Chief social workers to pilot workforce race and equality standard

Meeting held to launch pilot that responds to raising concerns around treatment of Black and ethnic minority practitioners in wake of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter

African black fist and caucasian white fist raised calling for freedom and equality on a yellow background. Multicultural fists raised. Stop racism.
Credit: Pol Sole/Adobe Stock

The chief social workers for adults are to pilot a workforce race and equality standard to tackle discrimination and inequalities faced by Black and ethnic minority practitioners in the workplace.

Mark Harvey and Fran Leddra are holding an event today for local authority adult social services leaders to discuss the pilot, for which representatives from 39 councils have registered.

The Department of Health and Social Care was unable to provide details on the pilot at this stage, but Harvey said on Twitter that it was “time to be open about the workforce issues for colleagues of colour and other ethnic communities and take action”.

The initiative comes with a sharpened focus on issues of race in social work – both in terms of the profession’s engagement with Black and ethnic minority communities and within the workforce – following the death of George Floyd after a Minessota police officer pinned him to the ground for eight minutes and the Black Lives Matters protests that followed.

Workforce inequalities

While Black and ethnic minority practitioners are well-represented in the profession – accounting for 25% of adults’ services practitioners, 22% of children’s social workers and 18% of NHS mental health practitioners in England, compared with population representation of 14% – there are concerns that representation in some areas is not reflective of the communities served by the profession.

In addition, the proportion of Black and ethnic minority practitioners in senior levels of management is far lower than at the front line, while concerns have also been raised about the disproportionate representation of Black social workers in agency work, including in relation to how they have been treated during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Representational issues have also been raised among the student population, with significant inequalities between different training routes, ranging from 36% on university postgraduate and undergraduate courses to 22% and 17%, respectively, on the latest cohorts of fast-track providers Frontline and Think Ahead, though these are their highest rates yet.

Fitness to practise has also come under the spotlight with Social Work England saying Black and ethnic minority social workers are disproportionately subject to investigations, though it does not have data as yet on what happens to them once they are within the system.

While concerns have been raised about the lack of public statements from social work leaders on racial inequalities in recent months – or that such statements have been tokenistic – there is evidence of action being taken. For example, alongside, the chief social workers’ initiatives, some councils – including Brighton and Hove and the London Borough of Sutton – are recruiting practitioners to specific anti-racist practice roles, to tackle inequalities and discrimination in relation to ethnic minority groups and within the profession.

Discuss and debate race in social work

Next week’s Community Care Live – held virtually this year – will include a specific focus on race in social work, including:

Register now for your free place to join the debate on this critical issue for the profession.

4 Responses to Chief social workers to pilot workforce race and equality standard

  1. Emancipated Social Worker October 5, 2020 at 4:39 pm #

    As a Black Social Worker subjected to an ongoing campaign of discriminatory harassment since 2011 this is most welcome, as long as it actually makes a much needed change. After being targeted in the workplace in 2011 and raising a grievance in 2014 citing clearly evidenced race and disability discrimination (which was never responded to) I was forced out of my role and have since been subjected to continued harassment and victimisation, in a manner that is tantamount to a hate crime and that has been pursued in partnership with other organisations inclusive of HCPC, who in partnership with the Local Authority racially profiled and criminalised me on the basis of falsified factually inaccurate, defamatory and slanderous statements made by an AD of HR.
    This is despite a lack of any documentary evidence that could ever substantiate allegations that I was stalking and harassing Council officers.
    Pursuing legal action after being provided with bad references and blacklisted, culminated in a three year legal battle, with each judgement made in my favour, being appealed by the Local Authority in full knowledge that they were pursuing a fraudulent defence. Facilitated due to deliberately withholding my personal data and providing me with fabricated data to cover their discriminatory conduct, as well as Head of service and Head of HR committing perjury.
    It would appear that the colour of ones Black skin equates to having no rights in the workplace, with each and every single Council policy, procedure and legal obligations readily afforded to others, denied to me in my capacity as a Black disabled Social worker.
    Delegated to the underclass of the organisational stratification system and deemed ripe for ill treatment and exploitation, inclusive of allocating a full-time workload, despite working part-time (evidencing breach of contract) whilst my white counterparts were all readily allocated workloads on a pro rate basis in line with their hours of employment.
    While newly qualified white staff where being speedily progressed into management, I was repeatedly unsuccessful, with opportunities being conveniently advertised while I was on annual leave. There was a growing incentive to make my life a living hell and untenable so as to oust me from the team, in full knowledge that my level of experience (19 years plus in 2014) having completed an Msc in Social Work in 1995 and acquired an impressive range of experience inclusive of management, was inconsequential and irrelevant because I would continue to be oppressed on the basis of my skin colour along with my Black colleagues; being managed by far superior white counterparts catapulted into management, because of the colour of their skin and with toxic team dynamics being reflective of slave trade plantations.

    The Local Authority continues to afford white privilege to identified staff who have been complicit and active participants in this ongoing hate crime perpetrated upon my family and I
    (my spouse who also worked for the same Local Authority for over 25 years, was also targeted and subjected to an identical campaign of bullying, intimidation and harassment)
    Meanwhile my right to highlight clearly evidenced and substantiated concerns has continued to fuel the oppressive bullying cycle and name calling, indeed earning me the label of “vexatious complainer” as stated by the Chief Executive who asserts I do not have the right to complain after signing two settlement agreements, which alludes that the Local Authority has the justified right to harass and victimise me without consequences. Even the right to make a complaint about the Chief Executive engaging in bully tactics and consistently failing to respond to evidenced concerns about institutional racism, remain ignored.
    Following two breached settlement agreements, further legal action is being pursued this year in response to ongoing abuse of power and scandalous course of conduct that has flowed from my right to make a grievance citing clearly evidenced racism in hope for the human right to dignity in the workplace, which apparently does not apply to me because of the colour of my skin.

    Needless to say it’s time for much needed change and time for accountability.

  2. James Appledore October 6, 2020 at 7:53 pm #

    In the early 1980’s I had the job title of Race Advisor working alongside adoption social workers as well as delivering training across council departments tackling racism and discrimination. So nothing new about recruiting staff to combat the same now. But guess what, when cuts to budgets and services came to be made, I and colleagues in similar posts were the first ones made redundant. Moral of the tale is that tokenistic ‘strategies’ are never a real attempt to enact structural changes. Where was the commitment to tackle racism when British people of colour, some of them users of our services, were brutalised or killed? Responding to Twitter feeds and social media campaigns might make these leaders feel good but virtue signalling will not change the structural inequalities and race biases in services. Guess what, at the first sign that there is a Tory or media campaign against them, any policies our social care leaders want to embrace will be ditched. Real and lasting change requires stepping outside of the safety of local authorities and engaging with campaigners and comrades fighting injustice in communities and wider society. The time is long past when some of us still living with the vilification that comes with direct action can be bought off with yet more well meaning but toothless policies and strategies which change nothing.

    • Elaine Scott October 9, 2020 at 7:05 pm #

      Long way to go to prove this is anything other than tokenism, flavour of the month. What is the children’s social work leads doing. How has reduction in oversight affected black children and young people in care, has the effect been disproportionate so many questions

  3. Andrew October 12, 2020 at 9:14 am #

    Piloting a strategy, that should do it. Never realised racism suddenly popped out in 2020 and all was sweet until a murder in America.

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