The representation of social work in the media
As somebody that is always talking abut the importance of the representation of social work in the media, in whatever form the media comes in, I was very encouraged to see the social media feedback documented in the online version of Community Care Magazine – following the Channel 4 social work series titles ‘15,000 Kids and Counting’.
So often you just wait for the critical comments and negativity to flow from television critics, people in the pub and critically, other families who social workers are working with. So when positive messages are given about the difficulty of social work as a profession and the sensitivity of the social workers involved in situations it’s not just a short term warm glow, but a demonstration of how much more could be achieved in the media landscape. More often than not it seems that front line staff acting responsibly and showing off their skills are the best ambassadors for the profession.
Senior management and those those in top jobs at a national level tend to be associated with bad news, difficult situations, apologies and negative story lines. It’s only when you can hear directly from an articulate, sensitive front-line practitioner speaking truthfully about challenges as well as successes that the public seem prepared to believe and engage in thoughtful dialogue rather than knee-jerk criticism.
No-one is saying that there shouldn’t be rigorous scrutiny of peoples work, or even disciplinary processes where staff are not up to the task – but there has to be balance. For that to be truly achieved we need far more opportunities to showcase good practice. This needn’t be high-flying academia or convoluted political correctness. It just needs to be a truthful rendition of real work on the ground that people can relate to, can understand and can appreciate how difficult our work is sometimes.
It’s taken us in social care many decades to crawl up the ladder of public acceptance, and we are nowhere near the top. However I think we are moving in the right direction and with a sustained, open effort a balanced public perception of social work might just be achievable.
I stay committed to the possibility of that balance and I will continue to promote the means to that end. Whether it be through media training of front line spokes people or by argument with those who control the media.
You can’t argue that the outcome would be a better climate for social work to operate in, and so be more effective at demonstrating its uncountable and invaluable skills.