British social workers angered over soap opera’s plot
The British Association of Social Workers is protesting a plotline on the BBC’s popular EastEnders soap opera that has an oppressive social worker removing the baby from the home of a teenage mother, according to this statement.
“It is disgraceful to see a publicly funded broadcaster deliberately spreading misinformation about the child protection process because it is too lazy and arrogant to get it right,” acting BASW chief executive Bridget Robb said in the statement.
EastEnders follows the lives of residents in a gritty, fictional East London borough. Since premiering in 1985 the top rated and award-winning program has covered many controversial issues, including rape, homophobia and racism.
In the October 5 episode social worker Trish Barnes (actress Tessa Churchard) took custody of baby Lexi from mother Lola Pearce (Danielle Harold) in an emotional scene.
Lola is a capable mother but the social worker was around only when negative things occurred, such as the apartment being dirty and when Lola used a tea towel as a makeshift diaper. Lola had also been arrested for assault.
So critics said the episode leaves the impression the social worker overstepped her boundaries and took the baby without just cause.
BASW said the episode did not accurately portray social work procedures in Great Britain. BASW, which is the largest professional social work association in the United Kingdom, also said they advise television programs but were not consulted about the EastEnders plot.
BBC defended the episode in a statement, saying they did not believe the plot disparaged social workers.
“There was no suggestion that the social worker’s actions arose from anything other than a genuine desire to protect Lexi, or that her concerns about Lola were unreasonable given the picture she and the previous social worker had formed over a substantial period of time,” BBC said.
The Huffington Post United Kingdom edition ran an article and poll to gauge viewer’s reaction to the Baby Lexi episode. As of this morning 38 percent said the portrayal was unfair, 31 percent said it was just a soap opera and viewers should know the difference between fact and fiction, and 30 percent said EastEnders got the plot right.
Social workers often get a bad rap in the news in the United Kingdom. For instance, the profession was widely criticized in the news and Parliament after 17-month-old Peter Connelly, or Baby P, died in 2009 after being abused for months while social service workers visited the home.
BASW is worried the EastEnders storyline could further erode public confidence in the profession. BASW is urging members to vote against EastEnders winning a National TV Award unless BBC changes its stance.
“EastEnders’ shabby portrayal of an entire profession has made a tough job even tougher,” Robb said. “Social workers don’t court popularity but they also don’t deserve to have their work misrepresented and the people who rely on their support made fearful of social work involvement in their lives.”
Q: Do you think the portrayal of social workers on the news and on television shows is worst than in the United States?
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