Ensuring equality means that people are offered the same opportunities and privileges, regardless of characteristics like age, race, sex, sexual orientation, disability, or their beliefs.
Diversity is about celebrating, respecting and finding value in the differences between people. A diverse group of people can share a variety of perspectives, cultures and lived experiences.
Inclusion focuses on social experiences. It’s important that people from all backgrounds feel both valued and included. Rather than simply introducing rules to ensure people have the same opportunities, a truly inclusive organisation or group should have a culture which makes everyone feel welcome.
Equality, diversity and inclusion are, of course, a core aim of social work practice. Prejudice and social injustice are often linked to other social issues which negatively affect people’s lives. In a child and family social work context, social workers can play a key role in empowering and supporting families to embrace equality and inclusion.
Self-reflection is another area of particular relevance to social work practice. Services are constantly being evaluated and reflected upon to ensure that all segments of society are treated fairly when they interact with social workers. Through reflection, unconscious or institutional biases can be identified and challenged.
A prominent current example of inequality is the fact that people of certain ethnicities are more at risk from COVID-19. Risk is highest among Black people, with those of Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi backgrounds also at an increased risk compared to White British people. This has highlighted the existence of institutional health inequalities in the UK.
- CharitySoWhite have published five “key principles” to guide the third sector’s response to COVID-19, with a focus on addressing racial injustice.
Institutional racism is an issue which is currently in the spotlight, particularly due to the Black Lives Matter movement. This can lead to a lack of trust in authorities among people who feel they are treated unfairly due to their ethnicity, which can be a barrier to social workers. Additionally, social workers themselves may find themselves being treated unfairly in their interactions with other organisations.
- There are often structural barriers which can inhibit Roma parents from having a full understanding of the child protection system in England. Law For Life have developed a toolkit which is designed to help make the key information accessible to Roma families.
- This research paper on the “Black male effect” looks into how structural biases affect young black men in social work, where harmful stereotypes around ethnicity, sexuality and gender can be in effect. You can read the paper on the OurCSWM portal.
- This blog post by Calum Webb at Sheffield University discusses the links between structural racism and other forms of inequality, and makes the case for social work to focus on being both anti-racist and anti-poverty.
- Community Care are running an online learning event which will cover anti-racist practice as well as other contemporary issues like responding to COVID and trauma.
- Zoe Thomas from the University of Bradford discusses the importance of hair and skin to black children and young people, and the implications for social work practice in this blog post.
Gender and sexuality
Both actual and perceived discrimination and stigmatisation of different sexual or gender identities can present a major source of stress, particularly for young people who are questioning their identity and may not wish to tell others. There are a range of resources to help social workers to support young people of all genders and orientations, and their families, to better understand equality and inclusion in this context.
- You can watch a webinar on the OurCSWM archive with James Barclay and Jamie Lewis which gives an in-depth look at young people and gender identity on our webinar archive.