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SASW writes to Universities and Social Work Employers on Anti-Racist Social Work Practice

Ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and as part of the social workers rise against racism campaign, SASW have written to Universities and Social Work Employers on the issue of anti-racist social work practice: 

Dear Universities and Social Work Employers,

RE: Anti-Racist Social Work practice in our workplaces and social work education

The 21st of March is the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. We want to use this day to call for action to tackle racism in social work places of work and to ask for improvements in the social work curriculum. Many universities and workplaces have already taken some steps to address the issue, but there is more we all must do.

The Scottish Association of Social Work (SASW) recently ran a survey, ‘Racism, Prejudice and Discrimination in Social Work’, which resulted in a wide response from social workers. From the findings, its clear that racial discrimination remains a feature of our society and impacts our organisations and the communities we serve. 87% of social workers/social work students from black and minority ethnic backgrounds reported experience of racism. White social workers with migrant backgrounds also experienced incidences of racism.

The examples given by social workers from minority backgrounds included name calling, being overlooked regarding career opportunities, higher workloads, discriminatory treatment on work placements, intimidation, harassment, and racism in social work education.

Over half of respondents (52%), regardless of ethnic background, reported that anti-racist values are not emphasised but often hidden amongst general anti-oppressive and anti-discriminatory practice in training and education. The majority agreed that social work employers and educators are hardly aware, or not aware at all, of white privilege, unconscious bias, and racism in Scottish institutions and cultures.

Regardless of ethnic background, social workers overwhelmingly reported negative experiences of reporting racist incidents at workplaces or during education. One wrote:

“I have reported racism or prejudicial incidents at varying points in my career and when working with different authorities, not only in my working life but in my personal life. I would not recommend this anymore as I have been victimised and harassed for my action and my character has been exposed to all sorts of negative accusations to indicate that I was the problem. All of which have impacted on my confidence and identity.”

Active anti-racism needs to be an explicit feature at workplaces and in social work education. We need open conversations about how racism operates within systems, and our social work practice. We need to be confident that a fair, thorough, and supportive investigation will take place when racism incidents are reported and that victims will not be further oppressed.

In addressing these issues, SASW asks you to:

  1. Explicitly recognise that open acknowledgement of racism is a necessary step towards becoming an anti-racist social work community that is inclusive and values all its members and the people we serve.
  2. Commit to including anti-racist social work practice as a central feature in social work education and in the continuing professional development curriculum on offer within organisations employing social workers.

We look forward to receiving your response, and to working together to challenge this important issue within our profession.

Yours, in commitment to anti-racism,


Jude Currie,

Chair, SASW Committee


Alison Bavidge,

National Director, SASW


The Scottish Association of Social Work (SASW) is part of the British Association of Social Workers, the largest professional body for social workers in the UK. This letter is part of the Anti-racist Activism #riseagainstracism day of action on Friday 19th March 2021.