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Supporting diversity across the social care workforce

Oonagh Smyth, CEO, Skills for Care

Skills for Care CEO Oonagh Smyth discusses what social care managers can do to support diversity among their teams.

I’m pleased to see this month’s issue of Care Talk focused on promoting diversity in social care and I’m delighted to be able to contribute to this.

Conversations about diversity are always important and they’ve been particularly pertinent recently as we’ve been celebrating Race Equality Week and LGBT+ History Month. We’ve been providing information on how social care managers can support people from different backgrounds both within the workforce and among people who draw on care and support.

Supporting culture and diversity to ensure the workforce is treated equally, feels included and valued, and is supported to stay well and pursue their careers in social care is one of our strategic aims at Skills for Care.

Skills for Care’s data tell us that people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds make up 23% of the adult social care workforce, which is higher than the national population. However, they’re underrepresented in leadership roles within social care, making up just 16% of all managerial roles.

To have true diversity within the sector, we need to see equality represented at the top levels so that we have people from different backgrounds feeding into strategy, processes, and workplace culture.

Skills for Care’s popular Moving Up programme supports managers from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds to take the next step in their leadership journey. As well as covering practical skills the programme focuses on issues such as networking, self-confidence and personal branding, and is tailored to specifically address the barriers which people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds may face in their career progression.

Recently we’ve built on the success of our Moving Up programme to also introduce our Forefront programme, which is for people who are in direct care giving roles and are looking to start their leadership journey.

As well as providing learning opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds to progress, we’re working with employers to help create positive and diverse workplaces which support everyone to flourish.

We’re very proud to have led on the development of the Social Care Workforce Race Equality Standard (SC-WRES) which is a tool to support managers in measuring the experiences of Black, Asian and minority ethnic colleagues. The SC-WRES has nine metrics covering factors such as pay, progression and workplace harassment.

The tool has been piloted across a number of organisations so far and I’m excited to see this progress into the next phase of delivery.
We’re also highlighting the importance of compassionate leadership in creating a workplace culture which treats everyone as an individual, with understanding and empathy for the specific circumstances and obstacles they may be facing outside of work.

Being a compassionate leader allows each individual in your team to feel that they’re understood and belong in your organisation. Compassionate leadership also creates a safe and open space where colleagues feel they can speak honestly about diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Embracing values based recruitment is also key in creating a positive and diverse workplace culture. Values based recruitment means understanding the organisational values which your organisation stands for, and recruiting people who meet these values. Asking questions at interview about how a person would behave in different situations is a good way to test for values, rather than focusing conversations on hard facts such as qualifications. A focus on values can help to remove unconscious bias, and also removes obstacles that may make it more difficult for some people to progress through the application process – for example, if their background and circumstances mean it’s not been possible for them to gain formal qualifications.

Ensuring that people from diverse backgrounds are recruited into, are happy in, and can progress within the social care sector is vital in making sure that we have a social care service which reflects and understand the people that it supports.

It’s so important we keep these conversations flowing and continue to look for improvements.


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