Frontline’s Racial Diversity and Inclusion Action plan

Following the recent murders of Black men and women in America and the subsequent protest, debate and reflection they have prompted here in the UK about racism, we have been thinking hard about what more we can do at Frontline. We are all working to bring about social change for children who don’t have a safe or stable home, by developing excellent social work and leadership. We cannot do this without confronting racism head on and I know that there is more we can do at Frontline to promote racial diversity and inclusion. In our statement on the 2 June we committed to:

  • Being a safe space for our Black staff, participants and children and families
  • Working to ensure that those who enter the social work profession are reflective of the communities they serve
  • Having difficult conversations
  • Listening, learning and changing our practice as a result

We have heard from a number of participants, Firstline leaders, CSWs, fellows and employees in recent days who have shared experiences and feedback, both good and bad. Whilst these opinions reflect a range of views, too many Black, Asian and minority ethnic people in our community don’t feel supported well enough, heard or represented.

We want this to change. We want to ensure that we build on the progress we have made so far, such as increasing the proportion of Black, Asian and ethnic minority participants to 22% for the 2020 cohort, expanding the support package for all participants through our partnership with Lancaster University and launching a diversity and inclusion initiative for all employees that includes compulsory training. We also need to learn from setbacks and things that haven’t worked, for example being more explicit in talking about race and promoting a more diverse range of authors and thinkers in the Frontline programme curriculum, and addressing the limited success we have had in increasing diversity on our board and senior leadership team.

We are committed to doing more going forward, and have set out to do the following by September 2020:

    1. Recruitment to our programmes:
      • Building on successfully 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.
      • We will introduce a new Firstline recruitment framework for how local authorities can nominate social work managers to the programme.
    2. Content of our programmes:
      • Review our recommended readings and source material to include greater racial diversity
      • 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 2019 cohort. We are making similar changes to the Firstline programme
      • Introduce greater support and training on how to discuss race and promote anti-racism for those teaching on our programmes
      • Introduce a mechanism for ongoing engagement of participants and fellows from Black, Asian, minority ethnic backgrounds to advise on programme content
    3. Support for people on our programmes:
      • Create specific content as part of our Consultant Social Worker (CSW) training programme in order to support CSWs to talk with greater confidence about race and racism
      • Set an expectation for more open dialogue on race and of anti-racism for those starting our programmes this summer
      • In addition to formal policies and processes, introduce a safe, informal system for those on our programmes and employees to raise any experiences of discriminatory behaviour
      • Extend our wellbeing offer to explicitly cover those who have experienced trauma associated with racism and other types of discrimination
    4. Fellowship:
      • 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
      • Continue using events such as Social Work Coffee Breaks and training sessions to discuss race and anti-racist practice
      • Partner with community groups and service providers with racial diversity as their subject matter expertise to grow the fellowship team and fellows’ knowledge
    5. Our employees:
      • Invest more in attracting Black, Asian and minority ethnic background candidates and ensure that at least one Black, Asian and minority ethnic candidate makes it to the shortlist stage
      • Introduce sessions for all employees to better understand microaggressions, stereotypes and how to actively be anti-racist
      • 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

As a senior leadership team, we need to educate ourselves, listen and seek out other voices. I know you want to see more diversity at the top of your organisation. We will do more to invite greater input from Black, Asian and minority ethnic colleagues to join leadership meetings and create ways for them to actively contribute to the leadership of the organisation. I remain committed to hiring Black, Asian or minority ethnic people onto the senior team.

Next steps

We have heard that many of you are tired, grieving and angry. You have already told us what you think needs to change and it is for those of us making decisions to educate ourselves and act.

I would therefore understand if you did not want to respond to these ideas yet. But the invitation is open – we do want your advice on the five sets of proposals above and have shared a survey with all participants, consultant social workers, fellows and staff. If you have not received this email, please do get in touch via enquiries@thefrontline.org.uk

We will be reviewing our progess against these commitments in September, and communicating what more we plan to do in the future. The team at Frontline are committed to doing even more to create a truly anti-racist organisation and to making our workplaces, programmes and communities inclusive and liberating for Black, Asian and minority ethnic people.

Josh MacAlister