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8% of social workers considered leaving profession due to racism

Eight per cent of social workers have considered leaving the profession due to the racism they have encountered at work, according to research by What Works for Children’s Social Care.

Racism is taking its toll on the social work profession as nearly one in five children and adult social workers who responded to the poll reported that workplace racism had increased their anxiety. Ten per cent had considered leaving their organisation as a result of racism, with 8% considering leaving social work entirely.

Anna Bacchoo, Director of Practice, What Works for Children’s Social Care, said: “The results of the survey are very 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.”

Nearly 2,000 registered social workers completed the online survey, created by the Anti-Racist Steering Group, comprised of representatives from the Adults’ and Children’s Principal Social Workers’ Networks, Social Work England, Office of the Chief Social Workers, and What Works for Children’s Social Care.

The research revealed that social workers from minoritised ethnic groups experienced higher workloads, increased scrutiny of their work and negative assumptions about their skills. Black and ethnic minority social workers are also disproportionately referred to fitness to practise investigations.

Respondents to the survey also noted that opportunities for career progression were either denied or unavailable to social workers from minoritised ethnic backgrounds.

The survey found:

  • Nearly one in ten social workers had experienced incidents of racism directed at them by colleagues and managers.
  • A similar number (9%) reported witnessing service users or families experiencing racism from colleagues or managers.
  • More than a third (34%) of Black or Asian respondents reported experiencing incidents of racism from service users and families.

Nearly one in five respondents to the survey felt that their organisation was not doing enough to tackle racism, rising to 40% of Black and Asian social workers.

Yet 80% of social work respondents 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.

Farah Khan MBE and Sharon Davidson, Co-Chairs of the Principal Children and Families Social Worker Network, said: “Reflecting on the findings of the survey, it clearly highlights that the racism experienced by social workers continues, and therefore work around awareness of racism is not 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.”

The findings from the survey, and the discussion groups convened in light of the survey, will help shape the Anti-Racist Steering Group’s forthcoming action plan to address racism within social work.

Rachael Wardell, Chair of the ADCS Workforce Development Policy Committee said: “The findings from What Works for Children’s Social Care’s (WWC) anti racism survey report are stark and make for essential reading for anyone within the sector. 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. ADCS will engage with the WWC and sector colleagues to bring forward an action plan that addresses the findings in this report."


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