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“Working with diversity is not an optional area”: The importance of cultural competence

Speaking at the COMPASS Jobs Fair social work event last week, Vivian Okeze-Tirado discussed the importance of cultural competence in today’s social work landscape.

28/11/22

“Working with diversity is not an optional area”: The importance of cultural competence

Diversity and inclusion are vital to good social work, an audience heard at the COMPASS Jobs Fair in London last week.

“Without it we are not tapping into the talent it brings and that’s a waste,” said West Sussex Social Worker Vivian Okeze-Tirado.

Vivian discussed diversity and cultural competence in social work, saying: “As social workers we signed up to promote social justice and change, to confront and resolve instances of inequality and promote inclusion.”

Ms Okeze-Tirado, who was overall Social Worker of the Year in 2021, said that the Equality Act of 2010 currently protects nine characteristics: age, disability, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and gender reassignment.

In addition to working within this framework, social workers need cultural competence. Ms Okeze-Tirado defined culture as an inherited system of shared beliefs, customs and behaviours used by an individual. It is demonstrated through various means – food, hair, and music are obvious examples.

“Social workers see that culture is dynamic and learn about the differences in people who need social services. Culturally competent social workers understand the cultures of people they serve and approach with cultural insight, sensitivity and respect. To work with cultural competence, you need to be emotionally intelligent.”

Ms Okeze-Tirado introduced her acrostic poem, a training method which leads the practitioner towards becoming culturally sensitive in practice.

In the acrostic, D, for example, stands for Decide; “deciding to become a culturally sensitive practitioner is the first step. You have to make a conscious decision to work with everyone across the whole service that needs help.

“I is about inviting people to talk about their culture, values and beliefs. When you work with a family, you have to know what is most important to them. We are inviting service users to tell us their individual stories and help educate us on how to work with them.

“V is about valuing their history, individuality and difference. We have to show respect and that sometimes means learning to have a blank expression.”

“Working with diversity is not an optional area,” Vivian said.

The full acrostic and further elements of diversity and cultural competence are available in The Diversity Acrostic Poem; practical steps for Social Workers, Social Care Practitioners, Foster Carers. It is available from https://vottraining.co.uk/ price £20

You can find out more about social work in West Sussex at their Children’s Services Recruitment Event on Tuesday 29th November 2022 between 15:00 and 19:00 at Lodge Hill Centre, Pulborough: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/children-young-people-and-learning-recruitment-event-tickets-460924005107

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