Black, ethnic minority and disabled practitioners face ‘disproportionate’ difficulties passing ASYE, says BASW

Professional body calls for external regulator to ensure the ASYE is being applied consistently and in an anti-discriminatory manner after receiving multiple concerns from disabled social workers and those from ethnic minorities

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Black, ethnic minority and disabled social workers (NQSWs) are facing “disproportionate” problems passing their assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE), according to the British Association for Social Workers (BASW).

Staff from BASW’s advice and representation (A&R) service said that much of their caseload in relation to the ASYE concerns disabled newly qualified social workers or those from Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities who have either had their programmes put ‘on hold’ or been told that they are failing.

A&R officer Laura Sheridan said that she was currently representing four people through difficulties with the ASYE programme – three of whom were Black women, one of whom was disabled.

Another team member’s three most recent cases were representing social workers, all of whom were Black, through difficulties with their ASYE, while another team member represented four social workers through their ASYE in the last year – three of whom were from Black or ethnic minority groups. One of these practitioners also had a disability, as did the fourth, white, social worker they represented.

Calls to the team’s duty service in relation to the ASYE also disproportionately related to disabled staff or those from Black or ethnic minority groups.

Delays with provision of equipment

In a blog post on BASW’s website, Sheridan wrote that the service had represented disabled members who have faced delays with the provision of their equipment, which has subsequently led to delays in them passing their ASYE or, at worst case, dismissal from their jobs as they had not met their contractual requirement to pass the ASYE.

How the ASYE works

The ASYE year is designed to support NQSWs to consolidate learning from their pre-qualifying programmes and ensure they can meet the standards of the knowledge and skills statements for children’s or adults’ services.

For the children’s programme, employers receive £2,000 per NQSW from the Department for Education, whereas for the adults’ programme payments are worth £1,000-£2,000 per practitioner from the Department of Health and Social Care, with money distributed by Skills for Care.

During the ASYE, NQSWs are expected to carry managed caseloads and are supported by an assessor or supervisor, who assesses their progress over the year. The assessor’s record and a critical reflection diary completed by the NQSW are the evidence base on which decisions are made as to whether the social worker has successfully completed the ASYE.

The ASYE is not compulsory for employers or NQSWs, but some employers do use the year to make decisions about social workers’ ongoing employment.

She added: “We have seen examples of members from Black, Asian and ethnic minority groups facing more scrutiny and criticism in comparison to their white counterpart colleagues. We are aware of members who have had their ASYE delayed as a result of raising complaints about discrimination…Quite simply, these are issues that should not be occurring in any employment and certainly not in a social work setting.

“The ASYE should be a supportive programme that enables a newly qualified social worker to develop their skills and knowledge in a supported environment,” Sheridan said.

External regulator needed

She called for an external regulator to ensure the ASYE was being applied “consistently and in an anti-discriminatory manner”.

ASYE programmes are managed and assessed by employers, who are expected to moderate assessments to ensure they are consistent. In the case of adults’ ASYE programmes, there is also some external moderation provided by local ASYE partnerships and a national panel, which checks 5% of ASYE assessment reports. The quality assurance systems for both adults’ and children’s ASYE schemes are overseen by Skills for Care.

In response to BASW’s claims, Graham Woodham, Skills for Care’s programme head for the regulated professional workforce, said: “As part of Skills for Care’s quality assurance process for ASYE programmes we are currently undertaking the latest round of quality assurance visits.”

“In each of these we are having a conversation with programme leaders, supervisors and NQSWs about equality and diversity, including specific reference to racial discrimination.”

Adults PSW Network ‘very concerned’

Jenefer Rees and Simon Homes, co-chairs of the Adult Principal Social Worker Network, said they “completely condemned” any form of discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnicity, disability or any other protected characteristic.

“We are very concerned to read that there is a disproportionate representation from these groups accessing this support members of the network are striving to challenge and address all types of inequality and discrimination in the health and social care sector,” they said.

While Rees and Homes said the development and implementation of a workforce race equality standard (WRES) in social care would have an impact on NQSWs during their ASYE over time, more immediately they would raise the issue with PSWs across the country “to ensure vigilance and prevention of discrimination in this way”. The WRES has been set up by the DHSC’s interim chief social workers for adults, and is being used by 18 local authorities, to promote a better response from employers to social workers from Black and ethnic minority groups.

“There is an internal moderation process for the ASYE programme as well as a national external panel, which is led by Skills for Care, adding a layer of scrutiny and objectivity to the programme and outcomes. Also, human resource departments have a key part to play in supporting all employees, including NQSWs,” Rees and Homes added.

Spotlight on race in social work

The claims come with the issue of race in social work under the spotlight, following the killing of George Floyd last year in the USA and the Black Lives Matters protests that followed. Significant concerns have been raised by, among others, BASW professional officer Wayne Reid, that responses to Floyd’s killing and the BLM protests from social work leaders have been muted or tokenistic.

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 microscope 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.

More from Community Care

39 Responses to Black, ethnic minority and disabled practitioners face ‘disproportionate’ difficulties passing ASYE, says BASW

  1. Sandi February 24, 2021 at 11:22 am #

    I am a black agency social worker. I choose to be an agency worker. Stop turning everything as if it’s being done to us rather than us having the choice over how we work and who we work for. That’s our true liberation. No grievience here.

  2. Michael February 24, 2021 at 1:58 pm #

    Sandi, you’re one of the fortunate practitioner’s that either passed their ASYE without issue or became a practitioner before the advent of ASYE. Your comment fails to take into account the pith of this article which is lamenting those BAME SWs who haven’t practiced long enough to enable them to be able to choose who to work for, on a locum basis. The issues mentioned in this article are real, as I know of black SWs who have been subjected to undue scrutiny and a lack of support from their instructors. For a profession that is supposed to be a paragon of promulgating matters of social justice and anti-discriminatory practice, some within the profession fall massively short of this expectation. Thus, I implore you to not underplay the experiences others of your racial background are encountering.

    • Dotty February 24, 2021 at 10:10 pm #

      Hello Sandi, just to let you know that there are so many BAME people who have graduated and are unable to get jobs because they have not done ASYE. I know of a family man who had to move to Cardiff to get a job.

    • Linda February 24, 2021 at 10:51 pm #

      Well said Michael, Sandi should not to underplay the lived and working experiences others of racial background are encountering.

    • Seyi February 24, 2021 at 11:54 pm #

      Well said Michael! The articles is talking mainly about how NQSW with disabilities and BAME group are being scrutinised disproportionately, and not decision to work for agency or not. Arguably most people work for agency for more money or flexibility, but that’s not the main point here. As a student preparing for my final placement and potential ASYE, these are real concerns for me and it’s good that am aware that I might be scrutinised more than my colleagues due to the colour of my skin.
      But the point of social work is to challenge status quo and speak up so am bracing myself for any future challenges.

    • Belinda February 25, 2021 at 2:19 am #

      Thank you Michael I think Sandi did miss the pith of this article. I am a NQSW and joined a team on January 4th and was on duty week, by end of week had 13 children to complete Assessments for, we know duty and assessment is a fast paced area. I was being supported by an AP who had moved from one side of SW to Assessment and had never worked in Assessment before, now imagine that! . By my end of week 2 of visits following on from duty week, I contracted Coronavirus and was off for the 10 days isolation including weekend but was more or less expected back soon after those 10 days as my cases were in limbo. It was then I discovered that my other NQSWs colleagues had between 1 to 6 children case load for their 1st experience and were supported by an excellent AP who is known for that great support to NQSWs within the Assessment team, now when one looks at the ethnic origins of these NQSWs and their support, it lives me to believe there has been some amount of discrimination and I was set up for failure right from when I set foot into the team. Never mind on my return to duty week being told one of my assessments was not good enough and was pulled back by senior management therefore “you are going to fail this ASYE” said my manager, how do I even complete the following 7 months when I have been knocked back on my 5th month.

    • Joy McCalla February 27, 2021 at 6:39 am #

      I agree with you wholeheartedly. Not because you Sandi has not experience that is being discusssed means it’s not accurate. “There goes I for the grace of god”

    • Luke March 19, 2021 at 12:25 am #

      I agree Michael. Sandi, your comment is very biased and as someone from a BAME background, the scrutiny I have faced over the tinniest matters is unbelievable. Unfortunately, I can’t “choose who to work for” as most local authorities will not employ social workers unless they have completed their ASYE.

  3. Tammy February 24, 2021 at 5:06 pm #

    I was an ASYE who had to leave employment due to discrimination and bullying. It wqs incredibly difficult trying to navigate being Newly qualified and ASYE expectations, with the treatment I was receiving. I ended up putting in a grievance, but the response was superficial on the surface, but behind the scenes my manager was requested to retire, and I was allowed to leave without paying back a welcome payment. But there was no acknowledgement about the way I was treated. Yet I was one of several ASYEs who felt they had to leave before their two year contracts ended, of fear of being further persecuted.

  4. Mac February 24, 2021 at 10:40 pm #

    What are you trying to say Sandi? Why not share your own experiences and use it to support others who are facing difficulties??

  5. Sandi February 25, 2021 at 1:12 am #

    I am not talking about the ASYE. I have my own experiences of that. I am talking about the constant narrative about black workers being as it were forced to work as agency staff if they want to practice. I don’t appreciate being described as a ‘victim’, that I have no control over my life and work choices. I do not doubt the veracity of the rest of the points.

    • Michael February 25, 2021 at 10:19 am #

      Hi Sandi. Your response is still clearly failing to acknowledge the centering of the argument posited by the author of this article. That you’ve stated you’re not talking about ASYE is what I, and others are asserting as somewhat missing the point, and to a degree smacking of insensitivity to the plight of our fellow colleagues. Nowhere in this article does the author allude to black SWs being forced to work in the locum market; it’s your experiences of ASYE that would have been helpful regarding us further discussing and dissecting this topical issue. Whatever your experiences, I hope they’ve impressed on your the centrality of justice, fairness and racial equality. All the best in all your future endeavours Sandi.

      Thanks must be extended to Community Care for affording us the latitude to explore issues of such importance. Keep up the good work!

    • Mandiej February 26, 2021 at 8:56 am #

      Sandi did you even read the article properly?. Your comment really undermines this article it’s not about you so stop dismissing other people’s challenges.

  6. Su seymour February 25, 2021 at 6:35 am #

    I am having disproportionate difficulty even passing my degree it has broken down with only 4 months left as my autism is a barrier to me being found placements.. I am gutted

    • Piribeth February 25, 2021 at 10:19 am #

      Hello Su.have u sought support through your university student union. They are usually good.

  7. Piribeth February 25, 2021 at 9:37 am #

    Nothing new here it starts from when BAME students mostly Black students are studying on either the undergraduate or Masters social work programs. Disproportionately high numbers of black students are taken through the fitness to practice panels in comparison to their white counterparts, more withdrawals, less degree attainment, termination of placements without proper investigations, favouritism of white students than black students were there is more than one student on a particular placement, mocking of accents. The list is endless. These are some of the daily lived experiences of black people in the social work profession. SWE England has a lot to do including white practitioners and educators. Its shocking some of the stories one hears for a profession guided by social justice principles, AOP and ADP. When you look at the fast track programs there is hardly any BAME students or leaders. All senior advisors in social work education, policy, SWE, department of health and education are all white and no disabled person either. Yet there is nearly 30% of BAME qualified social workers with similar percentage according to UCAS data of BAME students coming into the both undergraduate & masters programs. This needs to change and challenge social construction of whiteness, white fragility and ensure more black faces in places that influence the profession.

    • Luke March 19, 2021 at 12:29 am #

      Agreed! I am in a team of 50 at a local authority team and I am the only minority here. I feel like I am being watched under a microscope!

  8. Andy February 25, 2021 at 10:28 am #

    The social work profession has, for several decades, been at the epicentre of training on the principles of anti-discrimination, equality and diversity, part of whose objective is to ensure the application of those principles for the benefit of recipients of social care services as well as for staff working in those services.
    The issues addressed in this article involve NOBODY but social work professionals, every single one of whom will have been required to demonstrate on an ever more comprehensive range of levels, the effective application of the above principles in order to receive their qualification.
    Judging from this article and many similar articles over the years, the awkward question must be asked, “why does the training seem to be so ineffective?”
    Is it because the training is fundamentally flawed? Or are social workers somehow unable or unwilling to put this fundamental area of their training into practice?
    Perhaps there should be a review of training or maybe there should be another pilot of yet more quality standards or action plans; clearly these have all been suggested and/or tried before seemingly to little or no avail which is quite an unsettling observation.

  9. Alton February 25, 2021 at 11:23 am #

    Slightly ironic for you all too berate the profession for not living up to it’s so claimed anti-discrimination rhetoric but to then pile into Sandi. Sandi has a right to define their own personal experiences and refuse to be portrayed as being only able to practice by becoming agency when that’s the choice they have made for themselves. Or does only one narrative have merit for you here?

    • Luke March 19, 2021 at 12:32 am #

      Who’s ‘you all’? Sandi’s comments misses the point of the article. You seem triggered by this article too. Simmer down.

  10. Jason February 25, 2021 at 12:20 pm #

    Dear sandi, please don’t downplay experiences of others. I am a black social worker and if I tell you what I went through I will just start crying. Thankfully I now work for a manager that is supportive and truly believes in non discriminory practice.

    • Luke March 19, 2021 at 12:32 am #

      Sorry to hear that Jason! Glad to hear things have now changed for the better!

  11. Gbemisole Kehinde February 25, 2021 at 1:22 pm #

    About to start my degree on Social Work and this article is letting me having change of mind.

    • Olu Adewole February 28, 2021 at 10:32 pm #

      Gbemisola, pls dont have a change of mind. Social work is an enviable profession and it gives you an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives and be a change agent in the society. True, there are pitfalls but notwithstanding stay focused on your dreams.

  12. Sandi February 25, 2021 at 1:59 pm #

    Jason how is saying I believe in the veracity of the article points other than the narrative about agency workers downplaying your and others experiences? Ironically its those of you who refuse to allow me to expess my own experiences that are being discriminatory.

  13. Nicola February 25, 2021 at 5:02 pm #

    I don’t agree with discrimination and I would like to see this looked into. If this article has evidence why is this not being challenged to the countries directors who all meet regularly. I have found that some managers don’t like up and coming new enthusiastic workers. I do understand that some people are not up to standard and should not pass their ASYE but this should be clear and concise on the reasons why. It’s a hard transition from university to doing case work and experiences of managers and teams can have a significant impact on workers. Sadly ASYE are walking into teams with staff who themselves may only be 2 years qualified and the manager 4 years qualified. We have lost experience workers to help and guide new staff and allow them to learn in a protected way. I am so sorry to read about the discrimination but hope people can take this further and make the change. I can also verify being a SW for near on 30 years that some managers have no empathy or care

  14. Alison February 25, 2021 at 9:33 pm #

    Michael the article talks about “disproportionate representation” of black social workers in agency work which might be another way of saying black social workers are forced to work as agency. Perhaps read the article again before ascribing thoughts to our collague they don’t seem to have. Not all of us are helpless victims of wicked managers. I choose to work agency because we get paid better and I can walk away if I don’t like how I am treated. ASYE is flawed and deliberately set up to exploit workers and benefit the employer. As for insensitivity, might the denial of the right of our collague to express their own view and experiences be a tad insensitive?

    • Michael February 25, 2021 at 11:40 pm #

      Duly noted Alison. I shall reflect on your observations. Thanks.

  15. Tracy February 25, 2021 at 9:45 pm #

    I am an ASYE who is black and with disabilities and currently experiencing all the issues highlighted by this article. Currently don’t even have an end date for my ASYE. I also contacted corona virus and was off work for six weeks and still struggling with post covid symptoms. My cohort completes in soon, I don’t know if I will complete because everyday brings different challenges especially when people can not understand one’s disability and the difficulties and challenges one faces. When I get distressed about how I am treated, I am always told I do have emotional resilience. These issues are real. My ASYE is a traumatic experience that I would not want anyone to go through. I constantly questions the social work values of anti-discrimination and antiopressive practice and I don’t want anyone to go through what I’m going through.

  16. Alison February 25, 2021 at 9:55 pm #

    So Sandi is wrong to talk about agency working but those of you berating Sandi are empowered to ignore the points about disabled workers? Just let people speak their own experiences. Perhaps reflect on how oppressive it is to tell collagues they are articulating the ‘wrong’ views.

  17. Tochi February 26, 2021 at 7:55 am #

    I for one as a black Social Worker experienced all forms of bullying and belittling during my ASYE days from my supposed manager and supervisor who gave little or no support.

    The supervisor threatened me with failure at the last stages of review, which was baffling as you would expect that any concerns would have been brought to attention at the initial stages of review.

    I had to fight for my supervisor to be changed. At the end, they grudgingly awarded me a pass.
    We need to learn to fight back instead of retreat. Follow all channels of escalation if need be.
    I know this may be difficult for a Newly Qualified, who is still trying to understand the system and wanting to be on the good side of their superiors.

  18. Angela February 26, 2021 at 4:30 pm #

    I thought Social Work England regulates social workers so that they act ethically? They should be proactive in sanctioning those supervisors and managers who discriminate against black and disabled social workers. I urge my collagues to report these people to SWE if their employers refuse to deal with them. We pay our money to SWE so let’s hold them to their claim that they do not tolerate racism. Surely this is a fitness to practice issue?

  19. MHSW March 1, 2021 at 8:02 pm #

    As usual with articles on here that conclude that racism is the reason for a problem, there is no evidence to support the conclusion. It could be a reason, along with many others, for the disproportionate representation of BAME SWs having difficulty with their ASYE. However, there is no critical analysis. More disappointingly is the empty words from leaders of the profession who fall over themselves to declare racism abhorrent, which is obvious.

    For there not to be any further thinking to understand the problem lets down these SWs. Defaulting to race being the overriding cause for a problem is rarely going to result in getting to the bottom of the issue and absolves personal responsibility of the individual. It also waters down the response when actual racism happens.

    Just look at this thread of comments. Falling over yourselves to shout at a dissenting view to the dogma of viewing race as the primary problem in every scenario.

    • Al March 5, 2021 at 6:36 pm #

      Couldn’t agree more!

    • Luke March 19, 2021 at 12:37 am #

      Sounds about white. Please do not speak on a matter you have not experienced.

  20. Ali March 2, 2021 at 11:27 am #

    How can there be a rounded discussion when one collague
    Mandiej, berates another Sandi, for being a narcissist and inability to read and understand? Odd that one person is criticised for talking about personal experiences by others talking about their own experiences. Oh well.

  21. Patrick March 2, 2021 at 11:44 am #

    If I calculate correctly BASW base this on the 11 people, 2 white, they have represented? The problems with ASYE are manifold. Racist and discriminatory beliefs and behaviours are a large part of it but we will never be taken seriously as a profession if we make claims with absolute certainty based on this kind of evidence. How about a survey of ASYE practitioners across the country to ascertain why black workers have such a poor experience? Than employers will have to really account for their discriminatory treatment of black workers rather than hide behind this sort of data. I say this as a black male ASYE worker who has had a horrendous experience under the supervision of a manager who was eventually dismissed for “inappropriate” comments about black and “immigrant”, workers and why gay man should not be working with children. Apparently these were well known and said over a long time but the time was never right to hold him to account until 2020.

  22. Olu March 6, 2021 at 2:33 pm #

    Completely agree MHSW. I for one am unimpressed with the knee jerk virtue signalling that becomes the inevitable debate rather than the substance of all our experiences of racism.

  23. Luke March 19, 2021 at 12:44 am #

    As a BAME LGBT ASYE SW this experience has caused me to experience severe anxiety. I feel like I am being over scrutinised for the tiniest matters compared to my white colleagues who are not even aware of what scrutiny is. The ASYE is ran by ALL white practitioners. I am in a team of 50 and the ONLY LGBT and the ONLY BAME SW. I have experienced homophobia and covert racism. The year feels like a chance for me to be scrutinised instead of supported. I feel like the ASYE programme should either be reviewed or scrapped as a whole. We should not be completing university like assignments after completing a whole degree. ALL ASYE SW’s I have spoke to have stated they wish the ASYE programme did not exist as they feel like it is just extra work and that this ‘supported’ year can be provided in another manner.