The review of DipSW’s Paper 30 may lead to the omission of
annex five, its anti-racist policy statement. Susannah Strong looks
at the dangers
One would have thought that everything there was to say on race
and social work training had been said. But as the review of Paper
30, the foundation stone of the Diploma in Social Work, ends its
consultation period, it continues to be a hot potato.
CCETSW, the social work training council, has been at the centre
of controversy. First chairperson Jeffrey Greenwood caused a furore
when he attacked annex five of Paper 30, a policy statement on
anti-racism. Then he turned on the DipSW rules and regulations for
its emphasis on ‘political correctness’.
Some argue that his outbursts, and the subsequent media flak,
indirectly led to the current review of Paper 30 and what could be
the permanent omission of the contentious annex five.
But in the scramble for change it has been overlooked that many
of those charged with the implementation of Paper 30 – social work
lecturers, practice teachers and even students – like it.
Fiona Bartels-Ellis, manager of the practice learning and
assessment group at Hackney social services department, says the
document offered ‘a good standardisation of training’. She adds
that, ‘it established that what was taught on courses had to be put
Bartels-Ellis argues that the point about annex five is that it
takes a clear stance on anti-racism and anti-discrimination as
opposed to being non-racist or non-discriminatory. ‘That means we
must be proactive and challenging rather than engaging in the
passiveness the word “non” suggests,’ she says.
This sense of challenge is central to social work training
because ‘the reality of the work is that it is not do-gooding’,
argues Bartels-Ellis. It is believed to be fundamental to the ethos
of social work training and practice.
Melody Mtezuka, a social work lecturer at Manchester University,
remembers the work of the Mickleton Group, made up of social work
professionals who in the late 1980s persuaded CCETSW of the
importance of race within social work training. ‘They pointed out
that the teaching of social work was Eurocentric, middle class and
that black people did not feature at all.’
Social workers then were mostly white, middle class with black
working class clients who felt patronised because workers were seen
as concentrating on their ‘failings’ and inadvertently applied
their white values to them.
The work of the Mickleton Group led to CCETSW’s black
perspectives working group (since disbanded), and subsequently to
the introduction of annex five in 1991. Students were taught to
challenge oppression in the classroom, on placement and beyond.
Mtezuka thinks the importance of adopting a challenging approach
cannot be overstated. She says political correctness ‘is not a
joke. Language is a basis for the way society behaves and is
fundamental to how workers and black clients relate’.
Both Mtezuka and Bartels-Ellis feel it is too soon for Paper 30
to undergo radical change. Mtezuka says the review is a sign that
‘social work is a weak profession, unsure of its status. The
British Medical Association wouldn’t have buckled at the first sign
of pressure. CCETSW doesn’t seem to believe in its own
Mtezuka’s worry is that if the document is watered down, the
onus to challenge bad and racist practice will be lost. For
example, there is a need for more black foster parents. If this
importance is played down, there will be no incentive for new
social workers ‘to go into the community to find potential black
In general, there seems to be a dichotomy between the ethics of
what is taught on social work courses and the reality of social
work practice. Paul Webster is a trainer based at Birmingham social
services department. The race and black over-representation debate
is familiar. ‘Black over-representation is part of social work
folklore. It has always been at the forefront of practice teaching
and training,’ he says. Students are made aware of it and, Webster
claims, ‘it is a strong focus of student essays, such as the number
of black children in care’.
As a trainer, Webster relishes the challenges practice students
present. But he feels they are often unaware of the realities of
working – particularly in large bureaucratic structures. ‘Students
are refreshing, but they are not always aware of the complexities
involved. There is a tension between what they are taught and what
they think they are expected to do. They often want to challenge
bad practice, but they can’t control the resources,’ he says.
Webster thinks the emphasis given to anti-discrimination on
social work courses can be a distraction, and that in some cases
students are ‘set up to fail’ by tutors who encourage them to
challenge to the detriment of their day-to-day work practice. But
Webster is still a supporter of Paper 30.
‘Some of my colleagues are very angry that the paper is being
diluted. They see it as a sign of bad things to come.’ But he says
that changing the words in the document will not reduce
Birmingham’s commitment to good practice with black users.
Inez Austin-Edwards, a practice teacher based in Hackney, is
constantly amazed at the level of ignorance on race issues that
white students confront her with. ‘Students often perpetuate and
collude in it without realising what they are doing,’ she
She gives an example of a white student who assumed that a black
client, who she heard speak a few words of the West Indian dialect
patois, would not understand English when it was in fact his first
language. The student made the assumption without bothering to find
out the reality. Whether ignorance or racism, the patronising
effect on the client was the same.
Austin-Edwards worries that any dilution of Paper 30 will give
trainers an excuse to avoid confronting students in cases like
this. ‘They won’t touch these areas if they can get away with it,’
A prominent member of the British Association of Social Workers
says many social workers are ‘fed up’ with the issue. ‘So much
course work is centred around the question of whether you are
racist,’ he claims. He feels social workers have spent too much
time ‘talking to themselves instead of getting on with the
A second-year social work student at Bromley College, Kent, who
prefers to remain anonymous, doesn’t agree. As far as she is
concerned, race is given scant attention on her course. ‘We had a
one-day seminar devoted to anti-racism. I didn’t attend because I
though it was an insult,’ she says.
She has little time for the machinations of CCETSW: ‘What is
Paper 30 anyway? I haven’t heard of it. Anyway, what’s on paper
doesn’t make any difference to what people think. There are white
students on my course who say all the right things, and then
afterwards say to me: “Don’t you think all this racism business is
over the top?” They just don’t understand.’
Desmond Darling is a first-year student at Derby University,
with several years of work experience as a community social worker.
He says what everyone seems to have forgotten is the reason behind
the emphasis on race in social work training. If that goes, he
feels there will be no justification for teaching it or monitoring
how students challenge it in the workplace.
‘There is an assumption that everybody knows about race,’
Darling says. There has been little emphasis on race since he began
his course last September.
‘It was mentioned in passing as one of the areas to be covered
over the next two years.’
He feels many white students have ‘little awareness’. Darling
explains: ‘They think there is little difference between black and
white users. To address this, we need to take a deeper look at
these issues, to discover why it is a problem and to work together
Ultimately, Darling believes practical experience will change
things rather than the written word. He says black social workers
need to work with black clients because they understand the issues.
But he adds this can only be maximised if they operate in key
areas, such as assessment.
There is a general consensus that words on their own are not
enough. Race must be addressed openly in the academic environment
before students can make any real impact on black
over-representation in their practice. But there is a sense that
this debate will not happen unless race is a truly integrated and
fundamental part of the social work course curriculum.
Much depends on the future of annex five, which is still
unknown. CCETSW’s assistant director, David Jones, says annex five
was only attached to Paper 30 ‘for convenience’. There is some
concern that it might be detached for the very same reason.