Social Workers Union calls for meeting with broadcast industry

Social Workers Union (SWU) Campaign Fund

The Social Workers Union has called for a meeting with Ofcom following reports of inaccurate portrayal of social workers in broadcast media.

The letter, which has also been sent to broadcasting union BECTU, highlights concerns raised through the new rapid reporting mechanism for social workers to highlight coverage of concern.

One issue which had been reported was the depiction of social workers in broadcast programming and content – as well as broadcast journalists at the BBC and ITV not following the guidelines which have been developed for print and online colleagues.

One social worker who contacted the Social Workers Union commented:

“The misrepresentation of social workers in the recent Amazon film “Listen” puts children at risk by adding to theirs and their parents’ anxiety and fear in asking for or accepting help from the profession.

“The film also claimed that social workers do not uphold our professional standards and hinted at social workers getting financial reward for each child we remove. This is, of course, totally untrue.”

Recently, the IPSO Readers’ Panel reviewed a series of articles in a variety of publications which focused on the profession.

While it noted that some media coverage supported the profession, it found significant concerns at how social work and issues related to the profession are reported in the media.

A recent report by the Open University revealed that 25% of references to social workers in the media could be classed as ‘negative’ (69% neutral, 6% positive).

John McGowan, General Secretary of the Social Workers Union, commented:

“The original guidelines were developed last year after social workers came forward with harrowing stories about the impact of poor media reporting about the profession.

“While we continue to work with IMPRESS, IPSO and the National Union of Journalists on these guidelines, it’s clear we also need to open another strand of this campaign to look at broadcast content.

“Broadcasters have a huge influence on how people think and act and we would urge them to use this influence responsibly.”