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Developing networks and coming together as practitioners to tackle racism in social work

The Scottish Association of Social Work (SASW) has announced an action plan to tackle racism in social work.

16/05/22

Developing networks and coming together as practitioners to tackle racism in social work

The plan builds on last year’s report, ‘Racism in Scottish Social Work: a 2021 snapshot’, which found that racism is widespread and had a significant impact on black and minority ethnic (BAME) social workers.

Contributors detailed examples of their own experiences of racism, in employment and education; from colleagues, managers and service users.

The report also found that when racism was reported, it was rarely dealt with satisfactorily.

The Scottish action plan is part of a wider Equality and Diversity Initiative being implemented across the UK by the British Association of Social Work (BASW).

The plan is divided into four priority areas:
- Social Work Practice and Education
- Leadership
- SASW Staff and the National Standing Committee (NSC), and
- Stakeholder Influencing and Campaigning

The aims in Social Work Practice and Education include developing training, potentially with funding, to offer to workplaces and education settings.

SASW also promises to ‘reach out to universities, practice educators and the SSSC [Scottish Social Services Council] to highlight the experiences and needs of students from minoritised backgrounds, who frequently report differential or unfair treatment in academia and practice learning settings.’

SASW will also give support and guidance to social workers experiencing racism and wants BAME members and their allies to write and speak up about racism, to raise awareness across the profession.

It will produce a follow-up survey and host roundtable discussions to assess the impact of the plan, and to include more members views.

Under ‘Leadership’, SASW’s aim is for wider diversity within the workforce, especially in increased BAME representation in leadership roles.

SASW will work with Social Work Scotland on specific measures to tackle the current lack of diversity, including discussions and a commitment to action with current leaders.

SASW says that data collection on equality and diversity in the workforce also needs to be improved and widened.

Changes in the organisation, its structures and staff will ensure values reflecting Equality, Diversity and Inclusion are visible in all SASW’s work. This will mean promoting diversity in its staff group and in its National Standing Committee.

It will be actively looking for applications from diverse groups to membership of the NSC, and ensuring information is shared widely with members.

SASW representation on the BASW Advisory group will be promoted and supported, and SASW’s anti-racism agenda will feature in its business plan and quarterly reviews.

Promoting anti-racism will be a key part of SASW’s collaborative work with stakeholders across the sector. This will include SASW being an advocate for anti-racism to be part of all areas where social work policy and practice are discussed. It will also build relationships and look for opportunities ‘to consider developing joint programmes of work where we have common aims.’

“I have been in practice in Scotland since 2017,” said social worker Toyin Adenugba-Okpaje. “Since then some things are better, some the same and others slightly worse.”

“Better, in that there is more concern about BAME issues; there’s more noise and people are beginning to listen. We are developing networks and coming together as practitioners, and so becoming more powerful.

“The system is listening. Stakeholders are asking about racism and how to deal with it – universities are saying how can we work together to address the issues there.

“It is more of the same in the sense that we are making the change but also seeing the need for so much more work – and asking how long can we sustain our efforts? In my own personal experience, you get tired and some of the momentum has gone, so things are getting better but slowly.

“Where it is worse is in returning to the office – now there is so much more on your plate. It is the reality of life that we have so many things to deal with day-to-day, tackling racism is not always seen as important as it was before.”

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