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

Barbara Staniforth, Kelsey L. Deane, Liz Beddoe


INTRODUCTION: Previous studies have explored public perception of social work and social workers. There is little written about what social workers think about how they, and the profession of social work, are viewed by the public. This article explores the views of a sample of social workers in Aotearoa New Zealand about their beliefs around the public perception of social work and social workers.

AIMS: This article aims to explore social worker views on the public perception of social work, and then compares these findings with a previous study which looked at the public perception of social workers.

METHODOLOGY: An online survey was conducted with 403 social workers from the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Work, which asked them about their perceptions on how social work and social workers are viewed by the public. The results are then compared to a previous telephone survey, which asked 386 members of the public their views on social work and social workers.

FINDINGS: 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.

CONCLUSION: Social workers, social work professional bodies and social work educators need to be proactive in promoting accurate information about social work and what social workers do.


social work; public perceptions

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