Sharp rise in social workers sharing diversity data with regulator

Just over half have now uploaded details of their protected characteristics to their Social Work England accounts, up from 8% at the end of July, following campaign and addition of questions to registration renewal

Diversity Equality Inclusion write on a sticky note isolated on Office Desk.
Credit: syahrir/Adobe Stock

There has been a sharp rise in the number of social workers sharing data on their protected characteristics with the regulator.

Social Work England said the proportion of registrants sharing this data had reached 52% (52,431) as of 1 November, up from 8% at the end of July and 29% at the end of September.

The information covers registrants’ ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, religion and belief and whether their gender identity is different from their sex at birth.

The regulator has long argued that collecting the data from a critical mass of registrants was necessary to identify and tackle inequalities in relation to social work regulation, particularly fitness to practise procedures. There are longstanding concerns about the overrepresentation of black social workers in fitness to practise referrals, but there is a lack of evidence about what happens to them once they are in the system.

In a paper to its board meeting at the end of last month, Social Work England attributed the rise in registrants submitting their data to a joint communication with sector bodies encouraging practitioners to do so, and the addition of questions on diversity to the current registration renewal process.

The regulator has made engagement with these questions effectively mandatory, though social workers will be able to opt out of answering any of them and there is a prefer not to say option for each question.

Data ‘will help build clearer picture of workforce’

In response to the increase in submissions, a Social Work England spokesperson said: “We would like to say a huge thank you to the 52,431 social workers who have already shared their equality and diversity data with us and urge social workers who have not shared this information to consider doing so.

“This vital data will help us to build a clearer picture of the workforce and identify any trends or differences in outcomes for people in relation to their backgrounds. We have had a great response to our campaign that we launched in the summer with the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), Social Workers’ Union, UNISON, ADASS (Association of Directors of Adult Social Services), and ADCS (Association of Directors of Children’s Services).

“This has been undoubtedly magnified by asking social workers to voluntarily share their equality and diversity information with us as part of our registration renewal process.”

Social Work England said that submission of diversity information will not affect anyone’s application to join the register or renew registration, or the outcome of any fitness to practise process. It said the data would be stored on registrants’ online accounts and could be shared or changed at any time. Information on how data is used is available in Social Work England’s privacy policy.

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8 Responses to Sharp rise in social workers sharing diversity data with regulator

  1. Tom November 5, 2022 at 9:40 am #

    I will not be providing this information. SWE already monetises me to the value of £90 and I will not collude with them sharing my information for their further gain within or outside of social work. Why would a contractor for SWE need to know protected characteristics?

    • Ms Yoni B Ejo November 7, 2022 at 7:53 pm #

      The only way we can evidence we have a fair system is by collecting diversity data. At present men and black social workers are much more likely to be the subject of a complaint. This won’t change until we can provide details.

      • Andy November 10, 2022 at 2:51 am #

        In terms of diversity, how should the social work profession address its huge deficit of male staff such that it more accurately reflects the demography of the communities it serves? And what lessons can SW agencies learn from the governing Conservative party in terms of a demonstrably successful application of its long term strategy of diversity and inclusion and equality of opportunity initiated by David Cameron?

        • Andrea November 10, 2022 at 11:21 am #

          In the Conservative party ideology dominates demographics. In social work platitudes without action is the norm. Neither can learn from each other because neither care for structural change. Both love tokenism without daring to acknowledge it.

  2. Pauline November 8, 2022 at 8:06 am #

    If data changed structurally dysfunctional institutions we wouldn’t have a racist Home Office. It’s not statistics that change inequality, prejudice or unfair practices, it’s individuals coming together to force change. Give SWE everything they require of you as is your choice but don’t expect others to collude with tokenism that benefits only one side of the bargain. It’s a no submission from me too. As an aside all SWE has to do is ask employers the ethnicity data of their employees. The reason they won’t do that is that they want individual specific information. Why might that be I wonder.

    • OldSkool November 10, 2022 at 9:30 am #

      I assume Social Work England are requesting this data from us directly as Employers are NOT allowed to share such data without consent. And I haven’t signed any consent form for this to happen.

      • Kirsten November 10, 2022 at 3:35 pm #

        I am a researcher and have obtained this information from several departments. Employers are not allowed to provide individualised data that can identify a specific worker but they can and have provided me with aggregated demographic information about their employees. They don’t need your consent to provide information about you that doesn’t specifically identify you. SWE could ask for similar information if all they want is information about the workforce. Aggregated information isn’t of any use to third parties for ‘marketing’ purposes and such like ofcourse.

        • Nigel November 11, 2022 at 9:37 am #

          Surely our ‘Regulator’ wouldn’t be interested in using our data for income generation would they?