Skills for Care

Investigating the issues facing the BAME workforce and the impact of COVID-19

17 Dec 2020

Skills for Care

  • Culture and diversity

We know that people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds play a vital role in the care of people in our communities, accounting for 1 in 5 of the adult social care workforce in England.

However, many workers from BAME backgrounds experience racism and discrimination in the workplace, and face barriers to progression (Skills for Care, 2020; Public Health England, 2020). And during the COVID-19 pandemic, people – both workers and those cared for – from BAME backgrounds have been disproportionately more likely to become ill or die. BAME workers were also more likely to report a lack of access to PPE and to experience unfair treatment because of their ethnicity (DHSC COVID-19 Taskforce BAME Advisory Group, 2020).

At Skills for Care, we want to ensure that we support and include all workers in social care to stay safe, develop, progress, and be recognised and rewarded for the valuable work they do.

To help us gather more information about the issues facing BAME leaders and managers across the adult social care workforce as a result of COVID-19, we launched a survey. The aim of the survey was to find out more about the experiences of social care workers from a BAME background during the pandemic to help clarify key issues and concerns for our sector. Over 500 social care workers responded, and their response was loud and clear with significant concerns about racism, inequality, equality, progression, representation and health.

The questions asked in the survey and the responses are as follows:

What are the top challenges facing BAME staff in social care?

There were three main themes that came out of the research:

  • Racism - this came through as the major challenge cited by respondents and included institutional racism and systemic racism from and within organisations, management and peers, as well as racism from service users. Concerns were voiced about inequalities and discrimination that the respondents were not heard or seen, and a feeling that they did not have an equal voice within their organisations.
  • Progression and representation – closely linked to racism, respondents felt that there are barriers that prevent BAME staff from progressing in the workforce, particularly into leadership and management positions. They felt frustrated at the lack of development and training opportunities and that BAME staff are not represented in senior positions.
  • Health issues – respondents were anxious about the increased risks faced by BAME staff in relation to COVID-19, and often felt that they were not being sufficiently protected at work. Mental health issues were also a concern, linked to the frustration and resentment of experiencing racism and anxiety about the COVID-19 risk.

Other issues frequently identified included pay gaps, lack of confidence, lack of understanding and support, and issues around acceptance, recognition, respect and being valued.

What else could Skills for Care do to support BAME staff and communities in the adult social care sector?

  • Training - it was clear from the results that the strongest support Skills for Care could provide was around training. This included training for managers of BAME staff on understanding health risks, training for BAME staff on areas such as leadership, resilience, assertiveness and dealing with racism and training for all social care staff on areas such as cultural awareness, diversity unconscious bias and practising anti-racism.
  • More inclusion and collaboration with BAME social care staff - respondents wanted Skills for Care to collaborate more with the BAME communities in designing the organisation’s approach, and to make resources more accessible. They wanted a stronger voice at Skills for Care with greater representation, and to be listened too, with opportunities for continued discussion and engagement.
  • Provide wider support – such as support for progression, mentoring schemes, networking programmes and support around health and wellbeing. Respondents wanted relevant support to help them reach their potential.
  • Play an advocacy role, promoting equality and fair pay.

What other relevant topic areas should be covered in future webinars about inequalities within the BAME workforce?

Echoing the analysis relating to the top challenges for BAME staff, the strongest areas of interest for future webinars were:

  • racism, particularly institutional and systemic racism and how to overcome it
  • organisational policy and practice, including difficult conversations
  • equality and inequality, including pay and discrimination
  • issues around progression and representation
  • Black Lives Matter.

Next steps

It is clear from this research that the BAME workforce are encountering many issues from racism and limited progression within their jobs because of discrimination, lack of opportunities, training, and major health inequalities.

We are investigating some of the areas of support that were raised by the respondents including:

  • Training

We have a series of pre-recorded webinars on our website which look at some of the issues raised in the survey and we are organising a further series of webinars starting this month, to explore some of these areas in more detail.

We are continuing our research and investigation to develop relevant support that meets the needs of our diverse workforce. Part of this involves developing a suite of guidance based on the three challenges identified by the survey and we will be collaborating with providers to develop content in a creative and engaging way.

The guidance will be aimed at managers who want to get a better understanding of the inequalities facing their BAME staff, and at BAME staff who want support and better understanding on the issues they face and what they can do to protect themselves.

We also have many resources available, including ‘Confident with difference’. The aim of this is to allow you and your team to consider how well you currently embrace diversity and improvements that could be made.

  • More inclusion and collaboration with BAME social care staff

The results from the survey showed that it was important to provide support and tools that address the barriers to progression to senior roles. We are currently investigating how this might best be delivered to maximise opportunities for participation.

Respondents specifically asked for more co-production so we will work with a BAME focus group to produce the guidance and explore the best ways of providing support for career progression. We are currently forming a group of 20 individuals who are interested in working with us collaboratively to assist in developing and shaping our offer.

  • Providing wider support

We are dedicated to supporting the BAME community and to making long-term change such as support for progression, mentoring schemes, networking programmes and support around health and wellbeing.

We are exploring how we can embed what we learned across the organisation so that all aspects of our offer include and reflect the BAME community and diverse workforce. We will continue to engage with the sector to better understand support needs and this will be an ongoing dialogue.

  • Play an advocacy role and promote equality.

We aim to provide a platform for voices from the diverse workforce and have created a dedicated page on our website to supporting this. We have, and will continue to, commission blogs and articles from authors from the BAME community to help champion the areas that you are passionate about. This will help to raise awareness of these issues and get organisations and the sector to start engaging with what it means to have an equal and fair sector.

Thank-you to all those involved in this research during a challenging time – your input is invaluable in helping us develop relevant support that meets the needs of our diverse workforce.

Topic areas

Supporting learning and development during the pandemic

Recruiting during the pandemic