School of Social and Political Science

Black History Month – Respect and Recognition: The contribution of minoritised social workers in Scotland



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Social Work Black History Month event poster

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To mark Black History Month, the Social Work subject area partnered with the Scottish Association of Social Workers for an online event on 27 October 2021, recognising the contribution that social workers from black and minority ethnic backgrounds make to social work in Scotland.

The event was part of the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights programme of events for Black History Month. It consisted of a panel of social workers from across different sectors who spoke about the many ways in which minoritised social workers make a difference for individuals and communities across Scotland. They spoke about how they also often having to face the added challenges of racism, including within the workplace.

Participants were welcomed by Dr George Palattiyil, Head of Social Work at the University of Edinburgh, who introduced a series of short videos from practising social workers.

You can watch some of these videos here:

The panel, chaired by Shantel Thomas on behalf of the Scottish Association of Social Workers, consisted of Arvinder Kainth, Sam Achampon, Dr Kamal Dokurugu Ibrahim and Dr Chijioke Obasi.

Support and protection, greater ethnic diversity, and appreciation

Key messages from the event included:

  • The need for greater support and protection for student and qualified social workers from both overt and covert forms of racism and racist treatment
  • The need for greater ethnic diversity within social work leadership in Scotland
  • An appreciation of the added experience and creativity that a diverse workforce makes to meeting the needs of wider society

Dr George Palattiyil said: “It is important to recognise and celebrate the contribution that social workers from Black, Asian and other minority ethnic backgrounds make to social work in Scotland. As the videos show, this contribution is significant but often undervalued. We are delighted to be able to mark Black History Month by marking this important contribution, and to hold this event in partnership with the Scottish Association of Social Workers.

"As members of the discussion panel rightly highlighted, there is still more we can do as a profession and as employers to support minoritised social workers, and the University of Edinburgh is keen to be active in addressing racism and racial inequality."

Sarah McMillan, Professional Officer with SASW, said: “This event was a fantastic opportunity to bring social workers together to celebrate the contributions of those from Black, Asian and minoritised ethnic backgrounds.

"SASW’s report ‘Racism in Social Work: a 2021 snapshot’ highlights the racism that is faced by social workers in Scotland, and the impact that it has. SASW is committed to working in collaboration with others to address racism experienced in social work settings, and towards creating a truly inclusive and diverse profession.”

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