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Equality, diversity and inclusion action plan

This action plan comes midway through our first corporate strategy. It evaluates our progress to date and sets out objectives that will accelerate our work on equality, diversity and inclusion ahead of our next corporate planning cycle beginning in 2023.

Equality, diversity and inclusion action plan

Introduction

Equality, diversity and inclusion are fundamental to our work as the specialist regulator for social workers in England. As such, we are pleased to introduce our first equality, diversity and inclusion action plan which builds on our statement of intent.

This action plan comes midway through our first corporate strategy. It evaluates our progress to date and sets out objectives that will accelerate our work on equality, diversity and inclusion ahead of our next corporate planning cycle beginning in 2023. It is in this next corporate strategy where we will set our ambition, and benefit from greater experience, dedicated equality, diversity and inclusion leadership, and improved data and insight.

This action plan is underpinned by 3 drivers:

  1. Values – We believe that the promotion of equality, diversity and inclusion is extremely important. It is unfair and unethical for people to experience prejudice, unlawful discrimination, or oppression, based on difference. Ensuring everyone is treated fairly and with respect is central to us being an effective regulator and employer.
  2. Performance – Diverse teams perform better, they are engaged, innovative and better at problem-solving [note 1]. As a regulator, being representative of the people we serve means we are more likely to meet the diverse needs of the public we work to protect. The social work profession, with its values and principles of anti-discriminatory and anti-oppressive practice, is uniquely placed to lead the way in achieving equality in all aspects of society.
  3. Duty – As a public body, we have duties arising from the Equality Act 2010. These are outlined in our statement of intent. We are also required to comply with standard 3 of the Professional Standards Authority's standards of good regulation which requires that we understand the diversity of our registrants and others who access our services, and ensure our processes and practices do not negatively impact individuals based on their protected characteristics. 

We look forward to working and engaging with everyone who has an interest in social work and our work as the regulator to realise this action plan as we develop our next corporate strategy.

The context to our work

Since our launch in December 2019, the context against how we have grown as an organisation and regulated social workers in England has changed.

In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had a devastating impact on people, families, and communities across England and the United Kingdom. Social workers and healthcare professionals were at the forefront of national response efforts unlike any experienced in living memory. In May of the same year, George Floyd’s murder in the United States reignited the global Black Lives Matter movement, highlighting pervasive structures of racism and inequality.

These events have generated important and deeply reflective conversations about society. Social workers, as professionals who challenge injustice, inequality, and oppression, have spoken openly about their work supporting people, including those who face multiple and intersecting discriminations. Our Social Work in England: First Reflections report explores how COVID-19 affected the way social workers interacted with the individuals they support and the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement on the profession.

As the specialist regulator, we share common values with the social workers we regulate. We are a young, values driven organisation and we recognise the responsibility we have to ensure our work is fair, and the importance of using our platform to promote national conversations about the role of social work in addressing inequality. This is our duty as we continue to grow and improve.

[Note 1] https://www.managers.org.uk/knowledge-and-insights/listicle/the-five-business-benefits-of-a-diverse-team/

Our work so far

We began our journey into regulation during a pandemic and like many organisations, we have areas in which we need to improve and grow.

At this halfway point in our first corporate strategy, it is appropriate to take stock of our progress so far to consider where we have realised improvements, and where we need to focus our efforts in future planning. Building on the progress outlined in our statement of intent, we have actioned the following.

  • We have expanded the membership of our National Advisory Forum to reflect the diversity of those most impacted by our work.
  • We have appointed a dedicated lead for equality, diversity and inclusion to our senior leadership team.
  • We ran an anti-racism survey alongside partners and leaders in social work to understand the prevalence, impact, and general awareness of racism in social work [note 2].
  • We co-hosted a roundtable discussion with Skills for Care about anti-racism in social work.
  • The University of Greenwich were commissioned to undertake a study into education and training in England, focusing on the experiences and perceptions of students and newly qualified social workers based on their protected characteristics, as well as the inclusion of anti-discriminatory practice in their training.
  • We have commissioned Woodnewton to undertake a study into public perceptions and experiences of raising a fitness to practise concern about a social worker, including specific questions around equality, diversity and inclusion.
  • We introduced our new education and training standards, including requirements around supporting students and embedding equality, diversity and inclusion in course design and delivery.
  • We launched diversity monitoring on social worker online accounts to build a clearer understanding of the social work register. This will enable us to analyse, understand and, if necessary, make changes to our processes and policies
  • We held Social Work Week 2021, which included equality, diversity and inclusion as a key theme, including a keynote about anti-racist practice and education by Professor Prospera Tedam in an all-female line up to mark International Women’s Day.
  • We launched This Is Social Work, a podcast featuring people with lived and learned experiences of social work, including an episode exploring social justice, recognising diversity and the importance of challenging disadvantage and discrimination.
  • We became an associate of the Staff College’s Black and Asian Leadership Initiative (BALI) Network.
  • We established the UK social work/care regulators equality, diversity and inclusion forum and continue to be active members of the joint healthcare regulators’ equality, diversity and inclusion forum.
  • We established Ark, a network hub and space for our staff networks to share, support, and collaborate. Ark also acts as a conduit between the networks and our leadership teams.
  • We reconfigured our equality, diversity and inclusion steering group to ensure representation from across the organisation to champion and embed equality, diversity and inclusion across our work.
  • We used the talent inclusion and diversity evaluation benchmarking tool from the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion to identify areas for improvement.
  • We co-produced a new approach to our equality impact assessments and commenced staff training on the importance of assessing the impact of their work.
  • We published our first gender pay gap report.

[Note 2] The survey was created out of a partnership between the Anti-Racist Steering Group, comprised of representatives from the Principal Social Workers’ Network for Adults and Children and Families, the Department for Education, Social Work England, Office of the Chief Social Workers Department of Health and Social Care and What Works for Children’s Social Care.

Our journey to 2023

At this point in our corporate cycle, we want to focus on the following equality, diversity and inclusion priorities for the remainder of the 2020 to 2023 period. We will review our organisational progress against these priorities every quarter to consider whether the objectives continue to be appropriate and relevant. We will also set additional objectives where needed or when new priorities emerge.

Objective 1: Carry out our regulatory functions fairly

  • Build a more accurate picture of the workforce to better understand the makeup of the social work register
  • Use available diversity data to identify and monitor any disproportionate impacts of our work on different groups and take steps to understand and deal with potential bias and discrimination
  • Use our education and training standards to proactively embed equality, diversity and inclusion principles in education and training courses

Objective 2: Develop our culture as an inclusive organisation that attracts, develops, supports, retains, and fully engages diverse talent

  • Implement measures to embrace and facilitate diversity of our workforce, and ensure equality throughout the organisation
  • Treat all our employees with equality, fairness, and respect
  • Embed equality, diversity, and inclusion into our culture by increasing understanding of equality issues, and be responsive to the needs of those who use our services

Objective 3: Proactively deliver communications and engagement activity in a way that is diverse, relevant, and accessible to all

  • Review, test and develop our communications and engagement activities to ensure inclusivity
  • Co-produce our work with people with a range of protected characteristics to improve our products and services

If you are a social worker, it’s important that you respond to our call for diversity data on your online account. This information is vital for us to understand the profession, including how reflective it is of the public it supports.

Diversity data also helps us understand where and how people may experience our work differently, including where our processes and systems could cause inequality or disadvantage.

Build a more accurate picture of the workforce to better understand the makeup of the social work register

Objective 1: Carry out our regulatory functions fairly

Action Evidence/measure Timeframe Action owner
Action Make use of key communication and engagement moments to ask social workers to submit their diversity data on their online account Evidence/measure Increased response rate Timeframe Review quarterly Action owner Executive Director, Registration, Quality Assurance and Legal
Action Review the ways in which we seek diversity data from social workers on our register to improve the response rate and feed into the renewal cycle in 2023 Evidence/measure Review log and recommendations implemented Timeframe January to March 2023 Action owner Executive Director, Registration, Quality Assurance and Legal

Use available diversity data to identify and monitor any disproportionate impacts of our work on different groups, and take steps to understand and deal with potential bias and discrimination

Objective 1: Carry out our regulatory functions fairly

Action Evidence/measure Timeframe Action owner
Action Embed our new approach to equality impact assessments and train our staff on how to better assess the impact of their work Evidence/measure Production of updated equality impact assessment resources and training developed for and delivered to our people; A cycle of review and measurement of the process and its application Timeframe January to June 2022; Ongoing Action owner Executive Director, Strategy, Policy and Engagement
Action Add equality, diversity and inclusion specific considerations to our decision review group (who provide scrutiny of a targeted sample of fitness to practise decisions) review form for fitness to practise cases and utilise this as a filtering tool for highlighting concerns to the head of equality, diversity and inclusion and if required, the decision review group Evidence/measure Updated review form and guidance produced and process implemented Timeframe January to March 2022 Action owner Executive Director, Fitness to Practise
Action Hold an annual thematic review at the decision review group focused on equality, diversity and inclusion factors relating to fitness to practise cases Evidence/measure Review carried out and recommendations taken forward Timeframe Ongoing Action owner Executive Director, Fitness to Practise
Action Commission research to look at a selection of our fitness to practise cases to identify any themes in relation to protected characteristics of social workers among concerns raised by the public Evidence/measure Research shared on our website and a consideration of our response Timeframe January to March 2023 (subject to budget) Action owner Executive Director, Strategy, Policy and Engagement
Action Our internal quality and improvement team will assess our performance against standard 3 of the Professional Standards Authority's standards of good regulation Evidence/measure Report against Professional Standards Authority's standard 3 biannually to monitor progress and identify areas for improvement Timeframe Ongoing Action owner Executive Director, People and Business Support
Action Improve the classification of corporate feedback and complaints to enable us to better understand equality, diversity and inclusion issues that are raised with us Evidence/measure Quarterly reporting on corporate feedback and complaints and progress of improvement or corrective actions identified Timeframe Ongoing Action owner Executive Director, People and Business Support

Use our education and training standards to proactively embed equality, diversity and inclusion principles in education and training courses

Objective 1: Carry out our regulatory functions fairly

Action Evidence/measure Timeframe Action owner
Action Understand how social work courses are embedding equality, diversity and inclusion in their design and delivery since the implementation of our 2021 education and training standards Evidence/measure Key findings from our approval process published on our website; Learning shared in our social work in England interim and final reports Timeframe Ongoing; Second interim report published in January to March 2022 and final report published in January to March 2023 Action owner Executive Director, Registration, Quality Assurance and Legal
Action We will develop learning outcomes that provide a framework for the knowledge, skills and experience expected of social workers qualifying from initial education and training, including a specific focus on equality, diversity and inclusion and anti-oppressive practice Evidence/measure A set of learning outcomes that have been publicly consulted on and meaningfully address equality, diversity and inclusion Timeframe Learning outcomes published September 2022 Action owner Executive Director, Registration, Quality Assurance and Legal

Implement measures to embrace and facilitate diversity of the workforce, and ensure equality throughout our organisation

Objective 2: Develop our culture as an inclusive organisation that attracts, develops, supports, retains, and fully engages diverse talent

Action Evidence/measure Timeframe Action owner
Action Ensure job descriptions are consistent at different levels, and are aligned to our recruitment and job evaluation approach and equality, diversity and inclusion principles Evidence/measure Review of recruitment approach complete; 100% of job descriptions are consistent and aligned to job evaluation Timeframe July to September 2022 Action owner Executive Director, People and Business Support
Action Review the benefits of anonymous recruitment throughout our HR systems and implement accordingly Evidence/measure Review log and recommendations Timeframe July to September 2022 Action owner Executive Director, People and Business Support
Action Use targeted recruitment methods to attract applicants from diverse backgrounds, where appropriate Evidence/measure Increase in the number of job applicants from underrepresented backgrounds at all levels within the organisation Timeframe Ongoing Action owner Executive Director, People and Business Support
Action Build on our disability confident employer (level 2) accreditation and work towards becoming a disability confident leader (level 3) Evidence/measure Disability Confident Leader accreditation attained Timeframe January to March 2023 Action owner Executive Director, People and Business Support

Treat all our employees with equality, fairness and respect

Objective 2: Develop our culture as an inclusive organisation that attracts, develops, supports, retains, and fully engages diverse talent

Action Evidence/measure Timeframe Action owner
Action Measure the extent to which our people feel they are treated fairly and with respect, and respond to feedback Evidence/measure Aiming for a 90% positive response to a relevant section within our people engagement survey Timeframe July to September 2022 Action owner Executive Director, People and Business Support
Action Benchmark our progress using external tools and resources, such as the talent inclusion and diversity evaluation benchmarking tool from the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion Evidence/measure Our scoring improves annually in identified areas, for example, learning and development Timeframe April to June 2022 Action owner Executive Director, People and Business Development
Action Review people policies, procedures, and practices to ensure they are fair, accessible, robust, and fit for purpose Evidence/measure Updated policy review register and equality impact assessments Timeframe October to December 2022 Action owner Executive Director, People and Business Support
Action Launch a communications campaign to support and encourage our people to upload their diversity data Evidence/measure Increase completion rate to 80% from 68% in 2021; Analysis published in the annual report and accounts Timeframe January to March 2022 Action owner Executive Director, People and Business Support
Action Analyse the following data by diversity profile to identify any inequalities. Leavers questionnaire; Grievances; Disciplinaries; Probation extensions; Promotions Evidence/measure HR reports with recommendation to our senior and executive leadership teams Timeframe January to March 2023 Action owner Executive Director, People and Business Support
Action Highlight and better promote the use of our employee assistance programme and review usage by themes Evidence/measure Increased usage of the programme; Identified themes inform other support offers Timeframe January to December 2022 Action owner Executive Director, People and Business Support
Action Design and deliver training to all line managers to enable them to be well-equipped, competent, and empathetic in handling conversations about mental health and wellbeing with staff Evidence/measure All line managers have undertaken mental health training Timeframe July to September 2022 Action owner Executive Director, People and Business Support
Action Develop and test a Workplace Adjustment Passport to offer tailored support to individuals, which allows them to perform to their maximum capacity in a supportive environment Evidence/measure Workplace Adjustment Passport and guidance produced Timeframe July to September 2022 Action owner Executive Director, People and Business Support
Action Review the impact of our groups and networks; Committing to giving our people protected time to engage and feedback to the organisation. Evidence/measure Updated network terms of reference and reporting measures; Guidance on protected time allowance produced Timeframe April to June 2022 Action owner Executive Director, People and Business Support

Embed equality, diversity and inclusion into our culture by increasing understanding of equalities issues and ensuring we are responsive to the needs of those who use our services

Objective 2: Develop our culture as an inclusive organisation that attracts, develops, supports, retains, and fully engages diverse talent

Action Evidence/measure Timeframe Action owner
Action Utilise our learning platform, Grow, to create pathways where staff can access a collection of resources and training about equality, diversity and inclusion Evidence/measure Increased level of engagement with resources Timeframe Ongoing Action owner Executive Director, People and Business Support
Action Implement our new mandatory equality, diversity and inclusion e-learning offer. Evidence/measure New training course rolled out Timeframe April to June 2022 Action owner Executive Director, People and Business Support
Action Develop an advanced training offer for designated groups of employees and partners, for example, board members, investigators, managers and leaders Evidence/measure Needs analysis in place to inform design of bespoke learning intervention for identified groups and appropriate learning intervention sourced Timeframe January to March 2023 Action owner Executive Director, People and Business Support
Action Review the delivery of our bitesize workshops and resource workshops which explore different topics relating to equality, diversity, and inclusion Evidence/measure Review log and implement recommendations Timeframe January to June 2022 Action owner Executive Director, People and Business Support
Action Include an objective on equality, diversity and inclusion in everyone’s performance development review (TRACKS) Evidence/measure Line managers to ensure 100% compliance Timeframe April to June 2022 Action owner Executive Director, People and Business Support
Action Implement a talent framework which provides pathways to progression and development opportunities, with a focus on supporting talented staff from underrepresented groups at all levels within the organisation Evidence/measure We have a clear implementation plan that has started and have introduced our workforce planning and talent framework Timeframe January to March 2023 Action owner Executive Director, People and Business Support
Action Pilot a positive action mentoring scheme for people with a range of protected characteristics Evidence/measure Mentoring scheme piloted and recommendations made for future implementation Timeframe January to March 2023 Action owner Executive Director, People and Business Support

Review, test and develop our communications and engagement activities to ensure inclusivity

Objective 3: Proactively deliver communications and engagement activity in a way that is diverse, relevant and accessible to all

Action Evidence/measure Timeframe Action owner
Action Continue to test, learn, and refine our brand through a brand identity survey to ensure it is inclusive Evidence/measure Survey completed and actions identified to improve inclusivity Timeframe July to September 2022 Action owner Executive Director, Strategy, Policy and Engagement
Action All web content to undergo a language and comprehension review Evidence/measure Reviews completed and improvements made Timeframe Ongoing Action owner Executive Director, Strategy, Policy and Engagement
Action We have a schedule and process to routinely review public guidance, policies, and publications Evidence/measure Schedule and process in place, and actions delivered; Reviews completed and improvements made Timeframe Ongoing Action owner Executive Director, Strategy, Policy and Engagement
Action Routinely conduct accessibility audits, including new functionality across our website and intranet and update accessibility statements Evidence/measure Several audits completed and recommendations acted on Timeframe Ongoing Action owner Executive Director, Strategy, Policy and Engagement
Action Carry out inclusive research and user testing when developing new or existing digital services, utilising the National Advisory Forum and their networks where possible Evidence/measure Testing undertaken and improvements made Timeframe Ongoing Action owner Executive Director, Strategy, Policy and Engagement
Action Ensure our engagement events, whether virtual or face to face, are inclusive and accessible by undertaking equality impact assessments on our engagement methods Evidence/measure Equality impact assessments embedded and identified actions taken Timeframe Ongoing Action owner Executive Director, Strategy, Policy and Engagement

Co-produce our work with people with a range of protected characteristics to improve our products and services

Objective 3: Proactively deliver communications and engagement activity in a way that is diverse, relevant and accessible to all

Action Evidence/measure Timeframe Action owner
Action Co-produce and publish Social Work in England reports including equality, diversity and inclusion themes across all sections Evidence/measure Reports published on our website Timeframe Second interim report published in January to March 2022 and final report published in January to March 2023 Action owner Executive Director, Strategy, Policy and Engagement
Action Continue to co-produce our work with the National Advisory Forum, to ensure a diverse range of voices act as our critical friend Evidence/measure Annual evaluation of the National Advisory Forum, and new members recruited as required to reflect the diversity of those most impacted by our work Timeframe Ongoing Action owner Executive Director, Strategy, Policy and Engagement
Action Apply rigour and challenge to test viability of products and services through an equality, diversity and inclusion lens prior to launching them Evidence/measure Completion of equality impact assessments for key products and services Timeframe Ongoing Action owner Executive Director, Strategy, Policy and Engagement
Action Co-create content for internal channels and celebrate awareness days in collaboration with staff networks Evidence/measure Regular content from our people for ‘Your Voice’ channels Timeframe Ongoing Action owner Executive Director, Strategy, Policy and Engagement
Action Ensure that our external communication outputs routinely reflect the voices and experiences of the diverse audiences we serve Evidence/measure Regular content that reflects the voices and experiences of our diverse audiences Timeframe Ongoing Action owner Executive Director, Strategy, Policy and Engagement
Action Social Work Week 2022 will provide a platform for people to reflect on ‘what social work means to me’ including hearing from diverse voices and the roles of social work in strengthening social solidarity and global connectedness Evidence/measure Delivery of events with a focus on equality, diversity and inclusion within the core programme and across the sector Timeframe January to March 2022 Action owner Executive Director, Strategy, Policy and Engagement
Action Review how equality, diversity and inclusion can be promoted and weaved through all our engagement by updating our standard slide deck, marking significant moments across the year, and consistently hearing from those with lived experience of social work Evidence/measure Equality, diversity and inclusion is an explicit thread through all our engagement; We have increased our engagement with people with lived experience Timeframe January to December 2022 Action owner Executive Director, Strategy, Policy and Engagement
Action Review and increase our engagement and communication with external representative groups, such as the principal social worker networks, to share learning and promote diverse engagement with us Evidence/measure Record communications and engagement outputs Timeframe Ongoing Action owner Executive Director, Strategy, Policy and Engagement
Action Actively engage children and young people as a group who are most impacted by our work as a regulator of social work; Produce a proposal for further co-production with children and young people across our work, for example, a young director; Develop guidance for children and young people around raising a concern in fitness to practice Evidence/measure Proposal produced with recommendations; Guidance published and disseminated through engagement; Increase in appropriate fitness to practise referrals from children and young people Timeframe April to June 2022; October to December 2022 Action owner Executive Director, Strategy, Policy and Engagement
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