Liverpool needs more black social workers to help fight racism and champion inclusivity - and this is why.
Liverpool Hope University has launched a programme, in conjunction with Liverpool City Council, designed to get more social workers from Black and Global Majority groups employed in the profession.
The initiative is called Bridging the Gap: A Route Into Social Work and it has seen the University create 15 extra spaces on Hope’s Social Work degree programme exclusively for those from under-represented communities and Global Majority groups who currently live in the Liverpool city region.
That includes Black, Asian, Chinese, Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani, Yemeni, Somali, Black African and Black Caribbean communities - and a whole lot more besides.
And the scheme is being supported by one of Liverpool’s leading activists and speakers - Chantelle Lunt, founder of the Merseyside Black Lives Matter Alliance, a group formed in 2020 to address racism and to bring marginalised groups together.
Chantelle is also the founder and CEO of Joan’s New Pathways Project (JNPP), a non-profit organisation supporting and advocating for Looked After Children.
The 34-year-old says that despite having grown up in care - and then having also worked for both Liverpool City Council and Merseyside Police - she encountered just a handful of black social workers during that entire time.
And she wants that to change.
Chantelle, from Halewood, explains: “I think it’s really important to have more diverse Social Work applicants because Black and Global Majority children represent 25 per cent of the care population, yet they’re very unlikely to have a Black social worker or Black carer.
“I grew up in care. And there are real challenges faced by Black people within the care system, particularly when it comes to cultural misunderstandings and general cultural barriers.
“If you’re Black and you go into care, you not only lose your family link, but you also can lose your cultural link, because quite often in the Black community those cultural links and traditions are in the family bubble and passed on through family and friendship connections.
“I was in Liverpool 8, Toxteth, as a child but when I went into care I was moved right to the outskirts of the city, to a predominantly white area. Although I had a Black carer - which I was very fortunate to have and which many Black children don’t enjoy - I didn’t get a Black community. A lot of my culture was lost.
“And it’s here where a Black social worker could really help.
“You also have to recognise the threat of ‘compound discrimination’ - in the way that children in care are discriminated against in the same way Black children are discriminated against.
“This ‘Careism’ is a discrimination faced by care-experienced children that is similar to racism but for Black care-experienced children, these two separate forms of discrimination can intersect and present a unique set of barriers for the child.
“I went through the care system from the age of two to 16 and I never had a Black social worker. I never came across a Black social worker. I then worked for the Council for 12 years in Family Support and Family Link Work and I believe I encountered one Black social worker throughout that time. And then when I was with Merseyside Police it was extremely rare to see a Black social worker.
“So, essentially, I’ve spent most of my childhood and adult life around social workers and very, very few of them have been Black. And it’s really important we try to address this imbalance.
“It’s about having a cultural understanding within the service - that a Black child might need certain hair products, for example, or certain religious needs. And that’s what Black social workers bring to an organisation.
“I’m not saying that all social workers who care for Black and Global Majority Children need to be the same race as them, but you need to have enough Black social workers to have a real level of input into cultural understanding.”
Chantelle, who delivers training to family therapists, practitioners and social workers dealing with young people in care, points out that while the Black Lives Matter movement and last month’s Black History Month can have a real effect when it comes to making people more aware of institutional racism, much more needs to be done.
The political educator, who was recently interviewed by former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, adds: “If you look at the past year, there’s been a huge conscious effort to celebrate Black culture.
“And, obviously, it’s also great to have Black History Month to highlight the issues. But I would like to see Black History to just be British history. It’s great to have Black History Month as the starting point for a conversation but we now need to have Black history reinforced every day of the year and to move away from treating it as an add-on to our history.
“In Liverpool, in particular, there’s a lot more that needs to be done in terms of ownership of the city’s past and its links to the slave trade. Every child in this city should learn about Liverpool’s colonial history and how the region made its wealth. Young people should all be taken to Liverpool’s International Slavery Museum. Because the legacy of that inequality is still with us today.
“Until we get that fundamental foundation of acceptance and knowledge, we can’t move on and bridge those societal gaps. We’ve taken some good first steps, but we now need to start leaping with Liverpool leading the way when it comes to best practice.”
** For full details about Bridging the Gap: A Route Into Social Work, including details about how to apply,
Bridging the Gap starts in September 2022 but Hope is encouraging applicants to apply now. Interviews will take place from December 2021 onwards. For all enquiries email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bridging the Gap is open to anyone living in the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, which incorporates the councils of Halton, Knowsley, Sefton, St Helens, and Wirral.
To apply for the Bridging the Gap route into social work simply email email@example.com in the first instance in order to express an interest. The Social Work team at Hope will then simply guide you through the process from that point on. Again, just email firstname.lastname@example.org saying you're interested in Bridging the Gap.