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Black and minoritised ethnic social workers continue to experience racism at work, a report from the Scottish Association of Social Work finds

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Black and minoritised ethnic social workers continue to experience racism at work, a report from the Scottish Association of Social Work finds

Nearly 90% of black and minoritised ethnic social workers in Scotland who responded to a survey from the Scottish Association of Social Work (SASW) have experienced racism. When they report it, organisations are often unprepared and uncomfortable, resulting in responses that are ineffective and feel dismissive. The findings have been shared in a report, launched by the Association, “Racism in Scottish social work: a 2021 snapshot.” Incidents of racism documented ranged from harassment and name calling to unwelcome hair touching and comments about skin colour. Those who had reported incidents typically found responses from their employers unsatisfactory. One said: “It disappeared into a vacuum”. Another said, “I have been told on numerous occasions that it’s just part of the job and that I shouldn’t be offended.”

SASW Committee Member, Oluwatoyin Adenugba, and chair of the group “Minority Ethnic Social Workers in Scotland”, said: “Although the results of the survey and roundtable discussion were not a surprise, I am still quite disheartened by the findings, which are only a snapshot of the lived experience of minority social workers in Scotland. Recently, I have been speaking with a wide variety of social workers who identify as “minority ethnic” and regardless of the numbers of years of work experience, some have 30 or so plus years, the experience of explicit/implicit racism and discrimination remain the same. As such, it is heartening stakeholders across the country engaging in the conversation and creating awareness around this damaging issue. My hope is the change train will continue to move forward, and improvements are seen by those with lived experience.”

Further issues raised in the report included a lack of black and minority ethnic representation among social work lecturers and leadership. Concerns about emotional wellbeing were high among black and minority ethnic students who also experienced more difficulties in placements. When asked what needs to be done to create more diverse and inclusive work and education environments, training was the top answer followed by increasing  diversity across the whole workforce.


The report warns that racism can be embedded into work systems and, despite social work’s value base, “we cannot assume that practitioners are immune to the impacts of this.”

Jude Currie, Chair of the Association’s Committee, said: “Racism is being experienced regularly by our workforce, it is exhausting for them and no one in the sector should think this is acceptable. When people report racism, we need them to feel supported and confident that our organisations will respond effectively.  We also know that examples of good work and some effective responses to racism exist. The SASW strategy over the next three years is geared to work with our social work leaders, employers and universities to ensure honest and challenging conversations so we learn to support our colleagues by being pro-actively anti-racist.”

Director of Social Work Scotland, the professional body for social work leaders, said: “The report is a sobering read, and gives us a fantastic opportunity as a profession to reflect on how we demonstrate our principles and values. Social workers should feel confident and supported by their organisations, and it is our responsibility to be explicit in our actions to address racism together. We look forward to working with colleagues across the profession to make a real difference.”

The Scottish Association of Social Work (SASW) is committed to continued action to address the concerns raised.



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Notes to editors