The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has raised said it is extremely concerned about recent media articles that name social workers in their reporting of high-profile cases, which include tragic instances of child death.
BASW say least two national newspapers list the names of social workers involved in one of these cases, which have led to death threats against them on social media, in addition to a barrage of personal abuse.
“No social worker should have to fear for his/her life just for trying to do their best in a very complex job that often involves many other agencies,” said BASW CEO Dr Ruth Allen.
“The publication of social workers’ names in situations like this is known to provoke such threats and the risk of this often far outweighs any public interest defence in the media.”
Allen (pictured) added: “Social workers are accountable professionals and there are proper channels for practice to be investigated where necessary.”
BASW also say they have received further reports from the frontline of social workers being abused in person, including instances of groups of people shouting obscenities through a megaphone while social workers head into their offices.
Addionally, there is concern over online groups which continue to post inflammatory material about social workers.
BASW is supporting social workers currently suffering abuse in collaboration with the Social Workers Union (SWU), and urges any other members or other social workers who would like their support in the future and who feel threatened to get in touch.
However, they say the primary responsibility for dealing with these threats to social workers lies with employers. BASW’s advice to social work employees is:
- Speak to your employer on how they can support you. As part of an employer’s duty of care, most will have written procedures which outline how individuals who are subject to abuse should be supported.
- Consider reporting to the police.
- Speak to your employer about possible legal routes that could be considered. Where appropriate involve the employer’s legal department for advice and guidance on the potential for legal action.
- Consider whether a referral should also be made to the Chief Officer so that it can be taken to whichever organisation they are part of (the Association of Directors of Children’s Services or Adult Services, for instance) with a view to lobbying Parliament to prosecute website organisers in cases of online abuse.
Picture - Ruth Allen addresses delegates at the BASW Annual Conference (c) BASW.