Action to tackle fitness to practise inequalities limited by lack of data on social workers, says regulator

Action to tackle fitness to practise inequalities limited by lack of data on social workers, says regulator

Shantel Thomas, of BASW, (proper) has mentioned Social Work England can do extra to deal with racial inequalities after the regulator’s head of equality, range and inclusion, Ahmina Akhtar (centre), launched its motion plan on the problem. They are pictured with Millie Kerr, anti-racist lead practitioner at Brighton & Hove Council.

The lack of information on the career’s range is hindering Social Work England’s efforts to deal with inequalities within the health to practise system, the regulator’s equality lead has mentioned.

Ahmina Akhtar referred to as on registered social staff to share knowledge on their protected traits to allow the regulator to establish the dimensions of inequalities and the right way to deal with them, in an interview to mark the launch of its equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) action plan last week.

Just 4% of registrants have submitted their range knowledge via their on-line accounts with Social Work England. Without extra doing so, the regulator could be unable to attract “dependable conclusions” concerning the affect of its actions on totally different teams, added Ahktar, appointed final yr as its first head of EDI.

However, in response, the British Association of Social Workers and Social Workers Union mentioned motion ought to be taken now in relation to “recognized problems with inequality”, notably, the disproportionate affect of health to practise instances on black and ethnic minority social staff.

This was an issue raised by Social Work England itself in July 2020, when its govt director for health to practise, Jonathan Dillon, mentioned practitioners from minority teams have been disproportionately represented in referrals. He mentioned the regulator didn’t have exact knowledge on this or proof on the way it handled registrants from totally different teams via the health to practise course of, however was dedicated to motion on the problem.

His feedback got here 9 years after predecessor regulator the General Social Care Council had identified disproportionately high rates of fitness to practise referrals concerning black, disabled and male social workers from 2004-11.

‘We haven’t received as a lot knowledge as we want’

Social Work England’s EDI motion plan consists of an goal to “use accessible range knowledge to establish and monitor any disproportionate impacts of our work on totally different teams and take steps to know and take care of potential bias and discrimination”.

This encompasses measures to make sure EDI points are referred to its resolution assessment group, which scrutinises health to follow selections, and to fee analysis on a pattern of instances to establish any themes associated to social staff’ protected traits in referrals from the general public. This is because of happen at the beginning of close to yr, price range allowing.

More broadly, the regulator has revised its method to assessing the affect of its work on EDI and is coaching workers on this.

However, Ahktar mentioned the shortage of information on the career’s range was a block to taking additional motion in addressing inequalities in health to practise and its different regulatory actions.

Learning for social staff on EDI

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“We haven’t received as a lot knowledge as we want. Having that knowledge will allow us to analyse and perceive and, if needed, revise any methods or insurance policies, or take a look at any traits or variations in outcomes for folks with protected traits,” she mentioned.

Social Work England referred to as on registrants to submit their knowledge as a part of final yr’s registration renewal interval, from September to November, and in addition final June, when it simultaneously launched a survey on experiences of racism in the profession.

4% response price

However, simply 4% of England’s roughly 100,000 registered social staff have accomplished so, and Akhtar urged others to comply with go well with.

Under the motion plan, Social Work England will assessment, early subsequent yr, the way it seeks range knowledge from social staff with a purpose to improve the response price, and that it will make use of key “communication and engagement moments” to encourage practitioners to submit.

“To have the ability to draw dependable conclusions about our processes and health to practise referrals we would wish that knowledge,” mentioned Akhtar. “Without it, it will be very difficult.”

Social Work England EDI plan: key factors

  • Reviewing the way in which it seeks range knowledge from social staff with a purpose to improve the response price (Jan-March 2023).
  • Embedding, and coaching workers in, its new method to conducting equality affect assessments of its work (January to June 2022).
  • Commissioning analysis in relation to a pattern of health to practise instances to establish themes associated to the protected traits of social staff in issues raised by the general public (January to March 2023, topic to price range).
  • Ensuring EDI points are thought of in selections to refer health to practise instances to the regulator’s resolution assessment group (January to March 2022).
  • Developing studying outcomes for what ought to be anticipated of social staff, on qualification, together with in relation to equality, range and inclusion and anti-oppressive follow (September 2022).
  • Reviewing the advantages of nameless recruitment to Social Work England, and implementing accordingly (July to September 2022).
  • Analysing workers leavers’ questionnaires, grievances, disciplinaries, promotions and probation extensions by range to establish any inequalities (January to March 2023).
  • Piloting a constructive motion mentoring scheme for employees with protected traits (January to March 2023).

However, whereas welcoming the plan, BASW’s anti-racism lead, Shantel Thomas, mentioned the regulator ought to go a lot additional, saying “everybody is aware of” concerning the disporportionate affect on black and ethnic minority workers of health to practise instances and different points.

“Eighty per cent of the referrals we get to [BASW’s] recommendation and illustration service are to do with race,” she mentioned. “Social staff are failing their ASYE and being disproportionately hit by health to practise…The quantity who’re being referred for disciplinary motion is massively disproportionate.”

Regulator wants ‘zero-tolerance method’

“I don’t suppose it goes far sufficient,” she added. “What I’d anticipate from a regulator is a zero-tolerance stance.”

Thomas mentioned “distrust of authority” could also be behind black and ethnic minority social staff not submitting their range knowledge.

“[People ask]: ‘What are they going to do with the information? We already know the system is systemically racist. We don’t want the information to do inform us that’.”

For the Social Workers Union, common secretary John McGowan mentioned the regulator’s plan “rightly highlights the necessity to co-produce work with folks with a spread of protected traits, and to embed EDI throughout the career from social work programs to organisation cultures”.

But he mentioned it was necessary that “recognized problems with inequality – akin to black and ethnic minority social staff being over-represented in health to practise instances and in addition dealing with disproportionately white adjudication panels – are addressed at once”.

Data launched by the regulator in 2020 confirmed that 80% of impartial adjudicators sitting on the regulator’s health to follow panels have been white, with 18% from black, Asian, mixed-race or different backgrounds. This is beneath the proportion of non-white social staff within the career, which was 22% in statutory children’s services and 27% in adults’ services as of September 2020.

Social Work England lately held a recruitment drive for health to practise panels focused at folks from underrepresented teams.

Ahktar mentioned this was among the many steps it was taking to deal with health to practise inequalities.

BASW criticises lack of anti-racist follow focus

Thomas additionally criticised the plan’s lack of reference to anti-racist follow, and Social Work England’s failure to include the idea into its professional standards.

The requirements presently require social staff to “recognise variations throughout numerous communities and problem the affect of drawback and discrimination on folks and their households and communities”, and to “promote social justice, serving to to confront and resolve problems with inequality and inclusion”.

But they make no direct reference to anti-discriminatory, anti-oppressive or anti-racist follow. The EDI plan consists of an goal to develop studying outcomes for what ought to be anticipated of social staff, on qualification, together with in relation to equality, range and inclusion and anti-oppressive follow.

However, Thomas mentioned: “They don’t discuss anti-racist follow, versus anti-oppressive and anti-discriminatory follow, and so they nonetheless haven’t included anti-racist follow into skilled requirements. We will not be giving this the eye it deserves.”

In response, Ahktar mentioned: “As a regulator, Social Work England has set out skilled requirements that require social staff to ‘confront and resolve problems with inequality and inclusion’ and ‘problem the affect of drawback and discrimination’. We anticipate social staff to think about all types of discrimination when they’re making use of these requirements to their every day roles. Our motion plan addresses many various types of inequality that individuals with lived and discovered expertise of social work encounter.

“Our focus stays on all points regarding equality, range and inclusion with a purpose to have the largest affect on folks’s lives. Race is necessary. So is incapacity, neurodiversity, faith, and all the opposite subjects that EDI encompasses. We know that we are able to’t obtain change alone and we all know that we are able to’t obtain change by only one piece of the puzzle. The key’s a big scale, coordinated effort the place the sector works collectively for lasting change.”

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