Social Work England pledges action as survey reveals low proportion of Black and ethnic minority staff

Equality audit reveals Black staff represent 2.7% of organisation, compared with 12% of children's and 15% of adults' social workers

Image of the word 'inequality' highlighted in a dictionary page (credit: sharafmaksumov / Adobe Stock)
(credit: sharafmaksumov / Adobe Stock)

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.

The results were revealed in papers to the organisation’s board meeting last month.

Ethnic makeup of Social Work England workforce

Asian or Asian British: 4.5%
Black of Black British: 2.7%
Mixed: 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.”

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:

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17 Responses to Social Work England pledges action as survey reveals low proportion of Black and ethnic minority staff

  1. Jacqui July 22, 2020 at 10:51 am #

    I’m not surprised to see this. I qualified in 1990, was put back on the temp. register and still have not been approached to help out. I am older and disabled and have experienced direct discrimination at work and at interview, and have met far less BAME and other minority workers in a profession that claims to champion difference than I would expect – I feel this is embedded at an institutional level and am deeply saddened by it. Still hoping for change…..

  2. The Watcher July 22, 2020 at 1:38 pm #

    Unconvinced. Why is the recruitment of an equality, diversity and inclusion manager on a fixed-term basis (until August 2021)? Surely all that Government and social work registration cash could have stretched to a full-time and PERMANENT role?! If an organisation is lacking in ethnic diversity as much as has been revealed, is a fixed-term role really going to solve the problem? Also, why such the broad remit for this role? Surely, in order for EDI to be embedded properly in any organisational culture it requires a team.

    Without being too negative, the ‘Employers Network for Inclusion & Equality’ looks like a ‘corporate cop out’ to me.

    The reference to George Floyd’s “death” is a dilution, as clearly outlined in this article: Minimising George’s murder is not a good look.

    Sadly, this all has an aura of tokenism.

  3. nasim A Monir July 22, 2020 at 2:56 pm #

    The reason there are so few ethnic minority social workers, is due to the fact they get bullied out of their job rules by over bearing narcissistic managers, who take an enormous amount of pleasure in piling on so much work, on these poor social workers, while systematically undermining them at every opportunity they get… They leave them with no option but to leave their positions… I speak from experience….

  4. Andy July 23, 2020 at 5:56 am #

    The social work profession as a whole has failed catastrophically to live up to its oft-hailed mantra of diversity – the gender imbalance in social work would cause absolute consternation if it were replicated in the teaching profession which itself already displays a gender imbalance of 75%!
    If the profession fails so spectacularly to address a specific lack of diversity in one area, how can it possibly be expected to effectively address diversity in another area?

  5. Susan McKee July 23, 2020 at 9:16 am #

    SWE have a bigger priority, they need you to complete your CPD logs or they will deregister you (if they can do without your fees ofcourse). Be kind to them,they will get round to racism some time soon or perhaps much later.

    • Black Diamond July 23, 2020 at 11:51 am #

      Susan McKee
      Please do not get offended by what I am just about to say. I understand and agree that we need to register our CPD. However please do not say they will get round to the racism some time soon or perhaps much later. I really think that insulting as a Black Women a woman of colour.

      Racism is not a casual debate, it affect people’s lives, families livelihood, BAME communities, mental health. Black die due to Racism. Racism has been at play for over 400 years. Yes we are in 2020, it real and needs to stop now.

      If Social Work England- Really wishing to show their commitment to the Black lives Matter movement and Anti oppressive and Anti Discriminatory practice then they should lead by example and start by having ethnic quotas which will allow Black social workers and Bame staff to be recruited at all levels of the local authority and other organisations. This is the only way fairness will prevail.

      • Susan July 23, 2020 at 1:32 pm #

        Dear Black Diamond, I was being ironical. As a woman of colour myself I too am offended that SWE are prioritising CPD over racism and underrepresentation.

      • Sola Doyle August 3, 2020 at 2:01 pm #

        Well said.
        I have attended interviews after interview for roles for ASYE.
        What do I get told?
        I font have enough field experience, or I’m not suitable for the role???
        SWE need to sort this racism thing. Its very discouraging.
        Maybe more BME’s at the helm may be a great start.

  6. Michael Cookson July 23, 2020 at 10:02 am #

    I joined what I felt extolled the values I was proud to promote.
    Yet every day around me i see too much evidence that these values
    both at local government level and social worker values are used when convenient.
    How many more years must it take and how many more must die for
    the rhetoric to stop and meaningful and evidence lead progress to be demonstrated.
    It is not hard.
    For over four hundred years this has been going on
    4 Hundred years.
    4 Hundred years.
    How many more to get you to stop these empty gestures.
    4 hundred years this has been going on for.
    With all of the enlightenment, ‘values’, equalities, ‘antidiscriminatory’
    ‘antioppressive practices’……..should we not have moved
    this empty narrative along. If we look at ourselves in social work,
    all that made us proud to serve, to endure the struggle to make other’s lives
    a little better, yet when we went back to our office, what protected us.
    Little evidence of the local authority values.
    4 hundred years this has been going on. Don’t you think we can see the pattern.
    The pattern of those abused.

  7. Black Diamond July 23, 2020 at 11:33 am #

    If Social Work England- Really wishing to show their commitment to the Black lives Matter movement and Anti oppressive and Anti Discriminatory practice then they should lead by example and start by having ethnic quotas which will allow Black social workers and Bame staff to be recruited at all levels of the local authority and other organisations. This is the only way fairness will prevail.

    • Sola Doyle August 3, 2020 at 2:06 pm #

      Well done!
      I for one have stepped out. I really wanted to help make a difference. I wanted to be part of the new social work regime.
      But sadly, its not to be. Maybe as a mental health advisor, I will be able to make a difference.
      Its a shame, of all professions, it shouldn’t be social work!

  8. The Aggrieved July 23, 2020 at 11:50 am #

    Well said Nasim.

    I also speak from experience that majority of the complaints are brought against BAME social workers for even small things like the social worker did not individually speaking to other workers for covering the task in her/his absence and the worker is not even given the opportunity to explain as to what he/she did do before requesting the task to be done by the duty worker/s in her absence.

    Sheer gross discrimination and SWE looks into these investigations.

    BAME workers are sacked on such grounds mentioned above.

    Had this been a non BAME worker, the management would have commended the worker for taking responsibility and entering tasks in the duty diary that needs doing in her/his absence.

    Its really sad.

  9. Kim July 24, 2020 at 4:42 pm #

    They knew this when they were hiring their buddies. So tired of the rhetoric and people filing their CV’s saying they know that #BlackLiveMatter and were appointed to talk to those with dark skin about their pain , suffering and exclusion. I bet they could get the villains view over dinner when they are hanging out. Stop the nepotism and racism. Hire those that have been earning their stripes on the job, in the field and don’t hang out with in your nepotism cliques.

  10. towef July 25, 2020 at 12:04 pm #


  11. Simeon Hartley July 27, 2020 at 12:12 pm #

    People of colour have died at the hands of the police, due to poorer health, minimum wage jobs, discrimination, insecure housing, immigration controls, liberal guilt, the fear of the other and ofcourse overt and covert racism for decades in the UK. It’s shocking it takes a murder in the USA to awaken SWE to these issues. I have read the jd for the fixed term EDI Manager post. It’s disheartening that after all of the decades of discrimination and underrepresentation SWE are still talking about action plans, policies and strategies. We already know why statutory organisations staffed by mainly white middleclass graduates with multiple jobs in other similar organisations fail in inclusion. What do we still need to find out? Addressing inequality and underrepresentation isn’t really that difficult. Start by looking into your own teams. Recognise that the reason why you might be generally mono cultural and class based is not because people that look like me lack the knowledge, skills and intelligence to do your jobs; might it be because what you see as the essential qualities for joining you are in fact a way of excluding us and preserving your privileges? We know our planet is round, we don’t need to discuss circumference to make sure. You know you have a problem, address it, don’t bury it in consultations and reports. Here is a naive strategy: Start with us.

    • Sola Doyle August 3, 2020 at 2:09 pm #

      There is nothing more to add.

  12. Person of colour August 16, 2020 at 3:50 pm #

    Having 11 years experience in front line child safeguarding working for many different local authorities (more than 7) in the north of England. I have never felt so disheartened and hurt as I do right now. Having experienced racism and also nepotism which has repeatedly stunted growth and development and having seen institutional racism and bullying in every local authority yet also currently seeing very little change on the front line in terms of leadership positions/viewpoints around racism makes me have very little hope. The job is very difficult without racism. However racism has meant in my eleven hard working years of working on the front line I have NEVER promoted my job to anyone of colour who has asked me of social work as a vocation. In fact I have actively discouraged everyone and anyone with passion, drive, intelligence, love for wanting to make a difference to choose another vocation all together. Let that sink in when u consider your employment campaigns and student campaigns. The community care articles and SWE stance in racism are positive to read but I want to see more action on the frontline immediately otherwise the hope for finding more passionate competent staff can be forgotten.