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Rapid reporting mechanism launched for social workers concerned about media coverage

Following a discussion with the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) Readers’ Panel, the Social Workers Union has created a way for professionals to flag media reports for further investigation.

18/04/23

Rapid reporting mechanism launched for social workers concerned about media coverage

The Social Workers Union has launched a new rapid reporting mechanism for social workers concerned about media coverage, following a discussion of the topic by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) Readers’ Panel.

The Readers’ Panel provides added perspective to IPSO on how reporting and press regulation impacts on the general public. Members reviewed a series of articles in a variety of national and regional publications which focussed on social workers.

While it noted that several articles supported the profession and only a minority were negative, the panel also examined issues with the reporting of social work issues.

Examples included press releases which do not delve deeply into the issues being raised or ask harder-hitting questions. The panel noted that these are more common in local papers which have fewer resources to investigate more complex issues.

Potentially misleading headlines which are designed to shock readers – such as “Parents lose children over TV” – and a lack of signposting to organisations like the NSPCC in articles about child abuse, were also cited as examples of possible issues.

The panel noted that experts can always be found to provide quotes to back up whatever point being made by the journalist to give credibility to reports.

“The IPSO Readers’ Panel has found significant concerns at how social work and issues related to the profession are reported in the media,” John McGowan, General Secretary of SWU said.

“If any social workers spot media coverage which misrepresents the profession or reveals personal details of social workers, which may be in breach of the Guidelines we have published they can now report them directly to the Union and we will take action.”

The panel’s discussion comes after the Social Workers Union (SWU) met with IPSO to propose advice and guidance for journalists and publications reporting on social work to provide more protection after harrowing testimonies of death threats and harassment from those working in the profession.

The guidance contains five principles suggesting for journalists, including to maintain accuracy reporting on cases involving vulnerable groups and be mindful of standards relating to legal – or potential future – legal proceedings.

It also suggests guaranteeing the right to privacy of professionals and avoiding harm by ensuring no social workers are individually named or identifiable as working on a particular case – unless authorised to do so by court proceedings.

The guidance asks publications to recognise that social workers are not spokespeople and are bound by confidentiality – and therefore cannot defend themselves from allegations or misrepresentation, by responding to or correcting the record.

Read more: https://www.socialworktoday.co.uk/News/Campaign-launches-to-improve-media-reporting-of-social-work-and-protect-professionals

Social workers can submit links or images of media reports for investigation to campaigns@swu-union.org.uk.

SWU says an information session for social workers on the IPSO complaints process will also be arranged in due course.

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