Support for care staff from ethnic minority backgrounds needs to “vastly improve” so they are able to progress with their careers, a group of MPs have been told.
Giving evidence to the Health and Social Care Select Committee as part of a discussion about workforce burnout and resilience in the NHS and social care, Tricia Pereira, head of operations for adult social care at the London Borough of Merton, said the majority of black, Asian, minority ethnic (BAME) workers are in low-paid, entry-level roles.
She told the evidence session: “There a less managers or registered managers who are from BAME backgrounds and the majority of the staff are in caring roles.
Pereira added: “Across the whole sector, progression is an issue. Just having the opportunities, the right modelling, the right coaching and the right training is lacking and could be vastly improved.
“For people who are aspiring, if the visibility isn’t there, then you wouldn’t feel that you belong in those roles. And if there are barriers and challenges for you to progress into certain roles, that’s what we need to address and tackle.”
Pereira, who recently co-chaired the BAME Communities Advisory Group and will soon join Skills for Care as the new director of operations, also noted that the experiences of BAME staff are the same for both those working in the NHS and social care.
“The systemic racism and the systemic inequalities are exactly the same…People are talking to me about their experiences around bullying, lack of career progression and being overlooked for more senior positions.”
Pereira said that at the beginning of the pandemic, when the Office of National Statistics revealed the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 illness and death among those in ethnic minority communities, social care staff were asking about risk assessments so they were able to carry out their work safely, but some were “made to feel as if they were being over-anxious”.
“There was the introduction of the risk reduction framework, but it would be interesting to know how this has been adopted across social care,” she said. “In the NHS 95% of staff of BAME staff have had a risk assessment. We don’t have the same data in social care.”
When asked what was preventing BAME workers from raising concerns, she told the committee: “They don’t want to be labelled as being challenging and difficult. They feel that they are misunderstood. They feel that their career progression opportunities may be limited… Also a lot of staff are in lower-paid – not lower skilled – roles, especially in comparison with our colleagues in the NHS.
“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.”
In a survey carried out by Skills for Care last year, social care staff from BAME backgrounds revealed that the main challenges they faced were systemic and institutional racism; progression and representation; and not being sufficiently protected at work from COVID-19.
Other issues frequently identified included pay gaps, lack of confidence, lack of understanding and support, and issues around acceptance, recognition, respect and being valued.
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