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Social Work Week to celebrate profession planned

England's social work regulator announces new event for 2021...

Social Work England chief executive Colum Conway and chair Lord Patel
Social Work England chief executive Colum Conway and chair Lord Patel

Published by Professional Social Work magazine 4 September 2020

A social work week is to be launched in England to celebrate the profession.

The event, which will take place from 8-12 March 2021, was announced in the wake of research by regulator Social Work England revealing the stress faced by the workforce and the poor understanding of the profession by the public.

Colum Conway, chief executive of Social Work England, said: “The thousands of conversations we've had and now the results of our first independent research projects don't bring many surprises.

“The perception of social workers is that they are undervalued by society in comparison to other key workers and confounded by public misconceptions of their role.

“We believe the key to addressing these longstanding issues needs to be collectively owned and Social Work Week is our attempt at doing just that.

“We hope the profession, and those served by it, will join us to share their successes, debate their difficulties and design solutions together.”

Research by the regulator based on interviews, focus groups and a survey of 674 respondents found most social workers bracket (89%) were proud of their profession but only a quarter would recommend it to a friend or family.

Almost a quarter (24%) have low morale with the most common causes of stress being bureaucracy and workload (62%), an over-focus on targets (56%) and high caseloads (48%).

Most social workers (76%) do not feel the profession is highly regarded by society with levels of respect far worse than for other frontline services.

However, a separate study into public perception of the profession by the regulator found social work to be generally well regarded with 88% of people recognising its importance in helping vulnerable people. Most people feel the profession is under-valued, under-resourced and deserves more favourable media coverage.

Three quarters (74%) agreed the value of social work isn't fully appreciated. The report noted social work is “less visible” and “less readily praised” than other public services, tending to attract attention for “rare failings”.

It added: “When members of the public are prompted to consider what social work offers it attracts much favourable comment.

“The general public are receptive to information about social work, particularly what it aims to do and what it doesn't, the nature of the support it provides and the outcomes it achieves.”

Among those who receive social work interventions “initial wariness tends to dissipate in the light of good experiences”.

However, the report said such positive experiences were “not widely known or disseminated” because people shied away from talking about social work involvement in their lives.

This article is published by Professional Social work magazine which provides a platform for a range of perspectives across the social work sector. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the British Association of Social Workers.