The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has attacked sections of the press for naming social workers involved in cases where children have died.
It said two national publications had named the social workers involved in one of these cases, and this led to death threats and a “barrage of personal abuse” against the workers on social media.
Ruth Allen, chief executive of BASW, said: “No social worker should have to fear for his/her life just for trying to do their best in a very complex job that often involves many other agencies.”
Allen added: “The publication of social workers’ names in situations like this is known to provoke such threats and the risk of this often far outweighs any public interest defence in the media.
“Social workers are accountable professionals and there are proper channels for practice to be investigated where necessary.”
BASW said it had received further reports of frontline social workers being abused in person, including an example of people “shouting obscenities through a megaphone while social workers head into their offices”.
Advice for social workers
Employers have the primary responsibility to handle threats against social workers, BASW said, and it advised social workers experiencing threats to:
- Speak to their employer on what support is available, as most will have written procedures outlining how individuals subject to abuse should be supported
- Consider reporting threats to the police
- Ask their employer about possible legal routes, and involve the legal department where appropriate
- Consider referring their case to the director of children’s or adults’ services , who could take it to their national organisation (the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, or Association of Directors of Children’s Services, for example) and lobby Parliament to prosecute website organisers in cases of online abuse
BASW said it and the Social Workers Union were supporting social workers suffering abuse, and urged other members and social workers to get in touch if they felt threatened.