At Randstad Care we are committed to supporting social workers in every aspect of their career progression and understand how important it is to inspire the next generation of the sector’s workforce. Improving the public image of social work and promoting its diverse array of career paths is therefore an integral part of what we do, especially when the sector comes under so much scrutiny in the media.  This is why, on August 30th 2016, we hosted an exclusive event for social workers which aimed to highlight the issues currently surrounding the sector’s image and media profile and explore new practices and agendas which are opening up new career opportunities.

The event took place in Canary Wharf aboard Randstad’s very own clipper ship, The Clipper Stad Amsterdam, and involved interactive seminars and discussions from two distinguished social work speakers.

The social work tutor changing public perceptions of social work.

Our first speaker was The Social Work Tutor, a practising Child Protection Social Worker and author who writes regularly about common social work issues and provides support for students and newly qualified workers in the field. His seminar focused on how organisations and social workers themselves can help counteract the controversial narratives of failure which prevail in the media and taint public perception of the sector. 

The seminar discussions initially centred around the high profile media cases of negligence in the profession (i.e. the backlash surrounding the deaths of children such as Blake Fowler and Ayeeshia Smith) and the clear lack of social work success stories for those who work hard to make a genuine difference to people’s lives. Stats such as “60% of all social work news stories involve coverage of a crisis of some kind” and “66% of these stories fail to include statements or views from actual social workers” provoked interesting reactions and debates from the event’s attendees and really brought to light the unbalanced and sensationalised news stories which continue to influence public perception. 

There are a lot of positive social work stories which fail to receive attention from the media and it is these stories which The Social Work Tutor feels we should get better at telling. He argued that by being more vocal about the realities, complexities and rewards of the social work profession, social workers can raise more awareness for the work they do and encourage more people to join the sector. The session therefore concluded with some insightful discussions around how social workers can be more proactive rather than reactive when it comes to improving the sectors public image. This included advice on how professionals can effectively challenge media representation, share best practice and get managers and leaders to buy into success stories.

Check out the highlights from our event in the video below:

Dr Jo Finch, PFHEA
working within the prevent agenda.

The day’s second speaker was Dr Jo Finch, a Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of East London. Jo’s talk introduced attendees to the PREVENT agenda and explored the new roles and responsibilities for British social workers within it.  PREVENT came into force in July 2015 and is a counter terrorism policy which aims to stop people being drawn into or supporting terrorism in the UK. Social workers can therefore play a key role in enforcing the agenda and safeguarding adults or children who are at risk to radicalisation or extremism. 

Jo’s discussions therefore focussed on raising awareness for the duties of social workers who work within PREVENT and addressing the ethical issues and dilemmas it raises. By getting attendees involved and responding to specific case studies and discussing people’s concerns around perpetuating “otherness” and targeting certain communities, the seminar certainly provided an engaging insight into a strand of social work which is often overlooked by those who work or are thinking of working in the sector. 

With help from our fantastic speakers, our first QSW event gave attendees a unique opportunity to learn and acknowledge some of the key issues and challenges facing social workers in the UK today. The responsibilities of today’s social workers are more involved than ever before and those who work in the sector will argue that staying abreast of the latest developments, trends and legislation is essential to achieving success in the field.

We hope that those who attended found the seminars and networking opportunities useful and informative and we look forward to hosting similar events for qualified social workers in the future.