Social worker who started petition: “We forget there is no one advocating for us”

Zowie Overy speaks to Community Care as her petition against David Cameron's jail time proposals surpasses 10,000 signatures

Photo: Harold Lake/Flickr

You may have heard about a petition receiving a lot of support this week. No, it isn’t the one about shamed Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson, nor is it the one trying to remove the best in show title from this year’s Crufts winner.

It is the petition started by a children’s social worker, Zowie Overy, who called on the prime minister to support social workers, not imprison them. It followed David Cameron’s controversial announcement last week, which could see social workers face five years in prison for failing to prevent sexual abuse.

The announcement, it seems, was a step too far for most of the profession, and Overy as well. “In this job, we often advocate for the needs of children and young people and we forget that there is no-one really advocating for us,” she tells Community Care.

She feels social workers fear a backlash if they speak out. “More often than not, [we are] the professionals who have to bear the brunt of things when we have serious case reviews.

“It is always the social worker who will grab the headlines. It’s definitely knocked the confidence of professionals,” she explains.

She adds: “We get so caught up in the day-to-day social work. There are a million and one things we need to be thinking about, which doesn’t always include fighting for the profession.”

Nearly 10,000 signatures

Overy has certainly tried to do that and her petition has just surpassed its 10,000th signature. But she isn’t satisfied yet: “I don’t think the word is getting out there as much as I would like it to… People in my own organisation are only hearing about it now, which is bizarre.”

A direct stand against Cameron’s plans to extend the criminal charge of wilful neglect to children’s social workers, her petition is also about challenging the culture that allows such announcements and sees them receive public and press backing.

“I want the government to take note and think about the preventative stuff, rather than scaremongering,” Overy says.

These are lofty ambitions, but she hopes this petition will be the first of many if people are inspired by her standing up for social work.

“It makes other people think you can be a frontline social worker – you don’t have to be management, you don’t have to be an organisation – and stand up and be counted and have your voice heard. I hope that it does inspire others.”

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19 Responses to Social worker who started petition: “We forget there is no one advocating for us”

  1. Nick Johnson March 12, 2015 at 3:33 pm #

    BASW – College of Social Work?

  2. Martin Porter March 12, 2015 at 3:50 pm #

    So why is there nobody advocating for us? There’s the HCPC, SCIE, TCSW, BASW and we’re all in unions. Community Care has done its bit, but why did it take an ordinary Social Worker to start this petition?

    • Jamey April 3, 2015 at 3:14 pm #

      You have plenty advocating for you that’s RUBBISH, in fact some shouldn’t have the powers they seem to have as it seems to go to some peoples heads

  3. Notwavingbutdrowning March 12, 2015 at 10:29 pm #

    The CoSW was specifically set up to be the voice of social work. Their lack of loud, vociferous condemnation for this ridiculous proposal is deafening! I for one am sick of hearing little about the appalling management practices meted out by those responsible for delivering social work services, especially in child protection.

    The profession is on it’s knees after years of being scapegoated, under-resourced whilst the responsibilities are heaped onto us. If we don’t stand together as a United front, we might as well all give up now.

    If we can’t advocate for improvements for ourselves and protect our own profession we have no business trying to do so for the vulnerable people we’re trying to protect.

  4. Sandy Beach March 13, 2015 at 7:53 am #

    Because we are the accepted scapegoat?
    Regardless of any facts.

  5. Lou March 13, 2015 at 12:05 pm #

    Seriously what do we pay BASW and Unison for….? Should they not be shouting out for social workers….?

  6. Mr Amiya Chatterjee March 13, 2015 at 3:13 pm #

    Its really a shame that a nation which calls itself progressive DO NOT really believe that ” Social service workers ” are as important as the jobs of Nurses and teachers.

  7. Roselyn Thompson March 13, 2015 at 4:51 pm #

    Well starting a petition for Social Workers is very good but we pay money to Unions such as UNISON, BASW and what our professional Body HCPC, what are they doing to support us in crisis? I agree with anyone who will advocate for Sovial Workers. Social Work Professionals is very much hated because we go into the heart of families and we sometimes opened up can of worms that families rather not talking about. However, what the Coalition Governments recent talked about imprisonment for Social Workers in “Child Abuse/Exploitation Cases”. We do required petition to help us.

  8. Lynne Scannell-Smith March 13, 2015 at 5:25 pm #

    this proposal is a cynical attempt to put people off from joining the profession so as it dies and Tories don’t have to pay for the service any longer. They’re destroying the public services gradually as they think vulnerable groups are unimportant and should support themselves. Judge a community by how it treats its weakest members. We will lose all credibility as a caring decent nation if the Tories get back in power and simply decimate the public services which protect our weakest members.

  9. alison birmingham March 13, 2015 at 6:12 pm #

    A little disappointed with these comments as a unison steward.hopefully you are members and will be aware that unison amongst other campaigns have pushed for managable workloads and for the employer stanđards to be compulsory. I have personàlly written to all county councillors, mps and the press asking them to deploŕe Camerons statement and am awaitinģ their responses. When i get them i will send them to you! I know just how tough the job is and wonder who will want to do it if this ludicrous prposal goes through

  10. Lorraine Dixson March 15, 2015 at 3:00 pm #

    Until the whistle blowing policy is changed so it actually protects us people will continue to say little and stand up for their Proffesional. I went to basw last year before and after “whistle blowing” as an agency worker. I got no support further than a phone call. I wanted legal advice and someone to come to court with me but did not get any support further than the call. I now understand that unions only support with things that can go to a tribunal and as I had not worked there long enough I didn’t qualify. My Proffesional credibility was destroyed and I was let go from the new post I was in due to allegations abouty practice by the said LA which resulted on nothing after 4/5 months of being unable to work. I wonder why I paid my money all these years as what they offer does not appear durable for agency workers. I have not worked since and after 13 years of Sw wonder if I want to be in this role in the future

  11. Andy West March 16, 2015 at 6:59 pm #

    I think the problem for unions is that their power has been drastically reduced since the 1980’s and that this is right is something that is agreed by both of the two main political parties.

    As regards the leadership within social care see the comments on this made by the Chief Social Worker, Isabelle Trowler, reported by Community care on March 9th.

    However from 37 years experience working in social care it is my view that social care workers in many cases are their own worst enemies immersing themselves in their own work rather than look at the bigger picture. I also have often heard comments that indicate social care workers will blame and punish their colleagues rather than contextualize what has happened and reflect upon their own experiences.

    I was always impressed by Eileen Munro’;s admission in 2013, after reading the serious case review on Daniel Pelka, that she might not have done better- a brave admission by someone who is held in high regard for their knowledge and experience of social work with children.

    If we want politicians, the media and the public to be more understanding of the work we do, less blaming and punishing, we need to be more assertive and stand up for ourselves more. Signing Zowie Overy’s petition is a must for everyone working in social care.

  12. Grace flaherty March 17, 2015 at 5:27 pm #

    Another ludicrous Tory idea-social workers are under resourced/staffed and managing complex and high risk cases everyday..some insight into the reality of this role by Mr Cameron is needed.

  13. BuddhaPest March 18, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

    It is strange how this government believes that poor people and local government officers will only do their jobs properly if they are threatened with punishment for not doing so, while bankers and CEOs will only do their jobs properly if they get enormous financial rewards and bonuses.

  14. Sam March 22, 2015 at 10:12 pm #

    Oh my of my. How not to achieve change.

    Unfreeze = attack on all fronts -have leaders who don’t understand the profession, reduce resources, vilify them. Yes they are now demoralised. Yes ! They are distracted, might even be making more mistakes as a result. Yes Ofsted go and confirm that.

    Change = privatisation, public money in the hands of our friends.

    Refreeze = no responsibility, no accountability of anyone other than the social worker. Yes we will arrest them. That will do it. If they leave or don’t want to go into that profession, we will have the front-line bank-up capacity. Yes that will work.

    Yes this is how to do it.

    Well done government. Result: A better approach to vulnerable children and adults. Hey presto, they are now safer. We have no way of knowing what is going on anymore. See we told you it would be better.

  15. Sam March 22, 2015 at 10:20 pm #

    Who would have thought that the only way to be heard might be through the press? Through Community Care. I guess they might have to be careful soon.

  16. Jamey April 3, 2015 at 2:56 pm #

    I’m sorry but I dis-agree as money isn’t always the answer for better care, and in some cases can make it worse not better?to some it just always feel like some children get taken off families that are doing a good job,are loving and caring and the parents that aren’t doing a good job either gets bypassed or just dropped like a hot potatoe through fear of losing their job or like Rotherham fear from racism which is just outrageous and just wrong!!Especially when you have the powers you seem to have.Everything about Rotherham was disgusting,shamefull and frightening that these crimes can go ahead with the knolledge of authority’s and even the police and many many others,yet they chose to pretend it wasn’t happening or just didn’t bother,or was involved, I don’t know the real truth?But I know the police have a lot to answer for,they were and are just a joke in some places these days, it makes me so angry and frustrated from what’s happened and once again it sounds like your more frightened or concerned about yourself? when surely if your doing a good job and your record speaks for itself and surely people around you,your friends and colleges know your character ect which will protect you in the long run yes?I understand that there’s always the fear of being innocent and getting wrongly accused but surely this will make the right people come forward what ever?you have camera’s today,or Dictaphones or your phone,technology ect you can use don’t you?maybe the same stuff as the police with fitted camera would help?I understand that all services are under extreme pressure but that’s not mr Camerons fault,that was the last government Labour on a number of things who failed lots of people everywhere and it seemed as tho they were trying to cover up a number of things?if anything its come out under conservative and lib-dem government and thank god because NO ONE ELSE SEEMED TO BE DOING ANYTHING.I know I would back you 100% and many others would as well knowing all the facts,truths,your record ect ect and with social media now you wouldn’t have any problem getting the truth out there.

  17. Jamey April 3, 2015 at 2:57 pm #

    The press is the biggest problem with so many things it seems