Black and ethnic minority representation on Think Ahead has improved slightly to its highest level this year but remains just half that of university master’s courses.
Seventeen per cent of this year’s cohort at the fast-track mental health social work course are from Black and ethnic minority groups, up from a 16% average from 2016-19. The programme started in 2015.
However, despite the improvement – and the rate being above the Black and ethnic minority population in England and Wales (14% in the 2011 census) – it lags well behind that of other training routes and the social work profession itself (see box).
Critically, it is just under half the rate of university master’s social work courses who are direct comparators for Think Ahead, in so far as draws its intake from graduates.
Black and ethnic minority representation comparison in England
Self-examination on race
The figures come with social work organisations examining their records on race – both in relation to people who use services and to their workforces and students, in the light of the killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protest that followed.
Its fellow fast-track provider, Frontline, has published a race and inclusion action plan vowing action on intake, curriculum and staffing, while Think Ahead is also examining the same issues.
A Think Ahead spokesperson: “Our intake is more diverse in terms of ethnicity than the population as a whole, but we know this is not good enough – we want our social workers to represent the communities they will serve. To achieve this, and to be true to our anti-racist values, we are looking to make changes in every area of our work, from recruitment, to our curriculum, to our wider work in the sector.
“To focus this, we recently began a comprehensive review of our work, including by listening to and learning from the communities we work with, and we’ve already started making changes based on the feedback we got.”