Regulator’s Readers’ Panel discusses coverage of social workers

Social Workers Union (SWU) Campaign Fund

SWU has launched a new rapid reporting mechanism for social workers concerned about media coverage, following a discussion of the topic by the IPSO Readers’ Panel.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) Readers’ Panel provides added perspective to IPSO on how reporting and press regulation impacts on the general public. Members reviewed a series of articles in a variety of national and regional publications which focussed on social workers.

While it noted that several articles supported the profession and only a minority were negative, the Panel also examined issues with the reporting of it, such as:

  • Press releases which do not delve deeply into the issues being raised or ask harder-hitting questions. These are common in local papers which have fewer resources to investigate more complex issues.
  • Potentially misleading headlines which are designed to shock readers (such as “Parents lose children over TV”).
  • A lack of signposting to organisations like the NSPCC in articles about child abuse.

The panel also noted that experts can always be found to provide quotes to back up whatever point being made by the journalist to give credibility to reports.

The Panel’s discussion comes after the Social Workers Union (SWU) met with IPSO, the regulator of most press and associated digital media in the UK.

John McGowan, General Secretary of SWU commented:

“The IPSO Readers’ Panel has found significant concerns at how social work and issues related to the profession are reported in the media.

“If any social workers spot media coverage which misrepresents the profession or reveals personal details of social workers, which may be in breach of the Guidelines we have published they can now report them directly to the Union and we will take action.”

Social workers can submit links or images of media reports for investigation to: campaigns@swu-union.org.uk

An information session for social workers on the IPSO complaints process will also be arranged in due course. The Social Workers Union will continue to work with IPSO, IMPRESS, the National Union of Journalists, and other bodies to address issues in the coverage of social workers in the media.