Public commitment to becoming an anti-racist organisation
In December 2020, we made a public commitment to become an anti-racist organisation. We outlined how we would make progress in achieving this and pledged to update on our commitments annually.
In 2020, we committed to the following:
- Recruiting more people from Black, Asian and ethnically diverse communities into our graduate programme.
- Ensuring our curriculum and teaching embed anti-racism.
- Improving the experience that participants have in the working environments where we place them.
- Making our team as diverse and inclusive as possible.
- Continuously listening, learning and reviewing our plans.
As part of our wider ambitions on diversity, we set ourselves a target of 20% of the 2021 cohort being people from Black, Asian and ethnically diverse communities. We exceeded this target with one in four of our latest cohort participants self-identifying as being Black, Asian and from ethnically diverse backgrounds.
We did this by fulfilling our other commitments: such as creating targeted and inclusive social media campaigns and adverts, putting on specific events to reach different groups (which were very well received and attended) and ensuring that candidates from under-represented groups were fully supported throughout the application process. All our recruitment assessors have been trained in unconscious bias and we partnered with specialist diversity organisations including My Plus Consulting, The Employer Network for Equality and Inclusion (ENEI), Bright Network, and Upreach, to ensure we are bringing in the right expertise to review and improve our processes as well as get our recruitment campaign material to the widest possible audiences.
We also reviewed our language and imagery and as a staff team committed to no longer using “BAME” reflecting the feedback that it was othering and generic. Instead, we commit to being as specific as possible when discussing anyone’s identity, and using ‘Black, Asian and ethnically diverse’ where we cannot be specific about background or ethnicity in our written and verbal communications.
Our diversity and inclusion group of current participants and alumni continue to provide valuable feedback on the curriculum and the programme. We reviewed the curriculum in partnership with our academic partner Middlesex University based on that feedback. The curriculum includes topics such as anti-racist, anti-oppressive social work practice and exploring systemic oppression with organisations.
We then build on this learning through our leadership training material, ensuring inclusivity, equality and diversity are the foundations of our leadership curriculum.
We continue this with the alumni network, who have now completed the programme. We ran for example, an anti-racism event with Wayne Reid from BASW, and held a series of talks with our alumni in February about collective action and intersectionality.
3) Host Organisations
Every year we partner with NHS mental health trusts and local authorities around the country to host our on-the-job mental health social work training. When signing up host organisations, we ask them to provide detail about their approach to equality and diversity within their workplace culture and assess them on their information they provide. We know how important a good approach is to the experience that our participants have on the programme. As part of the agreement host employers sign with us to partner on the programme, we specify that they must have an equality and diversity policy in place.
In all our host organisations we train senior social workers to head up small teams of our participants to share their caseload and provide practice-based learning. We have further developed inclusivity and anti-racist practice in our training and development of these ‘Consultant Social Workers’ (CSWs) and increased the structure and support we provide to build relationships with participants.
We align this with the participants training intentionally to support a blended learning model and to ensure that the academic content on anti-racism from teaching is woven through practical learning that is supported by our CSWs. We provide training, tools and support that enable Consultant Social Workers to embed anti-racism teaching into trainee social work practice, through individual supervision and group sessions.
4) Our head office
We have a diverse staff team, but we want to do more to protect this and make sure that diversity and an inclusive approach to work is a feature at all levels of the charity. In 2021, we recruited two new board members who identify as being from Black, Asian and ethnically diverse backgrounds and all trustees undertook training from ENEI in equality, diversity and inclusion.
ENEI conducted a comprehensive, independent review of all our head office and participant recruitment processes to provide us with detailed, practical advice on how to embed plans for both diversity and inclusion in all our work. We have since revised our head office recruitment processes based on recommendations provided by ENEI, so that all applications are anonymised when shortlisting candidates, removing unconscious biases from the process. We have bought in new recruitment software to make applying less onerous and more accessible (allowing people to apply without access to a computer for example) and to ensure we are only gathering relevant information for each role. We have also reviewed all our job descriptions before advertising to ensure that only necessary qualifications are requested in our person specifications.
5) We continue to listen and learn
We have made progress, but there is a huge amount still to learn and to do. We have established diversity working groups involving staff and participants to feedback on our culture, processes, and programme. We also commit to doing further work that speaks to inclusivity issues within the wider mental health workforce and with service users.
This is our 2021 yearly update. We will provide further updates and content throughout 2022 and commit to doing another round up in December 2022.