Final Report: IASSW sponsored project on: Building a comparative perspective on media representation of social work: the first step.

Submitted by Prof. Shulamit Ramon and Prof. Brian Littlechild, September 2015.

The project partnership included:

MA Social work course at the University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield UK and the British Association of Social Workers.

MA Social work courses at the Catholic University of Applied Sciences, Koln, IFSW in Germany, Frankfurt Applied S

The project aims were:

  1. make a direct and meaningful contribution to at least one area:

This project will make a contribution to curriculum development and the content of the research module of the MA in Social Work through the participation in small scale research projects on media representation of social work.

It will provide an organic opportunity to involve students, social work lecturers, service users and national associations in:

  1. The project will be Creative and innovative in:

Enabling MA social work students to engage in building the knowledge base about media representation of social work in their country;

Learning from the comparative perspective of media representation of social work in three European countries

Putting media representation of social work as an issue of significance in the current socio-economic climate in which approaches to welfare policies and the rights of social work clients is hotly debated and disputed in Europe

Engaging social work service users as partners to the interpretation of the data collected on media representation

Engaging national social work associations alongside students and service users

The aims have been largely met, as the activities undertaken highlight.

Activities undertaken:

  • Kick off meeting at UH: March 2014. The meeting has representatives of each site (Dr. Elena Allegri (Piedmont Orientale, Asti, Italy), Prof. Maria do mar Castro Varela (Alice salmon school, Berlin, Germany), Prof. Ria Puhl (Catholic University, Cologne, Germany) , Mrs. Alison Cornwall Dwyer, Ms. Karen Mills, Prof. Shula Ramon University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, UK), and Dr. Jane Shears (chair of the international relations committee of BASW).

The aims of the project were looked at and agreed, as well as the activities for the first year. It was agreed that we wish to work on the issue of media representation with the three national associations of social workers, given their central role in representing social workers in each country.

Each partner has stated what their expertise is in relation to media representation of social work, social work clients and social problems, and the methods of analysing such representation.

The educational input was outlined too:

The two Germany schools have a whole year course on media representation in their MA in social work programme; in UH Prof. Ramon has offered three training days to the Step Up students (MA in child and family work), as well as to the 2nd year of the MA in Social Work in Hatfield, in the lead up to the dissertation that these students were to prepare. Dr. Allegri will provide such training in Alessandria to the MA students there.

MA students were encouraged to focus on media representation in their dissertation by being offered training, supervision, and the best dissertation students were invited to present their work at the international project meeting which took place on May 4th 2015.

Conferences presentations:

  • Workshop presentation at the ESWRA conference, April 2014, Bolzano, Italy.

Our workshop was titled The Implications f of media Representation of social Work and Social Workers. It was chaired by Prof. Shula Ramon. Dr. Allegri, Prof. Puhl and Prof. Ramon presented the following papers:

Suggestions from Media representation of Social work and Social Workers: films and novels (Allegri).

The impact of media representation of social workers, social work clients and social problems (Ramon)

Media Representation of Social Work in Germany (Puhl).

The presentations were followed by comments and questions made by the workshop participants.

  • Presentation at the ERIS conference

This took place in October 2014, Hatfield, with presentations by Prof. Puhl and Prof. Ramon at a conference plenary.

  • 2015 ESWRA conference (Ljubljana , Slovenia, (22-24 April 2015)

Our workshop was titled: Media Representation of Social Work: Lessons from a comparative transnational research.  It was chaired by Dr. Elena Allegri, who presented a paper on

Media representation of domestic violence by Italian newspapers. She was followed by Prof. Ramon, who presented a paper on media representation of the Rotherham Child Sexual Exploitation scandal in the UK, to a much larger group than in Bolzano.

  • Meeting in the Italian Senate, May 4th 2015:

This meeting was organised by the Italian social work association and Dr. Allegri. Most of the 100 participants were social workers active in the association. The day was chaired by a television journalist; speakers included a politician (who was Minister of Health between 2011-2013); the three representatives of the national associations of social workers, three students, and four academics.

The programme is attached; video recording of all sessions is available at our website ( Simultaneous translation was made available.

Following the meeting it was decided to aim at a joint application for funding a curriculum development project on teaching media representation skills to social work students and social workers.

  • MA Dissertations:

One student from the Step Up programme (UH) presented his dissertation on An Examination of the Media Representation of the Rotherham Child Abuse Scandal and the recommendations made by the Jay Report at the ERIS annual meeting which took place in May 2015 in Ostrava. The presentation was well received. ERIS IS

A second student from the MA in Social Work at UH has written his dissertation on the historical analysis of media representation of safeguarding children social work.

The website is by now alive, with contributions from the three partner countries. Further population of the website is ongoing.

  • IASSW 2016 Conference A submission for a workshop symposium presentation for the IASSW 2016 conference took place in July 2015.

We have been invited to participate in the session on IASSW project (September 2015) by the session co-ordinator.

  • Application for Marie Curie Individual Fellowship for comparative research on media representation of domestic violence towards women and men, led by Prof. Shula Ramon, was submitted on September 8th 2015).
  • New research: A US colleague has begun to analyse media representation of domestic violence (Prof. roni Berger, Adelphi University, New Jersey) (September 2015)

Future activities:

  1. Application for Erasmus Knowledge Alliance curriculum development project (likely deadline: February 2016), led by UH.
  2. Writing a joint paper on media representation of social work for a peer reviewed international journal (early 2016).
  3. Continuous population of the website

Final Report:  Project title: Building a comparative perspective on media representation of social work: the first step

Collaborating with our US colleague

We are grateful to the IASSW for its financial support and for including us in the workshop on the projects in Seoul, but have to report that the grant was insufficient.

We would welcome advice as to where we could apply for an international project on the issue of media representation of social work.

Objectives not yet met

Thus far we have not yet involved service users and carers in this project, primarily due to lack of time as we contribute to this project on top of our other activities.

We hope to remedy this situation by approaching the two service users and carers group which exist in the social work departments of the University of Hertfordshire and the University degli Studie Piedmont Orientale early in the new academic year 2015-2016 to look at the options for their involvement.