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BASW Chair blog: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Reflecting on 'Living Our Values: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in BASW'...

Last week I gave a talk to the Academy of Social Justice about Living Our Values: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the British Association of Social Workers*

I talked about the strength and history of social work's global ethics around recognising diversity and challenging oppression. And the sad fact that we are still a fair way from fully embedding equality, diversity and inclusion in social work systems.

In our Heritage Event in June 2020 for BASW’s 50th birthday, one of our speakers Lena Dominelli (who literally wrote the book on anti-oppressive social work) said that social workers are committed to fighting oppression, however we work and live in an oppressive and unequal system.

Social workers have a lot to bring to this work from personal and professional commitment, decades of activism and lived experience.

Our context encourages us to act: Covid-19 has again shown up the inequality in our society; horrific racialised violence such as the murder of George Floyd earlier this year adds impetus; and the recent report on Black people, racism and human rights from the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights summarises the impact of failures to secure Black people’s human rights in the UK, including in health care, criminal justice and immigration – all areas that affect social work support.

The report highlights the importance of a human rights approach, education and proactive anti-racist action to reduce inequalities. These are essential messages for social work.

In early June BASW’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion advisory group made a statement saying that BASW will work tirelessly to ensure that everyone in the UK is safe and free to live their lives feeling valued and included. BASW continues to act on our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion plan with urgency.

We reported at our Annual General Meeting on changes in the representation on Council and we put anti-oppressive leadership and practice at the heart of our 2025 Vision.

We are working on inclusion across our committees, changing our language and increasing the diversity of our activities. The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion advisory group informs our actions.

As well as advising BASW on how to better ‘walk the talk’, the broad priority areas for the group are to: improve continual professional development around anti-oppressive and anti-racist practice; respond more robustly to oppression faced by people in society; and challenge and overcome oppression at work.

I concluded the seminar last week by saying that equality, diversity and inclusion is the urgent topic of our time. If we want to fulfil our aspirations, the sense of urgency that social work has always felt requires structural changes in our sector and society. I am grateful to all who give their time, energy and emotion to this.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights’ report says ‘Whilst the issues of racial inequality have been the subject of repeated reviews, the lack of progress in implementing the findings of those reviews has become a source of intense frustration and concern.”

BASW is tasked with not giving up or forgetting about this. And we will not.

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"The Academy for Social Justice were delighted that Gerry Nosowska, Chair of the British Association of Social Workers took the time to speak to Academy members at an Academy online seminar. Gerry’s vast experience of social work and her insights into the work BASW are doing around equality, diversity and inclusion made for a really interesting seminar and the challenges she openly discussed around this important topic resonated with many members who are grappling with the same concerns in their own field." - Janet Cullinan, Head of Academy for Social Justice

*This seminar is available from the Academy of Social Justice’s Knowledge Hub, however you will need to sign up for free to access.