Applying social work skills in practice
Applying social work skills in practice

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Applying social work skills in practice

1.3 Engaging with the media

You have now completed two activities. One has asked you to identify the legitimate social work roles given to social workers in relation to managing risk and need. The other has asked you to engage with the way that the media frequently presents social work negatively to the public. The tension between the realities of the mandated role and critical media attention is an issue that social workers in the twenty-first century will continue to have to face head-on. Positive developments in this area can be found in the professional press. For example, Professional Social Work (March 2015, p. 6) reports on a productive round table discussion on social work with media representatives held at Queens University Belfast.

Engaging with the media in this kind of a way – to put across a realistic account of the profession, while not dodging the fact that things do go wrong from time to time – is an important and necessary task (particularly for professional bodies and unions). And some responsible journalism does exist in relation to social work. For example, often the only way that whistle-blowers expressing genuine concerns have a voice is through the media. Those journalists willing to research their topics fully can be very helpful.

However, individual social workers have to adhere strictly to professional codes regarding confidentiality. This means that it is not always possible for individuals to respond informally to misrepresentation.

Let us now look at an example of professional literature that examines the topics of needs, risk and their management.

Activity 3 Risk management in social work literature

Allow about 1 hour 30 minutes

The chapter you are about to read sets a context for the way in which ‘risk’ is understood in professional social work and considers some key elements of risk management.

Read the following:

As you read, record your own thoughts and reactions as well as the key issues and the following points:

  • definitions of risk and the various responses to it
  • key principles of risk assessment and management
  • difficulties of risk assessment and management.

Organise your notes on the chapter in the table below.

Issues of risk mangement Notes
Definitions of risk and the various responses to it
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Key principles of risk assessment and management
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Difficulties of risk assessment and management
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Seden (2016) discusses contexts within which social work operates and the impact of negative media coverage on social work. It also discusses further the issues that were raised in the activities you have completed so far. The chapter argues for social workers to rely on professional definitions of their task and to adhere to ethical codes. It suggests that balanced judgements can be the outcome of careful social work assessments and decision-making. No situation is without risk, but social workers can be careful to carry out their tasks as effectively and ethically as possible.


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