Comparing public perceptions of social work and social workers’ expectations of the public view

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Barbara Staniforth, Kesley Deane and Liz Beddoe

Barbara, Liz and Kesley are researchers in the School of Counselling, Human Services and Social Work, University of Auckland

In a previous article from this research project ‘Public perceptions of social work in New Zealand‘  Barbara Staniforth, Christa Fouche and Liz Beddoe wrote about a telephone survey carried out  in 2013 in which 386 members of the public in Aotearoa New Zealand were asked about their beliefs and impressions about social work and social workers. Study findings demonstrate that members of the public surveyed appeared relatively well informed about what social workers do, and were generally positive in their views.  Snippets of those findings include:

A majority of respondents indicated that they would encourage their children or a close family member to become a social worker. This, despite the fact that they were also aware of the high stress associated with the job, the low pay and the hard work that is required, as well as some uncertainty about what it actually is that social workers do.( Staniforth et al. 2014,p.58)

In a second online survey we asked New Zealand  social workers “How do social workers think that they are perceived by the public of Aotearoa New Zealand?” and a few additional questions. We had 403  responses  from social workers who were members of  the Aotearoa  New Zealand Association of Social Work. We asked them about their perceptions on how  social work and social workers are viewed by the public, using similar questions to the first public survey and a few additional questions, which we will be reporting on soon. These results have been  compared to the  previous telephone survey.

In a new article’ Comparing public perceptions of social work and social workers’ expectations of the public view‘  we note that the results demonstrate that the social workers generally had a poorer impression of what the public believed in most areas, compared to what the public had indicated in the prior study.

Social workers in this study sensed that there is stigma associated with social work and that they are not particularly well represented by the media. These results are consistent with many previous studies

Both studies note the  lack of positive messages that the public receive about social work. Both studies reported in this new  article suggest that one of the ways of improving the public perception is for social workers to become better at educating the public about their roles and mission.

We hope you will read both articles- free open access from the links below- and share your ideas about ways social workers can be more visible in the great work they do. Leave us a comment below.

References

Staniforth, B., Fouche , C. B., & Beddoe , L. (2014). Public perception of social work and social workers in New Zealand. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 26(2/3), 48-60.

Staniforth, B., Deane, K., & Beddoe, L. (2016). Comparing public perceptions of social work and social workers’ expectations of the public view. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 28(1), 13-24. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol28iss1id112

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About socialworknz

I'm a social work researcher in Aotearoa New Zealand
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4 Responses to Comparing public perceptions of social work and social workers’ expectations of the public view

  1. jadwigaleigh says:

    Hi Liz and everyone
    This is a really interesting study: especially the first part, where some participants even encourage their children to become social workers. I look forward to seeing the results from part 2. It might be of interest for you, and perhaps we could get our heads together afterwards to compare our findings, but we are about to start a project with social workers in England where they will be using art to express how they feel public perceptions affect their identity. Their artwork and narratives will be displayed at the People’s History Museum in Manchester from April- June 2017 for the public to view and comment on, if you’re around you should come for the launch. The project is called ‘Experiencing the social work world’.
    Jadwiga Leigh (and Lisa Morriss) https://experiencingthesocialworkworld.com

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