Social work: TV and filmmakers urged to ‘change the script’ to reflect positive impact of social workers

Social Work England – the regulator for social workers in England – is calling on the entertainment industry to show the positive impact of the profession.
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It has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the “negative depictions” and “inaccurate storylines” which it says are contributing to mounting recruitment and retention challenges.

‘Change the Script’ urges TV and filmmakers to portray the job more accurately and show the positive impact England’s 100,000 social workers have on people every day.

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It follows research by YouGov, on behalf of Social Work England, that found negative representations are a common theme on screen.

Just 10 per cent of social workers believe their role is well-respected in society and two-fifths (39 per cent) think they will leave the profession within the next five years - a figure that rises to half among social workers from an ethnic minority (48 per cent).

Meanwhile, 88 per cent of organisations were recruiting in the past year, with a lack of applicants being the biggest issue.

Social Work England chief executive, Colum Conway, said he wanted TV and filmmakers to show the "great job" social workers do, to build trust and confidence in the profession.

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He added: “Despite how social workers are often portrayed in popular culture, our research tells us the vast majority are proud to tell others about their job. They are highly trained and regulated, ensuring high standards are maintained. But more than this, social workers are committed to making a positive change in people’s lives.

“Each year, they help millions of people to improve their chances in life. This is the story we want to tell through Change the Script.”

As part of the campaign, Social Work England is exploring the creation of a writers’ guide in collaboration with stakeholders who share their aim to improve perceptions of the profession.

It has also produced a short film telling the real story of social workers from the perspective of people they have supported.

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Callum, a young person under the care of Warwickshire County Council, features in the film.

He said: “At first, I had the impression that social workers were here to come and take me away from my mum. A lot of people think social workers are going to swoop in and make choices for you, but social work is very much led by you, they’re there to empower what you want. It’s like when you’re running a race and there’s someone waiting for you at the finish line, Sonja, [my social worker], is that person at the end of the track.”

Social Work England has been based in North Bank, Castlegate since 2018. It is a public body arms-length from Government

To learn more about social work and the campaign visit

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