Speaking Up


Community Care reports this week on a comment made by Julie Jones, the Chief Executive of SCIE (Social Care Institute of Excellence) compelling social workers to ‘speak up and speak out’ in order to put across their positive messages to counter some of the negativity that the mainstream media and general public seem to hold in regard to the profession.

My general argument (and not just mine) has been that our employers would not welcome direct contact with the press – indeed – we have been instructed to push any media contact request via our press office. This was instilled in us during our initial inductions in the authority and it is hard to shake free from that mindset.

SCIE is positioning itself to be the ‘first point of call for the media’ seeking news stories and sources relating to social work and social care and as such, they are establishing an online TV station particularly devoted to Social Work and Social Care stories. It’s an interesting and potentially useful initiative to use different sources of media to promote positive news as well as training initiatives for the sector.

Conversely though, I can’t help but be marginally concerned by the ‘outing’ of Night Jack – an esteemed anonymous police blogger – whose anonymity was blasted by The Times after a court ruling that the injunction the blogger had taken against the Times revealing his identity could not stand as the judge said

“I do not accept that it is part of the court’s function to protect police officers who are, or think they may be, acting in breach of police disciplinary regulations from coming to the attention of their superiors,” Eady added.

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The implications for anonymous bloggers is obvious – there is no protection in the law. It has served as a short, sharp shock for me anyway.

Nightjack closed his blog, deleted it and has, indeed, been disciplined by his employers.

I try to vary my content between the general and the specific but have no doubt that were someone who works directly with me to come across this site, they would, quite quickly be able to ascertain my identity. I am not as careful as I could be.

For me though, it has provided a wonderful way to bypass the ‘press office’ of the local authority and to speak about the work I do and how I do it in a more direct manner. I hope to provide some insight into social workers who do not necessarily meet the media stereotype. I would argue that writing has improved my practice, knowledge base and effectiveness as certainly, the scope for reflection, thought and comment has increased.

I am torn between being more careful, being less careful and just packing in altogether.  I doubt the ‘packing in altogether’ option would be viable. I am now accustomed to writing, indeed, I missed it when I was on holiday – but to use a tired old cliche, it is food for thought.

I think there is a place for anonymous blogging – and although I have to say, I never expected there to be much protection as anonymity is and can be very fragile, the Nightjack lesson shown to prove how much more careful it is necessary to be.

3 thoughts on “Speaking Up

  1. Nothing is truly anonymous on-line.
    Even in posting this comment it says that my Email will not be published – yet I know that you can see my Email when you get notified of a new comment.
    I think you are doing a great job and are tackling important issues that are not currently properly tackled, unfortunately though I think that you should seriously consider only writing in this “anonymous blog” things that would not cause you problems should your identity become public.

  2. That judgment made me think as well. Although I do not write as prolifically as you, I can understand your anxieties. In the case of Night Jack he was criticizing his employers and ministers as well talking about cases he was working on. I am now not clear where the line should be drawn. There is much value in social workers talking about their work in more detail. We do have a duty of confidentiality but not a duty not to criticise policies that have negative outcomes for our clients!

    I find your blog invaluable. I tell my AMHP students to read it so keep it up.

    Madmutt

  3. lb and Madmutt – thanks for the words. To be honest, when I started writing I always had in the back of my mind, the fragility of anonymity and as such, I don’t think I’ve covered much that I could be sanctioned for. Mostly because for all my griping, I do think I work for a good local authority and within a well-run Trust with helpful managers so I don’t really have any need to grumble about things.
    In some ways, I wish I could be more open to share more of the positive ways we work.
    It’s just easy to get a bit complacent and this was a stark reminder.

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