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12 October 2023 Step Forward programme

Chaz: influence of culture in social work

Chaz shares how she found confidence with the Step Forward programme and embraces Sikhism in social work.

I’m a social worker, currently working in a children and families team, and my journey in social work has been deeply influenced by my Sikh cultural identity and values. The three principles of Sikhism are: work hard, share what you have and don’t take God’s name in vain, but they can also be understood as having hope.  

Having this perspective felt like I could bring a lot to the table in terms of relating these principles into my career and my work. I wanted to develop my career because being a social worker is about growing as a person and sharing my learning to help support the next generation of social workers. That’s what motivated me to apply to the Step Forward programme. 

Diversity, inclusion and leadership

I think it’s really important for practitioners from racialised backgrounds to have support and training. It’s essential to be given permission to think beyond their current role and pushed out of their comfort zone to pursue managerial or leadership positions. The first step towards that, in my experience, is having the confidence. The lack of diversity in leadership at my service is a barrier when it comes to developing in my role. But I’m also very vocal in flagging to my managers areas where we could focus more efforts into improving our diversity and inclusion.

Finding confidence with the Step Forward programme

I think the Step forward programme helped me to develop the confidence to have those conversations in supervision. I feel more confident in sharing my experience or coming forward about how somebody supports me if they don’t know what’s going on with me. Being more vocal about these things has added more value to my colleagues who can now benefit from hearing a different perspective that they wouldn’t have perhaps considered as deeply. And I think going forward, it’s about having these conversations with other Black and Asian practitioners to build peer support within the workplace as well.  

The power of peer support

One of the empowering aspects of the Step Forward programme is the peer support. When I applied initially, I felt like I was alone in some of the struggles and barriers I was facing in pursuing a leadership role as a social worker. But attending the first residential showed me that everyone has an uphill battle and I’m not alone in this. So, having that peer support from other people, hearing their stories of struggles, and seeing where they are now has been really encouraging. It was brilliant to have a platform where everyone shared their experiences, and it reminded me of the bigger picture that we are all working towards in terms of social justice.  

Feeling ready for the future of social work

The residential was also great because it provided space and dedicated time to pause and reflect on my journey as a social worker and where I want to go next. Hearing some of the speakers and people that have been in the forums made me feel inspired to push through barriers and become a role model for future generations.