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Reporting guide on children cases aims to close divide between press and social workers

Northern Ireland Guide for media reporting is intended to be blueprint for UK

A groundbreaking guide for media reporting on child abuse and neglect cases will help break down mistrust between journalists and health and care professionals, proponents claimed at a launch event.

The booklet, Guidance for Media Reporting on Child Abuse and Neglect, produced with input from the Northern Ireland Association of Social Workers (NIASW), was published hours before the Leveson inquiry publishes its findings into press practices.

At a launch event in Belfast, it was heralded as a blueprint for the rest of the country that could help ensure more sensitive reporting of child abuse across the UK.

Northern Ireland's health minister Edwin Poots MLA said:

"This guidance marks the beginning of a more constructive relationship between my department, social workers, care and health professionals and the media.

"Too often we tend to operate with a level of distrust where the media believe they are not getting the information from us and the social workers and don't believe they are getting the true story. There is also a level of distrust from social workers about things going out into the public domain and causing real harm and damaging the child as a result.

"But the media and social workers want the best outcome and the best outcome is the public are receiving information that tells the horror of the story but doesn't harm the child that is involved."

The eight-page booklet was produced by a working group consisting of journalists and health and care professionals. As well as background information, guidelines for journalists and case studies, it contains key facts and statistics about child abuse in Northern Ireland that can be used in media coverage.

The guidance has been endorsed by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety Northern Ireland.

Bridget Robb, BASW's acting chief executive, called on employers to allow staff to talk more openly about what they are doing to increase understanding of social work. She said:

"Journalists come to us and say 'can we talk to a social worker?' but so often employers don't give permission for that."

The booklet can be read here.