One in ten social workers has considered leaving their job because of racism

New research from What Works for Children’s Social Care has highlighted the prevalence of racist attitudes in social work.

22/03/22

One in ten social workers has considered leaving their job because of racism

New research highlights the toll racism is taking on social workers in England, with one in ten considering leaving their organisation as a result of racism, and 8% considering leaving social work entirely.

Published last week by What Works for Children’s Social Care, the research found that nearly one in five social workers in both children’s and adult’s services who responded to the poll said that workplace racism had increased their anxiety.

The survey found that professionals faced racism from a variety of aspects in their working life, with nearly one in ten social workers (9%) saying they had experienced incidents of racism directed at them by colleagues and managers at least five times in the previous 12 months. A similar number (9%) reported witnessing service users or families experiencing racism from colleagues or managers. More than a third (34%) of Black respondents reported experiencing five or more incidents of racism from service users and families in the previous year.

Respondents to the survey also reported that social workers from minoritised ethnic groups experienced higher workloads, increased scrutiny of their work and negative assumptions about their skills. Respondents noted that opportunities for career progression were either denied or unavailable to social workers from minoritised ethnic backgrounds.

Previous reports have also suggested that black and ethnic minority social workers are disproportionately referred to fitness to practise investigations.

Of all respondents, nearly one in five respondents (18%) felt that their organisation was not doing enough to tackle racism, however this figure more than doubled (to 40%) for those who identified as Black or Asian.

Contrastingly, a majority of the social workers surveyed (80%) felt comfortable and confident intervening when they witnessed racism, with three quarters (76%) feeling there was someone they could approach for support if they witnessed or experienced racism.

Anna Bacchoo, Director of Practice, What Works for Children’s Social Care, said the results of the survey were “difficult to read because they paint a picture of widespread racism that has a serious impact on people’s mental health and career progression.”

“We must work across organisations and agencies to become a more anti-racist profession.”

In a statement, Farah Khan MBE and Sharon Davidson, Co-Chairs of the Principal Children and Families Social Worker Network, said that the survey “clearly highlights” the continuing racism experienced by social workers and that work around awareness is no longer enough.

“At a time when our profession struggles to retain social workers, the impact of racism on our profession, the workforce, the individual and the people we support cannot be underestimated.

“Therefore it is imperative that the findings from this report are used to drive forward sector change. As a network, we will play a key role in driving this change, as tackling racism needs a sector wide collaborative approach.”

Responding to the report, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) said it would be bringing forward an action plan that addresses the findings.

“The report highlights how much more there is to do in improving anti-racist practice and to create a truly inclusive environment for the whole of our workforce. Racism and discrimination have no place in the workplace or in our communities and cannot be tolerated,” said Rachel Wardell, Chair of the ADCS Workforce Development Policy Committee.

Pointing to ongoing work such as the Staff College’s Black and Asian Leadership Initiative (BALI), Wardell said it was crucial to increase diversity in senior leadership roles in social work.

“It’s vitally important that our workforce reflects local communities and that the children we work with see that a career in children’s services is not beyond their reach, yet there are not enough black and other ethnic minority directors across the country.

“Supporting anyone who is working in children’s services to progress to senior and leadership roles, if they want to, continues to be a priority for local authorities and the Association. We each have a responsibility to stand up for change and to challenge ourselves and each other to do more if we are to achieve a fairer, more tolerant and equal society.”

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