Sunburn and Social Work

Jul 23, 2013 by

This is a link to last night’s BBC radio interview on sunburn and social work (Start: 20.20 minutes into programme).

I’m often asked to do interviews for radio or television and it is usually on aspects of childcare or family matters.

Yesterday one of the interviews touched on a subject that made me think of several things that are worrying, difficult and potentially destructive to professional relationships which social workers try and create.

The initial questions were provoked by a small charity in London who deal with children that have been badly burned and their premise was questioning whether any child with a bad case of sunburn, taken to A and E, should be referred to social services.

The interviewer then went on to raise questions about the status of social workers in the community, given high profile cases that get reported and the negative profile that the profession tends to have in childcare.

The depressing thing is that this has been around for so long and all the solid work that takes place up and down the country seems to get knocked back on a regular basis when one of the few difficult cases hits the headlines.

It really does destroy a lot of credibility on the doorstep for social workers all over the country who have had nothing to do with the difficult case.

Perhaps social workers should take some comfort from the medical profession who, only a couple of hundred years ago were considered the lowest of the low in the community – referred to as ‘snake oil salesmen’ or ‘quacks’ and surgeons demanding to be called Mr instead of Dr because Dr was considered such as pejorative term.

Now look at the status of medicine in the 21st century – so as social work is only really about 40 years old as a cohesive profession there might be hope for them yet.

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1 Comment

  1. Tony Domaille

    I guess the problem for social workers is that whilst there is so much great work done across the country every day, it is invisible to the public. However, when social workers get it wrong that becomes very visible through media reporting.

    The police, NHS, schools and all the other agencies get things wrong, but they enjoy plenty of regular good press around all their successes. An officer dives into a river to save a child, a hospital brings someone back from near death or a school wins a prize. Public perception about public services is shaped by what the media want us to see rather than reality, but with other most we get to see the good and the bad. Social workers get a bad press with no incentive for the media for that to change as its hard to report social work success.

    For all that, perhaps social care could do a great deal more to raise their stock with partner agencies. Running training courses I regularly hear people complain that social workers are hard to engage and appear to be working to entirely different thresholds to those published. From the outside there is a perception that a siege mentality prevails and that social workers have set themselves apart.

    Regular positive media reporting on social work is just a dream. But the public perception of social workers could be changed if positive messages are reaching people by virtue of positive experiences related by the wider safeguarding community.

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