Promoting systemic thinking, and therapeutic and relationship based approaches in social work


Promoting systemic thinking, and therapeutic and relationship-based approaches in Social Work


The Social Work Public Perception Myth: A Genealogy of Discourse

Joe Hanley will analyse negative discourse around social work and offer suggestions about how this can be challenged.

Joe Hanley is a lecturer in social work at the Open University. His research and scholarship focuses on social work policy, networks and education/training. In this presentation he will explore the results of a genealogy of discourse that analysed how government policy texts present and perpetuate the idea of a negative public perception of social workers. The findings demonstrate that this discourse is frequently perpetuated in these texts without evidence, and where evidence is presented, it is often lacking in clarity, minimal and at times even suggestive of a positive public perception. Evidence in this area also tends to rely on proxies, including the views of social workers about public perception or the negative portrayals of social workers in the media. This is all contrasted with a small, but growing, body of research that suggests that the public actually have predominantly positive perceptions of social work when they are asked directly. The presentation will therefore also explore why this discourse around a negative public perceptions remains so prominent, including how it can be used to distract, control and impose reforms on social workers. Suggestions for challenging this discourse in a way that could boost social worker morale, confidence, recruitment and retention, will also be discussed.

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