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BASW member blog: The ASYE's facing discrimination

Newly qualified social workers of colour and/or have disabilities face inequalities in their ASYE journey. I think I know why…says BASW member Susan Baker

Like so many others, I was deeply affected by the death of George Floyd.  As a black woman living in the UK, I was and am of course aware of the impact of systemic and overt racism, having been a survivor myself.

His death raised my consciousness further and forced me to look inwards to explore what I could do to challenge racism and white supremacy, and also how my chosen profession could do more to promote and commit to antiracist practice and systems in social work.

So it was with great interest that I read a recent  blog  that noted how newly qualified social workers (NQSW)  who are from a  black and minority ethnic background, as well as people with disabilities, are more likely to either fail their Assessed and Supported Year of Employment (ASYE), or have the year extended.

I have supervised social workers with varying degrees of experience for many years, and (finally) completed my practice educator qualification last year.  I have also sat on ASYE moderation panels.  When I reflect on my experience, a number of factors come to mind that may explain this disparity. 

How often are we as practitioners reminded of our responsibilities under the Equalities Act 2010 with regard to the people we supervise, and our obligation to ensure that reasonable adjustments are put in place to support our colleagues with disabilities to complete their ASYE?

Is the legal duty to be proactive and plan for making those adjustments in advance discussed with sufficient detail during our practice educator training?

To what extent is anti racist practice embedded in practice educator training? I completed my PEPS 2 at Brighton University, and having reviewed the reading list for the year that I trained, and for this current academic year, I noted that there was no literature specific to anti racist practice on the reading list, nor were there any books/articles included from non western regions. 

The pervasive and entrenched nature of racism, systemic, overt and covert, was not part of the curriculum. 

If this is indicative of practice educator training nationwide, then how equipped are practice educators to recognise their own bias or to consider if there are structural impediments that can adversely affect NQSW journey during their assessed year and beyond?

Aside from the identified gaps in our practice educator training curriculum, there is the matter of representation on ASYE moderation panels at local and national level. 

An article in Community Care last year highlighted that there was an under presentation of black and minority ethnic members on their fitness to practice panels, but conversely black and minority ethnic social workers were overrepresented in fitness to practice hearings, raising the question of whether a panel that lacks diversity can lead to potential bias.

It would not be unreasonable to consider the same question with regard to ASYE moderation panels. 

I sent a query to Skills for Care requesting the ethnic and gender make up of the 12 member national ASYE moderation panel, and the response was that Skills for Care do not keep a record of this type of information.

In my view this is a regrettable omission.  Last year I had the privilege of reviewing an ASYE portfolio as part of a moderation panel. 

The portfolio was generally outstanding, but I was puzzled that the NQSW’s analysis of one of the cases cited, involving the failed hospital discharge and subsequent death of a South Asian man who did not speak English, did not consider how forms systemic discrimination, based on race, gender and age had impacted on his hospital journey. 

Nor had her practice teacher considered that possibility during supervision. I made a note of this and raised it at the moderation panel. 

I was the only black person on the panel and I continue to wonder if the omission I had noticed would have been acknowledged if I had not been there.

Consequently, I am of the view that to address the disparity of outcomes that social workers from a minority ethnic background and/or with a disability encounter, across the board change is required. 

The design of practice educator training needs to ensure that participants have their consciousness raised, so that they are equipped to embed anti racist perspectives in their practice and to reject ablism. 

It would also be of benefit if more social workers from a minority ethnic and/or are living with a disability are encouraged and supported to become practice educators.  We also need representation on ASYE moderation panels both locally and nationally.

In wider society, we have learned from the likes of our home secretary and current met police commissioner that representation is not sufficient; diversity of thought, values and life experience needs to be embedded as well in order to discover and create new perspectives and practices.

Otherwise, all that is achieved is good optics but no actual change.

Susan Baker, BASW member, senior social worker, AMPH, BIA and practice educator/researcher  

 

A response from BASW’s Anti-Racist Lead, Shantel Thomas…

As BASW’s Anti-Racist Lead and a senior lecturer in social work I see the issues raised by Susan about the progression rate for black students, whether that be on placement or in their first employed role once qualified, sadly mirrored across the country. 

This also includes a disproportionate number of black students attending academic misconduct and fitness to practice hearings in comparison to their white counterparts – and not as panel members.  This is unacceptable, we must do better. 

‘The impact of racism on the journey of social workers in the UK’ is a particular research interest of mine as well as a priority for us as BASW’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team leads.

Looking at BASW’s offer to students and better tailoring it to suit the need of the ‘customers’ is at the start of that journey.

We want to listen to the lived experience of social work students from marginalised groups including an intersectional perspective, in order to hear your experiences; and to hear your thoughts on how to challenge all forms of discrimination within the sector. 

We understand there is a need for a dedicated support and advisory service to provided tailored support for students and NQSW. 

We want you to be a part of developing this with us and I would encourage all students and NQSW to sign up to BASW as a member, particularly if you are from a diverse background.

BASW is keen to ensure that its membership and committee members represents the workforce and hearing a wide variety of voices is important to us. So please get in touch with me on twitter: @ShantelThomas77, Instagram: basw_anti_racism_lead or email: shantel.thomas@basw.co.uk

Shantel Thomas, MA, AFHEA, PgCert, BA (Hons)

Anti-Racism Lead, BASW.