Journalists have been criticised over their coverage of child protection issues in a report ordered following the death of Baby P.
The report by Professor Eileen Monro claimed that ‘one-dimensional’reporting could potentially make the child protection system less safe for children.
Monro cited an analysis on the reporting of social work and child protection issues in England between 1 July, 1997, and 30 June, 1998.
During that period almost 2,000 articles were produced on social work and social services, 80 per cent of which were negative. She said that common words used by journalists in stories about social workers were ‘incompetent’, ‘negligent’, ‘failed’, ‘ineffective’, ‘misguided’ and ‘bungling’.
Monro’s solution is for an overhaul in how social workers handle PR.
She said: ‘Given the sustained nature of the negative media images of social work that have been commonplace, social workers and social work employers should also take the opportunity to work proactively with local and regional media to present a more positive, balanced view of social work and its importance to society. “
Under her recommendations, a new College of Social work will be established to “improve public understanding in relation to social work”.
This is in response to senior journalists commenting on the ‘lack of a clear, strong voice for social work”
Through its policy and communications unit, the college would be involved in ‘developing a range of tools and services that can help support social workers, their employers and the media to work together to promote a more balanced public image of social work”.
Resources for journalists would include a pool of communications staff to deal with the media.
In the report, Munro told journalists: ‘Presenting the full picture in relation to the complexities of child protection can help society to understand more about what child protection work entails.”