The Urgent Priority of Race: The challenge is in the moment; the time is always NOW


You know that the issue of race is an urgent priority in Greater Manchester Social Work when:

  • A session called “Challenges faced by BAME Social workers” is so in demand that one Greater Manchester Local authority emailed to say “now having to turn people down due to the limited space”
  • There are NO Black Directors of Social work in Greater Manchester
  • There is ONE Black principle social Worker in greater Manchester
  • 50% of the candidates on the GMSWA sponsored University of Salford (2019) “Return to Social Work” course were from a BAME background.
  • BAME social work graduates report that it takes them longer than their peers to find a job after qualifying.
  • BAME social work students experience intersectional racism by social work colleagues on placement – a very difficult situation in the context of being assessed where the potential for unequal power relations could make it difficult to speak out.  
  • The recent findings, of Dr Julie Morton (University of Salford) and Dr Darman Jeyasingham (University of Manchester), call for “improved understandings of racism in social work education” (see:  Jeyasingham, D., & Morton, J. (2019). How is ‘racism’ is understood in literature about black and minority ethnic social work students in Britain? A conceptual review. Social Work Education, 1-13).

Here, now in 2020, Greater Manchester Social Work Academy (GMSWA) is at a pivotal point in its strategic direction. Whatever direction or form the GMSWA takes the imperative to bring the issue of equality and diversity centre stage is pressing. A profession that promotes empowerment and liberation of people, based on principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities (IFSW, 2019) has a responsibility to take action to tackle the intersectional inequalities, barriers and burdens faced by BAME social workers within the profession (pre-qualifying students, Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) practitioners, and experienced practitioners).  Consideration of diversity, as a matter of equality, is a legal duty under the Equality Act 2010 with particular reference to the protected characteristics of  age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. The issue of identity is complex. Here is where the concept of intersectionality is invaluable. Intersectionality insists on the dynamic simultaneous, interdependent multidimensionality of the lived experience of socially constructed divisions such as race, caste, gender, class, sexuality, age, disability and other oppressive categories of identity.  The task is of findings ways to relate across our differences as equals.

The inclusion of ‘indigenous knowledge’ is the most significant amendment to the International Federation of Social Work (IFSW, 2019) definition in regards to the underpinning knowledge of social work. Under the lens of Black feminism ‘indigenous knowledge’ is the standpoint of situated knowers in a particular time and place within a particular set of social relations. Now, re-read the 7 points made at the beginning of this piece as the ‘indigenous knowledge’ of the day to day (because it is every day) intersectional experience of our BAME social work colleagues!  The Black gay writer James Baldwin stated, ‘The challenge is in the moment; the time is always NOW’! So, as the GMSWA visioning day approaches, the time is right and the time is now to put equality and diversity within Greater Manchester Social Work as an urgent priority. This is a call to seize the opportunity and harness the collective will of Greater Manchester Social Work as a place of equality for all.

If you are interested in attending a one day conference on “Challenges faced by BAME Social workers” contact Dr. Suryia Nayak, via email:  s.nayak@salford.ac.uk)

If you are interested in the BAME Social Work Leadership course being developed at the University of Salford contact Dr. Suryia Nayak, via email:  s.nayak@salford.ac.uk)

For an informal, supportive and encouraging discussion about studying for your Professional Doctorate in Social Work (BAME social workers welcomed and inspired) contact Dr. Suryia Nayak, at the University of Salford, via email:  s.nayak@salford.ac.uk)

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