Posted: 5 February 2021
As Race Equality Week draws to a close our Directors of Strategy, Impact & Policy Jenny Paton and Sarah Gilbert consider what Skills for Care can do internally and externally to help create a more equal adult social care sector in England.
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has brought race centre stage in discussions across the country, and this Race Equality Week is an important opportunity for organisations like Skills for Care to talk about what we are doing to support equality - both internally and across the sector recognising we could be doing more to respond to the impetus created by BLM. The disproportionate negative impact of COVID-19 on BAME communities should be a further spur to action.
Race equality is particularly relevant in adult social care in England with 21% of our 1.6 million strong workforce having a BAME background. But there is one number that shows we still have work to do in making sure that equality is not just an aspiration, it’s that only 15% of our registered managers and 17% of our managers are from a BAME background.
While it is true that this week asks us to look long and hard at ourselves it is important we have the humility to understand we don’t have all the answers. In progressing our work to develop a new strategy for Skills for Care, we undertook an evidence review which explored key challenges facing social care, and some of the opportunities and critical success factors we could build on. We also looked specifically at issues of equality, diversity & inclusion, examining 190 evidence sources and consulting 13 diverse stakeholders. Last year we also undertook a survey of adult social care workers identifying as BAME that attracted over 500 responses.
Survey respondents highlighted their experiences of institutional and systematic racism, and a lack of development opportunities leading to underrepresentation in senior roles. They were also anxious about the increased risks they faced during the pandemic, and often felt they were not sufficiently protected at work.
With this in mind we knew we needed to rise to this week’s challenge to make ‘The Big Promise’ where actions speak louder than words.
One of the challenges made to us during our consultation by one of the interviewees was that we needed to have a clear message about the meaning of equality and diversity. So the underpinning principle of our work internally and externally is our commitment to embrace this statement:
It’s not enough to be non-racist or non-discriminatory. It's about being anti-racist and anti-discriminatory. So it's active, not passive
We were also challenged by respondents to our survey to be more on the front foot in helping to tackle inequality across the sector.
That’s why it’s been encouraging that there’s been a high level of satisfaction with the interactive webinars and peer coaching sessions colleagues have been running during the pandemic tackling issues for the BAME workforce, and we continue to talk to sector to see what more we can do. Our colleague Symone Stuart has been leading this work to reach out to the BAME workforce and BAME led organisations and to begin building these relationships.
We have also made some progress with our free online Confident with Difference tool to help improve diversity within organisations.
We’re doing a lot of thinking how equality and diversity will be one of the cross-cutting themes as we develop our new organisational strategy, and what that means in our work across the sector.
We’ve also been challenged by our internal race equality group, BAME network and disability group to think hard about how we can make more use of the Skills for Care website to talk about our commitment to equality, and our work on equality internally and externally.
So while we wanted to play our part in making a ‘Big Promise’ this week it is clear that we have more to do internally, and with our sector partners, but we will continue to drive progress on race equality that will contribute to our sector as it begins to think what a post pandemic social care world will look like.
Supporting the diverse workforce within adult social care
Watch our series of highly passionate and informative webinars that focus on the challenges facing leaders and managers from ethnic backgrounds and take a look at our blogs and articles discussing key issues and real working scenarios from people within ethnic minority communities working across social care.
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