Social care staff from ethnic minority backgrounds struggle to progress with their careers due to a lack of support, a group of MPs have been told.
Giving evidence virtually as part of the health and social care committee’s inquiry into workforce burnout and resilience, Tricia Pereira, head of operations adult social care and adult safeguarding at the London Borough of Merton, said the majority of black, Asian, minority ethnic (BAME) workers remained in caring roles.
‘They are at entry-level roles across the whole sector,’ she told committee members. ‘Progression is an issue. Just having the opportunities, the right modelling, the right coaching, the right training. It’s lacking and could be vastly improved.’
She told the evidence session, which was covering bullying, discrimination and harassment in the sector, there were too few visible BAME senior leaders in social care. ‘For people who are aspiring, if the visibility isn’t there then you feel that you don’t belong in those particular roles.’
Pereira, who was co-chair of the BAME communities advisory group for the Department of Health and Social Care’s Covid-19 support taskforce, said social care staff often had similar experiences to their NHS counterparts around racism, bullying, and lack of career progression and opportunities.
At the beginning of the pandemic, she said care workers were asking about individual and organisational risk assessments so they could carry out their duties safely. ‘They were made to feel that they were being overanxious,’ Pereira said. ‘This is part of the job. You go out into the communities and you support. They didn’t want to let their colleagues down.’
When asked what was blocking BAME workers from raising concerns, she told the committee: ‘They don’t want to be labelled as being challenging and difficult… They feel that their career progression opportunities may be limited… They don’t want to lose their shifts. They don’t want to be penalised in that way. So, there is a fear of speaking out.’
Skills for Care and the British Association of Social Workers have set up peer support sessions to offer a safe space so care staff can talk openly and anonymously about their experiences.
Pereira said this offered an opportunity to capture data within the sector, something that was lacking. ‘There needs to be some research to gather that information. There needs to be some engagement. There needs to be opportunities for the workforce to be able to speak their truth and talk about their experiences in the same way that you’ve been able to capture in the NHS.’