Oct 21

Black History Month: sharing my lived experience of working in social care

Posted: 22 October 2021

October is Black History Month, and Skills for Care is asking Black people working across social care to share their experiences and insights of diversity and equality in the sector.

Steven Onasanya, an assessor at Lambeth Council Adult Social Care, shares his experience of working in social care with us.

We love to celebrate diversity at Lambeth and take the opportunity to do so particularly during memorable occasions such as Pride Month, National Inclusion Week, and Black History month. 

We’ve been collectively celebrating diversity and intersectionality to deliver on inclusion which I think is both important at work with my colleagues and within the community we serve.


About me

I’m very proud to be a Black man and I’m also proud of my heritage. My ethnicity and faith are very much a part of who I am.

I have a physical disability, as a result of septicaemia triggered by pneumonia. I wear prosthetic legs to ensure I can mobilise – and dance! Although I have prosthetic legs, as long as people adopt the social model which enables me to function very well and promotes my disability, then I’m fine and can fully enjoy life and make the most of each moment.

I also have some gangrene on my fingers due to trauma, which have been made functional through intense occupational therapy. This reduced my typing speed, however I’m managing well with support from my managers at work who make the appropriate adjustments I need.

I use who I am to improve the provision for the people we provide care and support to. I have experience of being in intensive care, receiving support from the reablement team, undergoing physiotherapist sessions, prosthetics sessions, and occupational therapy.

I’ve had a package of care implemented by Lambeth and provided by care agencies and I understand some issues that people who draw on care and support might be facing in terms of having different carers coming into their home. I’m currently using direct payment to employ my own personal assistant which enables me to be in control of my care support and manage this to suit my work and social life.


My career

I have an exciting role in adult social care at Lambeth council, I can’t believe I’ll have been working for 10 years at Lambeth by December – time has flown by!  I’m one of the assessors in the initial contact service, which is the front door to people who draw on care and support. 

I decided to work in Lambeth due to its diverse community, positive image and based on what I can contribute to its development – I’m also a resident of the borough.

I started working in social care, as I wanted another avenue to make a difference to people’s lives, after working for seven years in an early years setting. I’ve managed a nursery setting and have been an assessor/mentor for a couple of universities here in the UK. I felt moving into social care would be an opportunity to use my knowledge, understanding and skills which are transferable in making a positive difference in the lives of adults who need care and support.  

It’s always been my aspiration to support people, having supported my grandmother who had mild dementia, and supporting my nieces. I come from a large family where we have a strong support network; growing up, my mother was a philanthropist, supporting the family and people around her.


Equality, diversity, and inclusion in social care

What equality, diversity and inclusion means to me is giving me the same opportunity as others, not taking advantage of my disability, and reciprocating respect.

The Lambeth disability staff forum and the promoting progression for Black, Asian, and multi-ethnic staff forum have both been a tremendous space for me to express myself and feel a sense of belonging. The forums provide safe spaces to talk, learn, and share ideas, and I can learn from others’ experiences.

To improve representation of people with Black, Asian and other diverse backgrounds at more senior levels in the council, Lambeth invested in a number of career development programmes.

I want to use my graduation from our ‘Black on Board’ programme to take on a more influential role in the organisation, taking on more decisions, having further engagement with the people who we provide care and support to, and reviewing the impact of services on the people that use them, ensuring that there are no inequalities.


We’re supporting Black History Month through October. Find more information and resources to support equality and diversity on our #BlackHistoryMonth area.