Tag Archives: Brandon Muir

PR strategy works for Scottish social workers

In terms of image, social workers are up there with traffic wardens, politicians and bankers in the most reviled profession stakes. But there are signs that this is starting to change – in Scotland at least.

A new poll, commissioned by Scottish social work body the Association of Directors of Social Work (ADSW), found that 47% of people rated social work as positive, compared to 38% last year. Additionally, the survey found that 80% of service users were happy with the services they received.

This was despite negative press coverage of the profession because of the Baby Peter and Brandon Muir cases.

As I see it, this result is not down to 2 main factors. Firstly, in Scotland ADSW has run a high-profile PR campaign – ‘Social Work Changes Lives’ – for the past year or so, with the aim of improving the image and understanding of social work, including putting positive stories into the local media.

But the sector also has government support. When the Brandon Muir case came to court last year, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond came out and defended the profession, rather than damned it for its failings. As Scottish social workers have said to me since, this had a great positive impact on morale. The political reaction was also strikingly different to that seen in Westminster to the similar Baby Peter case, where social work was roundly condemned.

Against this backdrop, it makes it easier for positive messages from social work to come through.

It would be interesting to see the results if a similar poll were conducted in England; I don’t think they would be as positive. While there has been an advertising campaign to promote social work, and sterling work done by celebrities like Goldie and Samantha Morton to do the same in the past year, the media coverage of the profession is still overwhelmingly negative, which has a big effect on public perception.

The new government could certainly learn from their colleagues north of the border, as could social work bodies; if a coordinated campaign were to be launched, along with a feed of positive stories about social work to the media, then, as Scotland proves, a demonstrable impact can be made.

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Child death rates not symptom of ‘Broken Britain’

Baby P, Brandon Muir, seven children in Doncaster… I could go on. All children who have had tragic, violent deaths in the past few years. It would be easy to think that these are all symptoms of ‘Broken Britain’. But is this the case?

Apparently not.

Far from the cases above being symptoms of a wider malaise in society as a whole, it seems they are more the exceptions; violent child deaths have fallen by 40% in the past 35 years, according to a Bournemouth University study, the BBC reports.

Researchers found that number of killings and other unexplained violent deaths of children in England and Wales aged 14 and under fell from 136 to 84 per year between 1974 and 2006. This is the fourth lowest figure in the Western world, according to the researchers.

This rather flies in the face of various doom-mongers who use these cases – among others, such as the Edlington case – to show how society is going to hell in a handcart.

Children’s social workers will also welcome this news; they have been roundly battered in the media over their – apparently collective – failure to safeguard children in the past couple of years.

While every child death is a tragedy – and everything should be done to stop them, and any examples of poor social work practice should be stamped out – it is important to put these in context. These are not regular occurrences – part of the reason why they make so many newspaper headlines when they do – and it should be remembered that child safeguarding is improving and the vast majority of cases do not end in tragedy.

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