Almost half of Black safeguarding professionals (BSPs) say they lack fair and equal opportunities to progress in the workplace, with the problem particularly acute in children’s social care.
That was a key finding from a survey of 100 BSPs, which also found that almost two-thirds felt their ethnicity had resulted in barriers being imposed upon them in their career, and that 54% disagreed that they were at the point they should be in their careers.
Among the 35% respondents who worked in children’s social care, most said they lacked fair and equal opportunities and three-quarters said their ethnicity had imposed barriers on their career progression.
The online survey was carried out from July to September last year by Kijiji, a network that seeks to empower BSPs. It defines the group as practitioners who work to safeguard children or support their families to protect them, who self-identify as Black and whose total or partial ancestry come from any of the Black racial groups of the African diaspora.
Its report on the survey said that while it was important not to over-generalise from the responses of 100 professionals, the headline results chimed with anecdotal feedback from Kijiji over members the past six months, so were likely to be indicative of wider feelings among BSPs.
Low representation at senior level
It added that the findings also fitted with the low representation of Black professionals in leadership roles across organisations. Analysis published last year by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) found that 1% of directors identified as Black African and the same proportion as Black Caribbean, despite 12% of children’s social workers in England being Black.
The report also identified challenges for BSPs about raising race-related issues within the workplace – a problem that has come under the spotlight following the killing of George Floyd. Half of respondents disagreed that they found it easy to raise racial issues within the organisation or with clients, with a third agreeing.
The survey also found that almost half of respondents (45%) said there was no active equality, diversity and inclusion strategy within their workplace.
And in the context of the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Black people, and those from other ethnic minorities, 37% agreed that their organisation had responded well to the pandemic by providing sufficient protection for BSPs, though 31% disagreed.
Concerns with ‘BAME’ label
The report also raised concerns about the use of the term Black Asian and minority ethnic (BAME), as it risked conflating the experience of BSPs with those of other professionals from ethnic minority groups.
Laurelle Brown, a children’s services consultant who is director and co-founder of Kijiji, said: “Diverse workforces, with fair and equitable opportunities for all staff, enable decisionsand processes to protect diverse children and young people from harm to be shaped by those withdiverse identities and experiences.
“Too often, the experience and outcomes of Black safeguarding professionals is shrouded by being mislabelled as ‘BAME’; organisations and services must prioritise investment in effective strategies and action to address issues preventing Black safeguarding professionals from thriving.”
The report recommended that service leaders:
- Commission culturally competent independent resources to engage BSPs and to provide a ‘safe’ forum to listen and understand their experience of race equality within the workplace.
- Undertake workforce audits to provide evidence-based picture of workforce equality and experience of progression and opportunities for all staff.
- Ring-fence sustainable funding to commission and/or employ dedicated equality, diversity and inclusion’ expertise to co-develop strategies to tackle the root causes of structural and systemic barriers that result in poor workforce outcomes for BSPs.
- Create and maximise senior officer sponsored ring-fenced leadership opportunities for BSPs where there is evidence of racial exclusion in such roles.
- Invest in high quality, equitable learning and development opportunities for BSPs, for example, secured through nominated places where appropriate.
- In the context of Covid-19, actively identify their BSPs that may be at greater risk and work with them to understand this and explore how they can be offered additional support and protection.