Are social workers’ families happy about their career choice?

With families of NQSWs worried about the impact of public perceptions of the profession, we asked readers for their views

Photo by Community Care

When you decided to become a social worker, how did your family and friends react? Were they proud and supportive? Or were they worried?

Some newly qualified social workers reported that their loved ones expressed concerns about their career choice, according to the Big Listen, a recent study of 1,035 social workers and managers from councils in London and the South East.

“Some family members were aware of the public perception of the profession and worried about the impact on their loved ones,” said the report.

We investigated the matter further through a Community Care poll, which drew 605 votes. 

When asked whether their families were proud of their role as a social worker, 42% said yes, while a third said loved ones had been “indifferent” to their choice of profession.


However, a quarter of respondents reported their family was “against” them entering the social work sector.

The “hidden nature” of social work

Many of those who took part in the Big Listen research linked the poor public perception of social work to negative media coverage and a lack of understanding of what social workers do. 

Community Care’s Choose Social Work campaign is working to counteract this by showcasing the brilliant work social workers do every day. 

Chief social worker Isabelle Trowler recently touched on the unrecognised and “hidden nature” of social work in a letter to future practitioners for our campaign.

“You might hanker after public recognition and respect and want the same positive headlines that other professions receive. But we work within the most private spaces of people’s lives,” she wrote.

“These are stories of the utmost intimacy, often involving shame and desperation, often involving great joy and progress and change. But they are not our stories to share, so don’t feel disheartened by the hidden nature of our work.”

In another letter, social worker Charlotte Wyles commented on the villification of social workers, branding practitioners a “silent army”.

“There will be people who publicly blame us individually or as a collective, for things quite often out of our control. They don’t understand the role we have, the challenges we face and the barriers we come up against,” she said.

“But it would not be right to comment publicly on individual cases – we are the silent army of integrity, continuing to make a positive impact each day, and supporting each other as a profession.”

Taking back the narrative

However, in an interview for the campaign, Sharon Shoesmith, the director of children’s services at Haringey council at the time of the Peter Connelly (‘Baby P’) case, championed speaking out. 

“It has been hard for [social workers] to speak up in their own defence – hard to find a way to change the narrative that they are to blame because it has become so deeply embedded,” Shoesmith said.

Shoesmith encouraged social workers to take back the narrative and find ways to speak out. That could start with something as small as proudly discussing your job when you meet someone new.

“We just have to keep challenging the government and media [when they are wrong] and get out there and hit back.”

Do you think social workers should take back the narrative? Tell us in the comments below or on social media using #ChooseSocialWork

, , ,

Comments are closed.