Nov 20

Supporting the non-white workforce in social care

Posted: 18 November 2020

In this blog Sophie Chester-Glyn, Managing Director of the Manor Community Care Home talks about how organisations can change and support the non-white workforce across the sector.

In a recent blog by consultant Clenton Farquarson MBE, he pointed out that “People confuse racism with racial abuse; racial taunts and jibes rather than as an institutional problem.” It  is not just individuals who have a responsibility to change, but organisations across the sector need to do the legwork too.

Organisational Critical Reflective Practice

This year Black Lives Matter, COVID-19 and numerous reports highlighted discrimination faced by the non-white community. The care organisation I work for started a movement towards a fairer, more inclusive workplace back in 2018. We employed an ‘Equalities Lead’ whose first job was to do a due diligence of the pay, progression and support provided to non-white staff in our organisation. Like the state of social care as a whole, there was a paucity of ethnic diversity at higher levels of the organisation (apart from me, of course).

This organisational critical reflection spurred on a move for positive action to support people from the frontline to explore senior positions, and to investigate why senior positions were not being filled by our diverse workforce. We found that staff felt senior positions would take them away from the client facing roles and envelop them in paperwork. We then started work on improving our progression paths.

Beam Me Up

Positive action meant reaching out to our diverse workforce and promoting them to higher positions using our ‘Beam Me Up’ programme, which tailors all staff’s skills and interests to organisational needs. For our diverse workforce this meant creating new positions. A ‘COVID-19 infection control practice lead’ position was designed for a member of staff from India with a passion for infection control. She is working alongside our care manager and training to be a practice manager. We now have more people on fast-track career schemes than ever before. It’s an exciting time, but there’s still work to be done.

Equalities Champion

We are based in the city where slave trader Edward Colston found a temporary new home in Bristol harbour. So, it was hard for us to ignore conversations on race and history highlighted in the community. Inspired by a livestream I led with social work lecturer Sharon Jennings of Goldsmiths University, we felt that staff needed safe, collaborative ‘spaces’ to discuss political and social issues effecting them. We reached out to staff and our apprentice from Jamaica volunteered to run an equalities channel on our organisation’s MS Teams platform for staff discussions, debates, polls and support. This has given team members a collective voice, and increased staff confidence to approach the senior team with suggestions for organisational improvements.

Co-creating solutions makes the best solutions. Our managers suggested our diverse staff team organise and lead celebrations and exhibitions to increase organisational cultural intelligence. The aim is to reduce the occasional dismissive comments which can come from clients, community or even family members about cultural difference. Many staff play down the racially abusive comments they receive, but it’s unacceptable for management to turn a blind eye. So, we are promoting a ‘Zero-Tolerance’ approach to racism in any form, from anyone in the organisation, including those we support.

We also produced a COVID-19 Personal Risk Assessment form which was adapted from the NHS Foundation for managers to use with team members. This process should be used to help managers and staff hold a constructive discussion to consider adjustments or redeployment for any staff that are identified as being at greater risk.

Leading with equality

In its inspection framework, the Care Quality Commission makes a strong case for services to be ‘well-led’. Any focus on improved support for non-white staff needs to be supported financially and culturally from the top.

Financially, we’ve supported staff members in their ideas to create black run initiatives such as Black People Talk – an initiative to support black students with mental wellbeing. Culturally, we felt there was a need for our directors and managers to be well versed in issues faced by non-white staff in social care and engage with the discourse.

To support this work I took part in a series of webinars organised by Skills for Care on how to support ‘BAME staff during COVID-19 and beyond’. This inspiring and progressive initiative saw speakers from ex NHS CEO John Brouder and CIPD CEO Peter Cheese to registered managers and academics, discuss diversity in social care. Webinars might seem uninspiring in a time of zoom-fatigue, but it is impossible to overemphasise the importance of creating forums for staff of all ethnicities to learn from each other’s experiences, opinions and co-create supportive solutions.

Engagement is key. In September I chaired a Care Worker’s Charity webinar for Care Worker’s Week which explored the practical steps care organisations can take to support non-white staff. Along with Skills for Care’s webinars these are a must listen.

People of colour are more likely to die of COVID-19. As part of the BAME Advisory Committee, commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care’s Social Care Task Force, I was able to explore and contribute to the issues faced, such as the lack of risk assessments for non-white staff. Locally, I worked with CCG professionals to adapt their risk assessment form for our social care organisation. But there is still more to do here, especially on how to mitigate risk. The BAME Advisory Group’s report also highlights the importance of community, and why the term ‘BAME’ is not a progressive one.

During October’s black history month, we spent time thinking about positive black figures who inspire us. We can’t change the past, but we can influence the future to create positive experiences and career progression for our diverse workforce.


Webinar: Exploring the recommendations of the COVID Task Force & BAME Communities Advisory Group

This webinar was chaired by Tricia Pereira, Head of Operations, Adult Social Care & Adult Safeguarding at Merton Council. It explored the recommendations of the COVID Task Force & BAME Communities Advisory Group and focused on the following themes:

  • Supporting people who organise their own care via Direct Payments - the importance and challenges of cultural matching and rights to access PPE
  • Risk enablement, human rights and the protective factors of safeguarding adults
  • Supporting staff and people in care home establishments

View the webinar here