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Social workers call for training on working LGBT+ service users

Social workers do not need to have all the answers when it comes to working with adults or young people questioning their gender or sexuality, but listening and asking open questions helps.

This was one of several key messages which emerged from WillisPalmer’s Independent Social Worker Virtual Drop In this week to coincide with LGBT+ History Month.

ISWs highlighted the importance of receiving training in LGBT+ and gender identity issues to ensure they can practice safely, confidently and using appropriate language when working with children, young people or adults. Furthermore, they wanted clarification about how attitudes towards those questioning their identity or sexuality should be taken into account during parenting or Special Guardianship Order assessments when, for example, outdated and homophobic views were displayed by parents or potential guardians which could impact on the child.

Special guest Lily Hopkins, deputy team manager at Essex County Council, said organisations should get to grips with the basics in terms of working with LGBT+ groups before thinking about more specialist training in such issues.

It was questioned whether members of the LGBT+ community would feel a violation of their privacy if someone was to question their sexuality or gender identification.

But Lily explained: “It is important that people listen. There is always a presumption in society that people are married and have children. People automatically ask how long I have been married for or how many children I have and that is deemed appropriate. Small things like asking someone if they have a partner rather than husband or wife can make a difference as then it is not just presumed that a person is heterosexual.”

Lily also highlighted how small changes in a workplace can really make a difference when recruiting people. “If someone is trans and comes to the workplace for an interview, if there is a gender neutral toilet, it takes away any awkward questions and could put that potential employee more at ease and to feel more confident which could make all the difference whether they get the job or not.”

Pronouns on email signatures also show that people are a positive LGBT+ ally and workplaces should take note of consent forms and the reason why questions around race, ethnicity and sexuality are used – to meet the needs of the people in the local area.

Social workers also discussed how important it is to challenge discrimination in the workplace.

However, it was also agreed that young people are often very positive LGBT+ allies and can be great ambassadors when it comes to challenging discriminatory behaviour and promoting inclusion.

The next Virtual ISW Drop In is Thursday 17 March at 11am to coincide with Social Work Week which is 14-18 March. We are delighted to inform you that Dr Sharon Shoesmith will be presenting at this session.

To sign up, please email Lucy on lucy@willispalmer.com or Dave on dave@willispalmer.com for the log in details.

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