Monday, 27 October 2014

Why David Cameron Doesn't Have to Wear a Feminist T Shirt to Prove he Cares About Gender Equality


David Cameron has come in for some stick for not posing for a picture wearing a t shirt with the words 'This is what a feminist looks like'. The accusation against him is that his refusal to wear the t chief shows that he has a 'problem' with feminism or is opposed to it. David Cameron says that he is in favour of equality for women. Some may argue that perhaps his commitment to achieving this objective is not very strong otherwise he would be willing to make an explicit commitment to supporting feminism.

Many people who have commented on this issue in the Guardian have equated being a feminist with being in favour of equality for women. A recent article in the Guardian suggested that to be a feminist someone had to not only believe in equality but actually be willing to take action to help achieve it and be able to demonstrate their commitment through action. I am not aware of any particularly progressive policies from Cameron in relation to gender equality. However, I think he should be praised for his willingness to support gay marriage. This was a policy that was opposed by many traditional supporters of his party and standing up for equality in marriage had had some political costs for Cameron. I honestly believe that he is sincere in his support for this.
Getting back to the t shirt issue, however, is support for feminism the same thing as support for gender equality? Does belief in and support of gender equality make someone a feminist?

I am going to argue that it doesn't. I believe in the key goals of feminism - equal employment rights, freedom from discrimination, violence, sexual violence and abuse, rights to health care, abortion rights etc. However, I would not term myself a feminist or be willing to wear the t shirt. Why?

Firstly, It is perfectly possible to have progressive views on any number of issues without wanting to sign oneself up as member of a particular social movement. When I was in my early twenties I had a brief period of identifying myself as a socialist. I very quickly got tired of this. Everybody thought that they knew exactly what I thought about any given issue before I could open my mouth. I was pigeon holed and stereotyped by friends and fellow students. If I did express an opinion which deviated from their stereotype then they would act amazed and then ask me to justify why I could have my own independent opinion about something when I belonged to a category of person which they thought they understood. I am sure feminists will experience this all the time. I didn't find other socialists much help either. There was always a stance you were supposed to have which could change from time to time for no obvious reason and yet the new opinion had to be held with the same certainty as the one that had recently been abandoned. So I quickly found that I wasn't a joiner or a good recruit for a social movement.

Another reason why David Cameron might feel uncomfortable with feminism is that
Whilst there are many types of feminism a large percentage of people who are active in organised feminism are also Marxists and it is perfectly understandable that David Cameron would not find these ideas appealing. Even amongst feminists who are not Marxists, feminist theories do tend to emphasise societal structures and institutions as the main sources of oppression of women. This is not a theoretical orientation which is going to be popular with Conservatives.

The theoretical aspects of feminism are an important consideration here. While I find myself in agreement with the objectives of feminism I have little fondness for feminist theory. As a psychologist I find it to leaden with sociological concepts and associated jargon. There are many ways of explaining how society is the way it is and both psychology and sociology have a role. However, my preference is for empirical and scientific approaches rather than research which is ideologically based. I accept the conclusions of feminists about the existence of gender inequality and the need For change but I don't accept the models used to explain it.

Another area which I have some issues with feminists is their views about censorship. Many ( though not all) feminists believe that one can achieve progressive aims by censoring or banning material which they feel is mysoginistic. I believe very strongly that whilst censorship might in the short term act on favour of a particular group, ultimately all it does is reinforce the authority of the state to regulate ideas and how they are communicated. When I went to University in 1979 the Police were seizing leaflets by the University Gay Society because they 'promoted' homosexuality. This year Police are seizing leaflets by Christians who think homosexuality is sinful on the basis that they homophobic. In a other ten years we could have an ultra conservative Government who want to suppress homosexuality again. Accepting Censorship and media regulation are a like giving blank cheque to Governments of the future to regulate what you are allowed to read, think and speak. The only position which will guarantee you personal freedom in the future is to support free speech in the present. The widespread support amongst feminists for censorship of pornography is a deal breaker for me. Media regulation in this country has always been misused for political purposes while failing to achieve the objectives it was supposedly set up for.

I think the final thing which puts me and a lot of people off declaring themselves as a feminist is the somewhat eccentric views of many high profile feminists. The main popular venue for feminist writing is the Guardian. Many of the views expressed by these writers appear to be deliberately provocative for the sake of it such as Julie Bindel's negative comments about trans sexuality. I read one article which complained that businesses which put up posters saying they supported breast feeding was condescending to women for 'giving them permission' to perform a natural function. The same article went on to condemn the businesses which did not put up posters as being anti-breast feeding. So, if you are a business which promotes progressive policies them you are patronising and if you don't then you are also bad. Other recent articles included how the media had treated Kim Kardashian's bottom and an article on the political implications of a decline in topless sunbathing in France. Articles like these do nothing to promote the image of feminism and really reflect the limited concerns of the white middle class women who write them. For many young women ( and men) these writers represent feminism.  Meanwhile the Times has been running articles on female genital mutilation and organised abuse of young women in British cities. Both of these stories were broken by the Times long before the Guardian took any interest in them.

Okay that was a run down on why I think it is possible for David Cameron (and other people) to support women's issues yet not want to take on the label of feminist or wear a t shirt.

What do you think?

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Generation Right is Actually Generation South of the Political Equator : Politics for the Next Generation

Radio 4 broadcast a very insightful documentary on 16th June 2014 called Generation Right which took the view that young people today have become very right wing and (as was suggested by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown) very selfish.
I felt that the programme did very well in describing how young people felt about a number of issues including the welfare state. However, it did less well in describing the new political orientation.
It stated that young people had become right wing about economic issues but paradoxically, very left wing about social issues. They were extremely liberal about rights of gay people and relaxed about immigration but at the same time holding more traditional views about economics and welfare. The fact that this is seen as paradoxical is illustrative of the limitations in British political discourse and the fact that our existing main political parties are laden down with traditions which make it difficult for them to respond to changes in attitudes. That is why there is seemingly apathy about young people in elections. They feel that none of the main political phiosoiphies really connect with them and they want to do, in the words of one of the young people in the programme, is mix and match different viewpoints on different issues. The sort of Parliamentary democracy which we have now is simply not flexible enough to allow young peoople to express their views on important issues and the political parties are past their sell by date. Young people who are used to structuring their own relationship with media and social networks find this form of politics to be leaden and impenetrable. 
Part of the inadequacy of our political discourse is shown by the fact that the programme tried to place the young people onto left or right dimension of the political spectrum. If you go to the website Political Compass you will find that politics can be more accurately charted on two dimensions. One dimension is the right  v left positions. The other dimension is authoritarian v libertarian. It is possible to be libertarian and at the the same time be either left wing oir right wing. Libertarianism is often characterized by very liberal social views and free market views on economics. The constant is a belief in free choice and being against state coercion- either of individuals or other societies or countries. One recent historical event, not discussed in the programme which may have swung the pendulum towards a more libertarian position was the Iraq war. This war was a very clear defeat for the idea that the state is all powerful and always able to improve people's lives using its strength. Not even the full might of the U.S. and U.K. military forces have been able to reshape a whole country and bring a new peace and democracy. In fact, state intervention in Iraq has, in many people's opinion made things markedly worse for these people.  It is a very strong indication that state meddling does not nhecessarliy make things better and it is also a significant blow toi the moral authority of Governments.
Traditionally in the U.K. our political parties on the right and left have been authoritarian in nature. They have tried to shape the country through cultural mechanisms such as the BBC (which was about culturally enriching the nation), subsequently through lots of regulation and health and safety legislation, and more recently through Nudge (which is a sort of psychological form of soft coercion). The idea that individuals and communities can make up their own minds and make good choices themselves has never really taken hold with our politicians.
The young people of today, however, are shaping their own social and cultural worlds through the internet and new technologoes. Ideas can take shape and take hold quickly and spontaneously. Young peoople want freedom to make decisions about how they see things through their own individual cultural and social lens. They make common cause with one group or issue at one moment and with other people and issues at other times. This is not necessarily driven by a traditional political perspectyive or a coherent phiulosophy. In an age of remixing and sampling- Why should it be?
The lessons from these changes for U.K. politics are in my opinioin quite profound.
Firstly young people are much more libertarian. Rather than just seeing this is negative or a rejection of collectivism- politicians on the liberal spectrum should be celebrating the fact that they have very liberal and tolerant views on minorities and support the rights of different groups in societies to live their lives the way they want. In terms of promoting the need to help people who are economically disadvantaged - this might be better sold to young people on the basis of helping everyone in society to make a contribution rather than the traditional view of this as welfare.
 Young people are not becoming Conservatives. Conservatism is associated with old fashioned values which they do not relate to.This means that people on the left who are concerned about social issues may be better off appealing to a bleeding heart libertarianism rather than a traditional left wing perspective. For those on the political right, they are only going to get young votes by advocating for a less controlling and judgmental society and developing more liberal policies in issues such as legislation of recreational drugs.
What all this means for right and left is that it means listening to young people first and foremost rather than castigating them or labeling them as selfish.
It means offering new political perspectives which incorporate a more libertaian outlook -and no that does not equate to selfishness- whatever John Monboit thinks. It also means a more pragmatic and atheoretical politics.
It also means we need to rethink how our democratic processes work. Young people are dissatisfied with having to just elect one party into Government for 5 years. It requires us to give citizens a chance to involve themselves in decisions about how the country is run on a more regular basis. This ought to be possible with the fantastic technology which we now have. The internet offers us the chance to collect the views and opinions of the whole wired community almost instantaneously. There is no excuse for Government not being connected to the public.   In the days of instant messaging, young people are probably not prepared to wait 5 years to influence Government policy.
We need real change in how politics work and also in the menu of political choices offered to yoiun g people if we are going to engage them in politics again.
First stage is going to be listening to them in a non-judgemental way. The Radio 4 Programme was a good start.
   

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Labour Must Fight Racism to Win the Election, not Appease Racists

I'm not a politician but I reckon I'm right about one thing. If you want to win a political fight the only way you can do this is to set the agenda rather than react to it. I also feel very strongly that you can't  defeat bad attitudes by playing along with them. 
Ed Balls apparently thinks differently. He thinks that to fight the UKIP menace Labour needs to start addressing peoples fears about immigration. This is in line with a wider message we seem to be getting fed by the media that says that the major political parties do not understand or engage with people's 'legitimate' fears about immigration. Personally I think the Balls strategy is all wrong and that the general media are feeding the anti-EU and anti-immigration frenzy which is being whipped up by UKIP, BNP and all the other xenophobic parties which appeared on the recent ballot.
If Labour want to win at the polls they need to have the courage to believe in something positive  and have faith that the public  will respond to good political debate and rhetoric. Labour need to stand for something different if they want to inspire the public to vote for them. They need to stop colluding with he idea that it is poor people from other countries who are causing them misery. They need to tell the public the truth about the financial crisis and  the dangers of unrestrained financial markets. They need to tell the truth about how good public services cost money rather than trying to flog more PFIs and the like.
Labour needs to sell itself as a party with a vision of something better- not Tory-lite or UKIP-lite but something much better that can give ordinary people hope.
There's still a year to turn this around.  

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Is It Wrong to Profit From Human Misery?

Is wrong to profit from human misery?

Over the last week or so there has been a huge amount of comments (I don't think it deserves to be called a debate) in The Guardian, community Care etc about the issue of outsourcing child protection and other child care services. The Government issued a consultation asking people what they thought about local authorities being able to outsource these services. Immediately a large number of people waded into the debate firing off comments about it being appalling that child protection was going to be hived off to Serco even though there was nothing in the consultation document to suggest that this was likely to happen. What was worse however, was the vitriolic stream of comments which emerged in the Guardian about the private sector and by implication anyone who is the social care business. One person who wrote a brief article in defence of outsourcing in Guardian Society was described as 'evil' by a commentator.
At this stage I want to make my personal views about privatisation known. I think that public sector bodies, while being far from perfect, usually offer coherent and consistent well managed services on areas like child protection. I think for a service like child protection, it is likely that any process of outsourcing is likely to lead to fragmentation and while there might be some examples of improved practice there will also be poorer practice and that is concerning in such a sensitive area. HOWEVER, I think it could in some cases offer professionals to form private practices who could work in innovative and fulfilling ways for those workers and these practices could be a beacon for the sector.
I have made a lot of comments on different places which probably would lead to people thinking I am a lot more in favour of outsourcing than I am but this is due to my natural tendency to want to give an airing to the side of the debate which nobody else seems to be willing to give a hearing to. I think it's also because I am appalled by the level of prejudice and vitriol being pumped out by people who claim to caring and morally superior to the Tories. From where I am standing some of them are like the left wing equivalent of Fox News viewers.
I want therefore to look at a few myths about outsourcing.

Myth 1. The private sector is social care is made up of rich money grabbing fat cats.
Actually the majority of providers on social care are people of,very modest means, some of who, are scraping together a pretty marginal existence. One of reasons that unemployment has not gone up significantly as a result of austerity is the huge rise on self employment. Many of these self employed are freelancers and consultants who are doing bits of training and consultancy work for local authorities following being made redundant. In fact at least one local authority which I know if encouraged all their day care workers who they were making redundant to set themselves up in business as providers. How there was going to be work for all of them when they couldn't continue as employees I don't know. I doubt of many of them are going to be joining the Fortune 500 anytime soon.
Another type of business in social care is the small family run care home. I delay with a number of such businesses over the years. One was a four bedded unit for teenagers with behavioural problems which looked like an ordinary family home. The owner worked in it together with his partner. Both had a really strong commitment to working with disturbed young people despite the fact that the woman of the couple had developed tinnitus following an assault by a young person. The male owner had invested an inheritance from his parents in this business. He could have put it into property but he developed this and some other social care services with the money. He made an honest profit and a reasonable livelyhood by offering a standard and style of care which wasn't available anywhere else in the area.
When I hear people describe people like that couple as profiteers it makes my blood  boil.
There are some profiteers in social care like the carpetbaggers behind the Southern Cross Scandal but they are very much the exception. There are not many big providers in social care. Many of the home care businesses in some areas are very small operations, sometimes run by former home helps who want to improve their standard of living and be entrepreneurial on a small scale.

Myth 2 Earning money from child care is moral when it's called a wage and immoral when it's called profit.
Okay so - is that always true? What if the wage is 150k and the profit is 0.5% which one is moral then?
Basically if you study to be a Doctor or Social Worker you expect a return on the investment of your your time and commitment on the form of an income. This is called a wage. If you take a risk and go into business for yourself then you will need to make a surplus. Out of this surplus you will have to pay interest to any bank or a dividend to anyone who lent you money to set up the business. Since investors are taking a risk and could potentially lose some or all of their money they will expect a bigger return that they would get from a bank account. After all that there might be some money left over for you to take put a wage.  This is of course provided you actually do make money and don't end up going bust. If you rely on the council to send you referrals and they don't send you any for a few months then nobody is going to bail you out. The surplus which a business makes is called a profit.
There are few differences between people who make wages and people who make profits. People who make wages get a funded pension, sick pay, holiday pay, maternity pay. People who work freelance or run their own business get none of these things. If they are too sick to work they get nothing. If business conditions deteriorate they could lose their home and everything they own. It sometimes amazes me why anybody actually does it.
So- Do you still think wages are moral and profits are immoral.

Myth 3 It is wrong to profit from human misery.
This is the suggestion that certain forms of activity such as protecting vulnerable children should never be a source of profit. This idea, strongly put forward in the Guardian suggests by implication that it might actually be more moral to earn money from something like cigarettes than work which improves people's lives.
I think Martin Narey nailed it on the head today. He said that he makes lots of money from human misery- It's called a wage ( see Myth 2 above).

Myth 4. It is the greed of capitalism which leads to poor wages in outsourced services.
This is untrue. Local authorities could in theory specify that the workers in outsourced businesses get paid a decent wage. Fair trade Coffee is an example of capitalism being used to improve workers conditions by making workers pay a marketable commodity for customers to sponsor. Home care contracts often specify such low rates that it would be impossible for the business to pay decent wages. Outsourcing is used as a politically expedient way of lowering pay. Local authorities could not get away with lowering wages for their own employees but by outsourcing the work they can also outsource the notoriety associated with poor pay and conditions. It is not true that private companies are making large profits by ripping off workers in outsourced contracts. Hourly rates and margins are cut to the bone.
This is not of course the fault of local authorities- they are experiencing austerity. However, it is not a direct consequence of capitalism either.

Myth 5. Social work practices will never be better than working for the council and they will never get off the ground.
Well whether this turns out to be myth or not will depend on the attitude of social workers and whether they seize the opportunities of being able to control their own destinies. Much is made in the literature of how social workers are suffering under managerialism, poor supervision, inadequate IT facilities etc. by taking charge of their own practices there is huge scope for change. More flexible working, less hierarchical management, a culture which is less driven by fear and defensive practice, better relationships with local communities which social workers serve, better use of media to publicise good practice, opportunities to put local residents and young people on steering committees to direct how the service is provided. Really the list of what could be achieved is only as limited as out imagination.

Myth 6. Change can happen easily and quickly.
As a social work academic I feel its my job to prepare students for change and prepare them for a long career which could take many forms over the next few years. It's not just to prepare them just for the job as it is now. However, the sector as a whole has been long used to thinking in terms only of a career in local government. It will be a challenge for social work academic its over the next few years to prepare their students for the challenges of working in different types of agencies from before.
Government too must offer help and support if existing social workers are to take advantage of new opportunities. There is also a role for employers with the help of Universities to prepare workers for change- if that is what is wanted.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Failed Porn filters? Not Really - It's all Going to Plan for Cameron

There has been a lot of frenzied Internet activity over past few days about the Newsnight story about porn filters failing to block porn sites while blocking sex education and information sites. This is seen as a failure. The solution, according to Women's Aid and some other posters in Twitter is better, more sophisticated filters. This is of course impossible. Getting a group of humans to distinguish between something that is tawdry and something that has artistic merit is hard enough. Expecting a computer program to understand these distinctions is so much beyond current technology that when it does happen we will have to consider whether we need to give human rights to computers. It will be the age of manga style cyborgs when that can happen.
My view is that Cameron predicted that the filters would fail. This is actually helpful to his current agenda of redesigning the Internet so that it is regulated and controlled by big media companies. Remember the days when you needed a lot of money to get something typeset, printed and distributed ? Or how, of you wanted to get something released on video you would have to pay hundreds or thousands of pounds to get it certificated by the BBFC- costs out with the capabilities of most people.
Now of course anyone, including me writing this blog can get my work put not the Internet for the cost of a few amps of electricity.
BUT NOT FOR LONG!
Cameron wants the interent to operate like the high street with the public protected from anything that might be unsuitable for them. The BBFC ( an organisation that is finding its purpose coming to an end and which needs a new role) and ATVOD ( a highly funded body that has only received about 6 complaints from the public in 3 years and is a pointless parasite on Internet TV) are both vying to become the regulator of the Internet. Cameron has repeatedly said of porn 'If you can't get it in the high street you shouldn't get it on the Internet'. He wants to apply this maxim to the whole of the Internet. He wants unregulated news sources and commentary stamped out and an Internet in which most citizens only get what comes via Murdoch and company.
I've been blogging on Internet censorship for the past 6 months and everything I have said has turned out to be correct so this is my prediction for 2014- a Cameron controlled Internet.
Fight it now or repent at leisure.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Post Script to C-Section Story

Essex Council have today issued an explanation of the facts behind the c- section story which has hit the worlds press. It gives a good account of the council/social work involvement in this case.
In any case there is nothing in the Council's account which gives me cause for concern ( though others may disagree).
However, I never really believed that the Council had acted in bad faith. My beef has always been that the Council did not think it owed the public an explanation for its actions.
Many social work bloggers and tweeters had come to the defence of the council saying that it could not say anything to the media for fear of breaching confidentiality or going against some legal restrictions.
I was never very convinced by these arguments or convinced that the Councils policy of not speaking about ongoing cases was a good one.
In fact today's statement has vindicated my position because the council has now broken its (unwritten?) policy of not commenting and it is at least now trying to undo some of the bad publicity which it should accept some responsibility for. It's clear from the council's new response that they have written it because there has been unprecedented international interest in the case- not because they think involving the public in their decisions in an ongoing basis is a good thing of itself.
Over the years I have met a few journalists. I think they are basically people with a job to do like the rest of us and if they are given a convincing argument or interesting information that the public will want to know - then they will print it.
I have never been convinced by the argument that the press has it in for social work. If I was a journalist and one side of a story would not speak to me or address legitimate public concerns then I would not give them a very sympathetic write up either. When you see 'no comment' from a public body it gives a message that public opinion does not matter to the agency. In the current world of 24 hour news, bloggers, and greater interaction between public bodies and the public they serve, the secrecy which is associated with much social work practice is outdated as well as undemocratic.
Let's hope that the latest statement by Essex is start of a new openness and social work starting to take control of how it is reported rather than just reacting. Essex has now shown that you CAN comment on live cases ethically- and it is the best way to protect the profession, protect the reputation of local authorities and their social workers and most importantly reassure the public that they live in a free country where professionals cannot override civil liberties without exceptionally good processes, reasons, and accountability.


Sunday, 1 December 2013

Another PR Disaster for Social Work- Why We Need to Stop Blaming the Media and Stand up for an Open and Accountable profession.




A pregnant woman was sedated against her will and her baby removed by caesarean section and taken into care after instructions from social services, it has been claimed.
Social workers went to the High Court to get a court order which allowed them to take the child from the mother's womb, according to reports.
The above is the first two lines of an article on the Sky News website. It has been tweeted by about 580 people. The original story in the Sunday Telegraph has been tweeted by about 1000. Difficult to imagine that that many people are interested in social work.
The twitterverse is full of indignant social workers saying that this is terrible. Not what happened but that newsagencies have dared to publish what is perceived to be an unfair and one-sided version of events. Why people think it is unfair I don’t know –it does not seem unfair an unfair judgement in light of what has been actually been made public.
The charge that it is open-sided is however, a valid one. The reason that it is one sided can be found in the final paragraph of the Sky news item.   
Essex County Council told Sky News in a statement: "Essex County Council does not comment on the circumstances of on-going individual cases involving vulnerable people and children."
That’s it. The sum total of what they have to say.
 Not –‘We are very sorry – we realise that there is much public interest in this story but we reassure that we have at all times acted in the best interests and the interests of her baby’. Not- ‘We are very sorry but we have been forbidden by a court order from responding to questions. We wish we could say more but it might prejudice proceedings.’
Such alternative statements would not really hold a lot of water. The fact that the story is being reported in the way that it is- draws great deal of media attention  that simply would not be there if a fuller account of the story had been told. In fact, now an MP is going to raise it in Parliament so it is difficult to see how there could be any less of a spotlight on the story.  
So, a response like ‘We are sorry we can’t say anything’ would not have cut much ice. However it would be a vast improvement on what they did say. What the terse statement by Essex council is saying is ‘Sod off- we don’t have to tell you anything and its none of your business anyway’.
Well –I’m afraid in a democracy public servants are accountable to the public for what they do through democratic processes and the only way that the democratic process can work is if people have information. We would not tolerate the Police using sweeping powers like this without being expected to explain themselves.
If there is a genuine legal reason why the council can’t give details of the case then ought to say this and apologise to the public for the fact they can’t comment. Furthermore if such constraints are a general problem then social services directors ought to be campaigning for changes in the law so that they can make more information public.
The statement by Essex seems to suggest that they are simply not commenting because of a policy- allegedly to protect ‘vulnerable people’. Clearly it is okay to seriously interfere with the liberty and health of a vulnerable person but not okay to respond to reasonable public interest in what is being done to them.  This has echoes of a case a few months ago where social workers condemned a man with learning difficulties for putting a video on Youtube of his child being taken into care and he had to take social services to court to get  permission to make the world aware of his story. Rather than saying he needed support to be able to tell his side of things many social workers said he was making his children vulnerable by putting the video online.
Surely an important part of protecting vulnerable people ought to be making judgements taken on their behalf open to democratic scrutiny.  
Vulnerable should NOT equal No right to speak or have your story heard.
Many of my friends who would normally be supporters  of public services think this present situation is terrible. The only people who think this is a case of press victimisation are social workers. I think the profession has to take a long look in the mirror and think about how other people see us.Look at the Independents headline - It says that this is the 'stuff of nightmares'. Actually its the sort of stuff that can be a death blow to the credibility of a profession. It needs some good PR and damage limitation double quick. Not falling back on jobsworth -'Its not our policy to comment ......'
I have been in social work now since 1986 and all through this time I have been constantly angered by the attitude of my profession to the media. On one hand there is a paranoia the media is against the profession  and on the other hand an arrogance about ordinary people not being able to understand complex social work situations even if they were told the information. Over the years few people have given my view any credence.  They have all fallen back on the idea that these things have to kept private to protect ‘vulnerable people’.  I guess I have always been a curmudgeon. This is one of the many popularly held views I have never agreed with.
In the meantime the image of the profession has sunk lower and lower and people just blame the media rather than thinking about whether we need to think of another way of engaging with the public.
I would not trust another profession which operated in secret so why should I expect people to trust my own when it is doing this.
It is true that newspapers do tend to favour certain political viewpoints and groups over others. However, they will report both sides of a story if they get it-even if they do give one side more credence. And most people do give their side. Even the toxic waste disposal industry will respond to media criticisms. They will make a press release that says that toxic waste burning  creates jobs or that it is all quite safe really. That might not convince many people but it is at least a response and an attempt to change public opinion.
Social work wants to improve its image and it ought to be capable of doing better than the toxic waste business.
The Essex response says ‘Social Work doesn’t care what the public think and they don’t have a right to know or the ability to understand.’
That is the attitude we should be fighting – not the media.