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The SWIFT (Social Work in Film and Television) research network was founded in 2012 and seeks to explore national and international representations of social work in film and television drama in order to raise awareness of the impact of these on social work and public responses to social workers and welfare.

Social workers are an increasing presence in contemporary film and television drama, frequently portrayed in relation to narratives about child protection, the removal of children from families and located in relation to boundaries between public/private spheres of family life. Dramas also typically locate those in need/at risk or using welfare services, within discourses about ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’; about poverty, welfare and the ‘choice’ to be poor; debates about the purpose of the state in welfare.

SWIFT argues, such representations often serve to encourage and reinforce increasingly hostile and negative impressions of social workers and endorse particular neo-liberal ideologies and discourses about welfare, family life and communities. They also reflect, endorse and reinforce judgements about service users, and carers which demonise and stigmatise those who are vulnerable or in need.

SWIFT asserts that the lens of film and television fiction offers not only a ‘window on the world’, but also a mirror for reflection which can be used and shared to consult how different ‘stakeholders’ (e.g. social workers, service users, carers) reflect on how they are characterised and represented in film and television.


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