Community Care’s Choose Social Work campaign aims to counteract the negative media coverage of the profession, and show the brilliant work social workers do every day.
Read about why we’re launching this campaign, and the five steps you can take to support it.
In July, as part of our Choose Social Work campaign, we published an interview with Sharon Shoesmith, director of education and children’s services at Haringey Council when the Peter Connelly case (known at the time as Baby P) hit the headlines.
Shoesmith discussed why social workers are so often the focus of media and public blame when a child who is known to children’s services dies, and gave some practical advice about what social workers could do to speak out and improve the perception of the profession.
Here we expand on the ways social workers can take action with an edited extract from Shoesmith’s book, Learning from Baby P: The politics of blame, fear and denial, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers:
Talk about what you do
- Be proactive about being a social worker – speak up and tell people you meet socially and be proud of your profession.
- Get together more often with police and health colleagues to share learning and to ensure that the social work role is understood.
- Contribute to local forums that the council may already run or seek other local groups where contributions could be made.
- Attend community events and give information about social work at events where services such as the Red Cross, RNLI, the fire service have a presence.
- Find out how social work is portrayed in careers lessons (is it featured at all?), and go and speak to year 10 students and sixth formers who are thinking about career choices – go back to your old school and to local schools.
- Put information about children into the general information that councils give to residents, eg we have x number of children, x % attend early years, x% primary schools, x% secondary schools and x% go to university/college. We look after x% of our children who cannot be supported in their own families and we have the services of x foster carers and x qualified social workers.
Influence the media
- Encourage and support the British Association of Social Workers to speak out against misleading stories about social workers – you don’t need to know the facts but simply lobby for a ‘fair hearing’ for social workers.
- Be proactive in correcting items in the media when they get it wrong.
- Approach local press and arrange for positive material about the work of social workers, for example, ‘A day in the life of…’.
- Improve and encourage media coverage of events such as Foster Care Fortnight, ideally co-ordinated across the country.
- Ensure a steady supply of press releases to local newspapers; also use social media to communicate successes.
- Support those using services to link with the local media to tell their story.
- Consider a ‘supporting parents with parenting’ column in a local newspaper with different weekly contributors – approach the local paper and discuss how this might work. Also think about some more serious pieces, for example, the stress about missing a child being harmed, and develop this on the theme of looking out for children is everyone’s business.
- Research how to influence TV scripts to improve the portrayal of social workers.
- Think about taking part in high profile documentary (fly-on-the-wall) programmes.
- Think about writing children’s books (My social worker; My foster mum) and find local authors and illustrators or approach art/literature university departments for their help.
- Explore how social work might have a better professional footing, for example, ‘the Royal College of…’ as in the medical profession.
- Finally, find the right context and develop the courage to speak about what is unspoken.