The chief social workers for adults have urged council senior managers to show “visible leadership” to tackle discrimination and inequalities faced by Black and ethnic minority practitioners in the sector.
The call came as they launched their social care workforce race and equality standard pilot, which will see up to 15 local authorities report on key metrics highlighting disparities in experiences between white staff and those from Black and ethnic minority groups.
In a letter calling for expressions of interest in becoming a pilot site, Mark Harvey and Fran Leddra urged “senior leaders at the highest level” to be involved in developing and reviewing race and diversity policies, practice and procedures from recruitment and selection, professional development opportunities and support with progression.
“Visible leadership in this area, along with effective and consistent implementations can contribute to meaningful and sustained change from the impact on racism on the social care workforce,” they wrote.
Post-George Floyd focus on race
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 and the Black Lives Matters protests that followed.
As part of this, concerns have been raised about a perceived lack of vocal or practical support for race equality among social work leaders.
Earlier in October, the chief social workers held an engagement event for local authority adult social service leaders to discuss the pilot, which was attended by nearly 100 people.
Harvey said on Twitter at the time that it was “time to be open about the workforce issues for colleagues of colour and other ethnic communities and take action”.
The chief social workers plan to engage 10-15 local authority social service departments to commence a workforce race equality standard (WRES) for staff employed by local authority adults’ and children’s services, starting in April 2021. Successful sites will then be supported “via communities of practice and guidance tools”.
The WRES is based on one that applies in the NHS, which requires clinical commissioning groups and NHS providers to provide data on workforce representation, including at seinor levels, the relative risks of disciplinary measures among white and non-white staff and perceived levels of bullying and discrimination among professionals from ethnic minority groups.
A key priority for the social care WRES will be tackling the under-representation of Black and ethnic minority staff in management roles, said Harvey and Leddra. While, a quarter of social workers in council adults’ services whose ethnicity was known were from Black and ethnic minority groups, this applied to 7% of middle and senior managers in adult social services departments, according to the latest NHS Digital workforce statistics.
What the pilot will entail
Harvey and Leddra said the responsibilities of pilot sites included:
- Having leaders champion the initiative from the top of the organisation to promote “a deep examination of its own processes and culture with a focus on action”.
- Dedicated project management capacity.
- A WRES lead should be appointed, reporting to senior managers.
- Involving staff at all levels in the process, with a focus on the experiences of Black and ethnic minority staff.
- The need to set aside time to learn and make necessary improvements.
Councils interested in taking part need to complete a form, setting out how they would implement the WRES, and email it to Nimal Jude, policy adviser to the chief social workers, at email@example.com, by 30 October.