution they can make,” he said. “We are the leaders of this profession and it’s absolutely crucial that we present social work as a confident and competent profession.”
He added that although many directors had trained as social workers in the 1960s and 70s, they must “be clear about what a unified profession will contribute to the welfare of society in the 21st century”.

Behan also assured directors that the adults’ sector was represented on the social work taskforce.
He added: “I want there to be a confident response to the taskforce [from the adults’s sector] not one that says we are playing victims”.

Turning to the Putting People First agenda in adult social care, which councils are implementing across England, Behan reiterated his plea for employers to drive forward the cultural shift in personalisation.
Although introducing personal budgets required technical changes to systems, directors also needed to connect with frontline staff and change their mindset, he said.
“There is a difference between social workers saying ‘I’m doing this because it’s the fulfilment of my professional ambition’ and ‘I’m doing this because I’m being asked to do it’,”.
The former social services director explained that councils should concentrate on putting reforms in place in 2009-10, and the DH would not be producing as many major policies as in the previous 12 months.
“The emphasis will be on delivery,” he said.

Community Care’s Stand Up Now for Social Work  campaign calls for more positive coverage of social workers in the media.
Related articles:
Ten reasons why social workers must speak to the media

The Observer’s chief reporter on trying to interview social workers

Have your say: discuss your experiences of speaking to journalists and whether media training should be part of the social work degree  

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