An article in the Guardian suggests that Social Workers should be free to talk to the press. It suggests that Councils need to allow Social Workers the freedom to talk to the press. I agree with the assertion that Social Workers need to engage more with the media (and the College of Social Work offers training as Media Spokeperson) but when it is in relation to a specific issue to do with the organization or clients of an organization, I don’t think this is appropriate.
First, I know some Social Workers, albeit a small majority, who would misuse the opportunity. It would be their opportunity to flag up every issue within the local authority, and even though this may not be done maliciously – and might even be done with the best of intentions – it would be to the detriment of an organization to allow free speech to the press. There is no large scale organization that doesn’t have a public relations office or officer. It is there for a reason. It is to contain a situation not exacerbate it. It is also to filter out the “human” element of reaction as opposed to responding. The difference? Reactions are usually quick and emotionally driven. Responses require more thought and reflection as to the best way to provide an answer while containing the situation. In addition to this, there is no way to manage a response from an individual Social Worker without it appearing that the organization is “coaching” Social Workers which appears even worse to the general public.
I believe that Social Workers should be more involved in policy making, media representation of the profession, legislative bodies, work groups on Social Work education and pretty much anything to do with the profession and it’s development. I think this should be done as a matter of course as we are the best ones to be able to grant insight into the workings and I think they should be involved in drafting responses to the media regarding specific issues. But I think the responses themselves should be given by objective parties, such as a public relations officer or someone similar to avoid prejudices of internal investigations and, as I mentioned, to ensure thoughtful responses that appropriately represents the organizations position and how they are managing the issue.