Over half of people in Scotland (58%) have a negative perception of social workers, while a third (31%) say that they would be reluctant to take their help.
New research from social worker training charity, Frontline, revealed that 47% of people would rather turn to a doctor when faced with challenges, as social workers have a “bad reputation”.
A campaign launched on September 1 aims to remove the stigma around receiving support from social workers and encourage more people to join the profession.
A review of all media coverage around social work from the past 12 months by the charity revealed that stories about social workers are eight times more likely to be negative rather than positive, with the words ‘frustration’, ‘worry’ and ‘fear’ prevalent in media coverage featuring social workers.
Only 45% of people say they only understand what social workers do from reading media stories, which the charity say is having a knock-on effect.
The data revealed negative perceptions are strongest amongst men, with over a third (34%) admitting they wouldn’t be willing to speak to a social worker, despite needing help when struggling with family issues such as addiction, mental health, and exploitation concerns – a 24% increase compared to women (28%).
Negative perceptions were also prevalent amongst minority communities with 29% Black British, 39% British Chinese, 17% British Bangladeshi, 12% British Indian, 29% British African and 42% British Caribbean saying they would never deal with a social worker – even if they or their family needed support.
Of the same groupings, 35% say they would most likely open up to someone who shares the same background as them.
Social Work Scotland, the Scottish Association of Social Workers, and the Scottish Social Services Council have been contacted for comment.