Social Work England has pledged action to tackle inequalities in its workforce after a staff survey revealed just 10% of the organisation were from Black or ethnic minority groups.
The survey – answered by two-thirds of staff – revealed particularly low rates of representation of Black workers, at 2.7%, when compared with the social work workforce, where the equivalent figures are 15% for adults’ practitioners and 12% for children’s workers.
Ethnic makeup of Social Work England workforce
Asian or Asian British: 4.5%
Black of Black British: 2.7%
White British: 84.1%
White Irish: 1.8%
White Other: 2.7%
White British – Chinese: 0.9%
Prefer not to say: 0.9%
They represent a significant challenge to the organisation in the wake of the increased focus on racial equality following the killing of George Floyd and the ensuing Black Lives Matters protests.
Responding to the results, Sarah Blackmore, the regulator’s executive director, strategy, policy and engagement, said the organisation was “committed to having a diverse workforce”, adding: “Even though we are not there yet, we are determined we will get there.”
Action pledged on equality
She said the regulator was reviewing its recruitment processes and succession planning, as part of a wider programme of work on equality, diversity and inclusion in the organisation, which includes:
- The publication of an equality, diversity and inclusion strategy, later this year.
- The impending recruitment of an equality, diversity and inclusion manager on a fixed-term basis (until August 2021) to lead on the strategy and ensure the organisation is seen as an “exemplar of best practice”.
- Benchmarking itself against other organisations using a tool developed by the Employers Network for Inclusion & Equality, which Social Work England has joined.
- Implementing a new HR system to improve monitoring of equality data among staff.
Blackmore said: “The horrific death of George Floyd has thrown into sharp relief that there never has been a greater need for social work in society and how ideally placed social workers are with their anti-racism, anti-discrimination and anti-oppression to stand up for anti-racism and for us as the regulator to magnify that focus on being actively anti-racist and anti-discriminatory. We know we’ve got a lot to do both externally and internally.”
She added: “I feel that we can achieve real, positive change. That can feel like a buzz phrase but I really feel that there’s more potential than there has been before. [Our chair] Lord Patel and our [staff] equality, diversity and inclusion steering group have said that this is not an added extra, this needs resources and leadership and it’s for the long-term.”
More on social work and race
The diversity of the profession
While the diversity of Social Work England’s workforce is not substantially below that of the population as a whole – in England and Wales, 14% of the population was from an ethnic minority, and 3.3% were Black, as of the 2011 census – it lags well behind that of the social worker workforce:
- As of September 2019, 12% of children’s social workers in England working for local authorities were Black, 6% Asian and 4% from mixed, among those whose ethnicities were known, according to the annual workforce census carried out by the Department for Education.
- At the same date, among those whose ethnicities were known, 15% of adult social workers in English local authorities were Black, 6% Asian and 3% mixed, according to the annual social services workforce report by NHS Digital.
- In 2019, 23% of students accepted on to undergraduate social work courses were Black and a further 13% from Asian or ethnic minority groups, figures from UCAS released last month showed.
- The proportion of people from enrolling on postgraduate courses social work courses from Black, Asian or ethnic minority groups was 36% in 2018, Skills for Care’s annual report on social work education found.