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.

image

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.

Solace in Support

David Clark, the Chief Executive of SOLACE (Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers) has made a splash by dipping his toe into the world of blogging by tackling the challenges of social work in the face of a lack of political support.

To put it more plainly, he explains that some of the problems of recruitment to social work and in particular social work in children’s services may have been exacerbated by the thoughtless and attention-grabbing words of the government and her representatives saying

Anybody who witnessed the disgusting spectacle of politicians pillorying the social work profession after the death of Baby P cannot help but be revolted. Pandering to certain sections of the media, politicians of varying political hues were happy to put the boot in to social workers at every level. This preparedness to opine, wholly unencumbered by facts, shows politicians at their worst, and statements like “we must ensure that it never happens again” display politicians at their most stupid.

From my infinitely more lowly position, I’d applaud him for saying so. The government, and Ed Balls in particular, have been overly keen to dismiss any of the real issues that have led to difficulties and lack of confidence in the systems that exist and instead lay the blame for failures in the child protection systems at the door of individual social workers and social work managers – when in fact, some of the policy-driven changes must account for the over-administrative nature of the role.

Of course, while agreeing wholeheartedly with him, it is good to see the support come from a source more likely to garner attention.