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Anti-racism is about actively dismantling racism to create a more equal and just society. For us at Frontline, that means proactively tackling systems and structures that perpetuate and embed racism in our society. We are committed to supporting, championing and creating changes in the social work system and improving outcomes for ethnic minority children and families.

Creating change starts with putting your own house in order. We know that we have not always got it right, and we want this to change. We are, for example, aiming to increase representation of ethnic minority people in leadership positions and to improve our diversity and inclusion initiative for all employees, including affinity groups, mentoring, training and workshops. We are also increasing the inclusion of work by ethnic minority authors in our social work curriculums, and are working to grow the proportion of participants on the Frontline programme from ethnic minority backgrounds. We want to encourage, challenge and influence our partners, suppliers and all those we work with to be actively anti-racist, and to support and empower our employees, participants, fellows and other stakeholders from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Our racial diversity and inclusion plan, first published in June 2020, sets out how we aim to become an actively anti-racist organisation. We have been working to deliver this since that time, and will continue to report back on progress and update the detail as the plan evolves. Our commitment to anti-racism is unwavering and ongoing. We know this will take time, will not be easy, and will involve having difficult conversations and continually challenging and checking ourselves. But we are determined to listen, learn and change as a result.

Mary Jackson, Frontline chief executive

Racial Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan: progress report

1. Recruitment to our programmes

What we said: Building on the success of reaching our national Black, Asian and minority ethnic targets for the Frontline programme, we will introduce regional recruitment targets to ensure our participants better reflect the local communities they serve.

What we did: We have used census and specially commissioned Higher Education Statistics Agency data to set area targets, in addition to our national target for recruiting Black, Asian and minority ethnic participants. We ran a positive action early application period for under-represented groups to apply and we are giving priority support to these candidates. We have also adapted our online test to further remove bias and the resulting adverse impact on underrepresented groups.

What we said: We will introduce a new Firstline recruitment framework for how local authorities can nominate social work managers to the programme.

What we did: We are introducing new inclusive recruitment principles for local authority partners. They will be ready for the end of this September and launched in time for the Spring 2021 Cohort of the Firstline programme. There is more work for us to do to encourage local authorities to put forward a more racially diverse range of Firstline candidates.

2. Content of our programmes:

What we said: We will review our recommended readings and source material to include greater racial diversity.

What we did: All of the recommended readings and source material for the summer institute of the Frontline programme have been reviewed and texts for each week have been added or replaced to reflect a wider range of views and a more racially diverse mix of authors.

What we said: We will introduce more explicit teaching on anti-racism into the Frontline programme for the incoming 2020 Cohort and the existing 2019 Cohort at recall days. For example, we already have plans to adapt recall day 20 for the 2019 Cohort. We are making similar changes to the Firstline programme.

What we did: Specific teaching was delivered to the 2019 Cohort and training on privilege was delivered to coaches supporting our 2018 Cohort. We introduced explicit teaching on anti-racism at the summer institute for the 2020 Cohort on the first day of the programme. Opportunities to revisit this have also be threaded through the summer institute and throughout the rest of the programme. We have delivered training days on privilege to those participating on the Firstline programme and to all leadership development advisors who deliver coaching and leadership training on the programme.

What we said: We will introduce greater support and training on how to discuss race and promote anti-racism for those teaching on our programmes

What we did: Externally delivered training sessions for those teaching on our programmes has been organised over autumn and winter to build confidence in having more conversations about race in the work they do to develop social workers.

What we said: We will introduce a mechanism for ongoing engagement of participants and fellows from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds to advise on programme content

What we did: We have set up a steering group of participants, fellows, consultant social workers, Firstline leaders, a board member and teaching staff to advise on specific aspects of programme content and delivery relating to race.

3. Support for people on our programmes:

What we said: We will create specific content as part of our consultant social worker training programme in order to support them to talk with greater confidence about race and racism.

What we did: We have included specific content in consultant social worker training to build their confidence when talking about race. We have devised a system for sharing cohort wide themes with consultant social workers so that they are better prepared to support their units in discussing race. The next step is to make sure that they do this regularly.

What we said: We will set an expectation for more open dialogue on race and of anti-racism for those starting our programmes this summer.

What we did: This started before participants joined the Frontline programme in their induction. See above for details of specific teaching.

What we said: In addition to formal policies and processes, we will introduce a safe, informal system for those on our programmes and employees to raise any experiences of discriminatory behaviour.

What we did: We have communicated a range of supports and processes for employees to share concerns about racism and other discriminatory behaviour. The next stage of this plan is to decide how to do this for those on our programmes.

What we said: We will extend our wellbeing offer to explicitly cover those who have experienced trauma associated with racism and other types of discrimination.

What we did: This was done in July and we have since provided one-to-one confidential coaching sessions to individuals who have requested extra support.

4. Fellowship:

What we said: We will design dedicated support for leaders and potential leaders from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds to make greater impact and enter more positions of power in the social work profession.

What we did: In November we will launch an initiative for Black, Asian and minority ethnic fellows that will provide specialised leadership training, mentorship, and coaching with dedicated financial resources to support career development and establish a supportive network.

What we said: We will continue using events such as Social Work Coffee Breaks and training sessions to discuss race and anti-racist practice.

What we did: In the last three months a number of speakers have hosted our coffee breaks speaking specifically about anti-racism and social work. This will continue and our annual Fellowship event will have a number of speakers on race and social work practice.

What we said: We will partner with service providers and community groups with racial diversity as their subject matter expertise to grow the Fellowship team and fellows’ knowledge.

What we did: There is more work for us to do on this, but we are in the process of updating our procurement policy for service providers to encourage social and sustainable impact (including racial diversity and inclusion) throughout our supply chain.

5. Our employees:

What we said: We will invest more in attracting Black, Asian and minority ethnic background candidates and wherever possible ensure that at least one Black, Asian and minority ethnic candidate makes it to the shortlist stage.

What we did: We’ve changed language in job packs to both attract diversity and state that anti-discriminatory practice is a requirement in the person specification. For all roles, wherever possible, we’ve ensured a Black, Asian or minority ethnic candidate is on the shortlist. We have partnered with the Black Young Professionals network in recruitment for a senior role. We have reviewed our recruitment process for coaches and appointed four new coaches from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds to support participants on our programmes.

Of the excellent candidates we have appointed in the past three months, roughly 40% have been from Black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds. We will continue to monitor employee diversity through our annual demographic survey in March.

What we said: We will introduce sessions for all employees to better understand microaggressions, stereotypes and how to actively be anti-racist.

What we did: We’ve created a video highlighting common microaggressions faced by Black people, particularly in the workplace. This will inform training for participants, Firstline leaders, consultant social workers, Fellows and our internal employees.

What we said: Provide mentorship or coaching for Black, Asian and minority ethnic employees who want to progress to more senior positions either within or outside of Frontline.

What we did: We have spoken with other organisations to learn how they have done this and we have drafted a preliminary plan to roll out a scheme. There is more work to do on this. 

What’s next?

Based on the feedback we received about the initial three-month action plan, and learning from the work we have already done, we have set a number of priorities for the year ahead. These do not capture all of the work we’ll be doing to become more racially diverse and inclusive but they reflect the areas that we are prioritising. We will also continue to work on any incomplete actions set out in the initial action plan.

The action plan for the next 12 months is as follows:

1. Support consultant social workers to get more comfortable talking about race for the benefit of children and families:

• Create more practice opportunities for consultant social workers to discuss race in their work with children, families and participants.

• Extend these same opportunities to employees working at Frontline.

• Monitor the quality of discussions about race in participant units.

2. Target support for Black, Asian and minority ethnic participants on the programme who are at risk of drop out or withdrawal:

• Create a series of sessions that match participants to fellows who have had a similar experience that they are able to share. For example, a session for Black participants starting work in largely white rural areas where they hear from fellows who have navigated a similar situation.

• We will review the experience of our academic disciplinary processes for Black, Asian and minority ethnic participants, without changing our overall standards.

3. Grow the pipeline of Black, Asian and minority ethnic leadership in the organisation:

• Scope out with Black, Asian and minority ethnic employees the introduction of a formal mentorship programme and introduce this if there is appetite.

• Ongoing commitment to get Black, Asian and minority ethnic people hired into the senior leadership team when there are vacancies. In the absence of this, deliberately invite Black, Asian and minority ethnic voices into senior team discussions and decisions.