Anti-racist social work

Social work has a key role to play in anti-oppressive practice, promoting social justice and fairness. This includes racism at the personal, social and structural levels.

Practitioners need to work in a way that supports and protects people and challenges discrimination in all forms and is culturally sensitive.

The recently revised Standards in Social Work Education (SiSWE) strengthen the focus on the social context of practice and are underpinned by clear ethical principles. The characteristics of NQSW practice continue to hold these principles strongly.

The SSSC Codes of Practice clearly state that any form of discrimination is not acceptable and that workers or employers should not condone any discrimination.

All workers and employers support that people are respected, their rights are upheld and they work in a way that promotes diversity and respects different cultures and values.

Upholding public trust and confidence in social services relies on these values and behaviours.

Network of social workers

We will be continuing to enhance this resource through our national NQSW project over 2021-22. Please let us know if you have any recommendations for what is helpful for NQSWs and their managers.

Trauma is everybody’s business

The experience and impact of trauma and adversity in the lives of Scottish people is more pervasive than has previously been recognised. This has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. NQSWs have a key role in understanding the impact of trauma and working in a way that recognises this.

A vision for Scotland

“A trauma informed and responsive nation and workforce, that is capable of recognising where people are affected by trauma and adversity, that is able to respond in ways that prevent further harm and support recovery, and can address inequalities and improve life chances”

National trauma training programme Scotland 2021

The National Trauma Training Programme (NTTP) supports the shared ambition of the Scottish Government, COSLA and partners from across Scotland of a trauma-informed and responsive nation and workforce as seen in this vision.

A trauma-informed nation

  • Realises the prevalence of trauma
  • Recognises the impact of trauma especially in relation to barriers it can create to life chances
  • Responds with that recgnotion in mind
  • Does no harm, supports recovery, creates systems that remove potential trauma-related barriers
  • Recognises and supports resilience
  • Understands that relationships matter

National trauma training programme

Whatever your role as a social worker, it is important to develop skills and knowledge that understands how the impact of trauma might affect people’s responses to you and your organisation. Learning more can help you adapt your work approach. You may also have an explicit role as a social worker supporting children or adults affected by trauma to recover.

Please let us know if there are any learning resources that you would recommend to other NQSWs.

We are supporting the workforce to develop their capacity to embed personal outcomes approaches in their day-to-day practice and deliver better outcomes for people using services.

Find out about the work and the range of learning and development resources for you Personal outcomes – Scottish Social Services Council

Please note that these links will take you to external sources out of the SSSC NQSW website.

Find out more about this area of work and the resources that can support your learning and development Palliative and end of life care – Scottish Social Services Council

Developing your knowledge and skills for working with people who live with dementia

Do you work with people who live with dementia? SSSC have an online resource to help social workers and other professionals implement the Promoting Excellence learning framework and the Standards of Care for Dementia in Scotland within their practice.

This is a detailed and focused learning resource which is ideal if you want to develop more knowledge and skills for working with people who live with dementia.

You will find the link to the Enhanced dementia practice for social workers resource below.

Shared by NQSWs

  • NQSWs told us they liked to use Alzheimer Scotland resources
  • These cover many aspects of daily living for individuals and carers

References and links

Please remember that if you click on these links they will take you to information and resourcs that are external to the SSSC NQSW website.

This is a specific learning resource for social workers which you can access from SSSC Enhanced dementia practice for social workers

The resource is currently being updated so you can let us know if you find any broken links.

For general introductory information about dementia, you can find links to guides and strategy from Public Health Scotland Public health Scotland Dementia Information

We’d also recommend the Psychology of Dementia team at NES and the resource Promoting Psychological Wellbeing people with dementia

Our new online guide for Dementia Ambassadors and other supporting people living with dementia can be found here Information and advice for Dementia Ambassadors

Supervision and outcomes for people using services

The Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) found that supervision led to outcomes (measured by workers), including empowerment and participation of service users, fewer complaints, and increased positive feedback. However, they noted, that there is a lack of research on how supervision impacted the desired outcomes of those using services.

‘changes to the supervisory process are not informed by the perspectives of service users and carers and miss a crucial aspect of understanding how supervision impacts on practice’

Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE)

Supervision can support social workers’ resilience

The people who use our services may benefit from a more resilient and stable workforce. Effective supervision has a clear role in supporting worker resilience. Child protection workers were less likely to leave their roles and community workers got significant protection from stress and burnout when given supportive supervision within an organisational culture positive about good supervision practice (Hawkins & McMahon, 2020).

These concepts are discussed further in the wellbeing and resilience section. Views from people who use services are also discussed in later sections. In the seven-eyed model section, we consider feedback from user groups including care experienced young people and adults with disabilities on supervision issues.

Reflective questions

  • How do you bring the views of people who use services into your supervision striking a balance between positive and negative feedback about services including your work?
  • Write down what you will do differently in your next supervision session to ensure that the view of the person using services is central?

Information and links

Go to NQSW Supervision resource 3 – Learning about supervision from the NQSW pilots

This IRISS course provides a practical framework for supporting the writing of analysis in social care records, and is relevant to those working in social work and social care.

The course has grown out of the recording practice project that Iriss led over the last two years, which focussed on supporting social services practitioners to develop their skills and explore ideas for improving their case recording.


Useful ideas

  • Remember to keep a record of your learning from the IRISS course

Please remember that clicking the links below will take you to information and websites external to the SSSC NQSW website.


Information and links

Welcoming diversity

Welcoming diversity, creating a space for individual learning needs and development of new staff in a complex field of practice takes deliberate effort. Balancing this with the use of a supervisor’s professional and any line manager authority are some of the challenges of professional leadership.

Acknowledging protected characteristics, assumed cultural norms and values, with supervisees, supports the core values of anti-oppressive practice in social work.

It is important to ask about and understand subjective experience. Individual characteristics should be acknowledged even when they seem self-evident. For example, there is still a disproportionate number of male managers when 80% of social workers are women and either ignoring or overcompensating for such dynamics can impact confidence and trust.

Supervisors create a space that welcomes the use of self in our work with people using services. This might include the incorporation of LGBTQIA identities and any dynamics felt by the supervisee even if not observed by the supervisor.

Negotiation and contracting also helps when exercising multiple roles. For example, the need to offer restorative supervisory support around disability dynamics that arise in the role if raised by supervisees, while as a line manager needing to offer a clear process for any necessary employee adjustments.

“We have started using individual contracts and reflecting on supervision histories. That has allowed deeper conversations to talk about what people feel they need and the signs if they are not doing well but to the case-discussion focus is a difficult default to shift”.

Local Authority Manager

Issues such as gender, disability and sexuality that must be acknowledged in a helping relationship such as supervision. Another example of inclusion, because of excellent practice in challenging discrimination and removing barriers to training and professional roles, we are thankfully seeing more people in the workforce with lived experience of care services.

The Promise Scotland recognises that the workforce is also made up of survivors of trauma. Those with lived experience must be supported to be part of the workforce and nurture their instinct to give back, but there must be recognition of the pain that may accompany that involvement.  

Cultural issues are significant factors in supervisory relationships. Responsibility for working with that difference is shared by both parties, whether these are diversities of major cultural or faith communities, experiences of first generation Scots or workers from Scottish traveller backgrounds. Cultural diversity should be welcomed rather than subsumed by professional or role expectations.

Using our power in facilitating learning and development

The container for development is primarily the relationship rather than the content according to Lakey (2020). To facilitate rapport and trust he urges that we can make even obvious diversity issues explicit including gender, class, age and minority issues.

He suggests rather than assuming a shared understanding due to professional identity we must acknowledge organisational power and how, for different people, that may have a greater or lesser impact in their engagement. His approach applied to supervision and professional development suggests that unpacking the NQSW’s stance toward supervision and previous experiences along with emotional and learning styles ​are essential to build a strong container that allows for real development.

Acknowledging and working with those issues might give rise to resistance but going towards this can allow for real change rather than performing a role.

How do good leaders engage?

  • Value diversity
  • Validate importance of relationships
  • Are approachable and responsive
  • Model Good Practice
  • Support, Coach and mentor
  • Are Active and Purposeful

Enablers of leadership

  • People feel supported, valued and respected
  • Work and achievements are acknowledged
  • People have a voice and are treated fairly
  • There is a culture of reflection, learning and development

These ideas are drawn from the resource SSSC – Enabling Leadership

Personality styles are another factor of diversity pertinent to the learning and development task of supervision. Models often identify where we might be on a continuum informed by our ongoing trait, development, or even attachment styles.

Some traits sound like they would be more desirable however our relationships and organisations need variety. There are many models describing personality types including the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. One of the most widely applied models of describing personality is the five-factor (Goldberg, 1990) or OCEAN model.     

  • Openness to experience (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious)
  • Conscientiousness (efficient/organized vs. extravagant/careless)
  • Extraversion (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved)
  • Agreeableness (friendly/compassionate vs. challenging/callous)
  • Neuroticism (sensitive/nervous vs. resilient/confident)

Another model of understanding diversity particularly regarding learning and development is the Multiple Intelligences Theory of Howard Gardiner. This gave rise to the more popular book on Emotional Intelligence by science journalist Daniel Goleman (1995). These can be helpful for considering the strengths and differences between supervisors and NQSW learning styles.

In working with and leading others we become vulnerable and at times may feel de-skilled given our perceived experience or seniority. A social worker who has been has applied vulnerability research to leadership roles is Brene Brown. Her work became widely known following her 2010 TEDx Houston talk, The Power of Vulnerability.

In 2019 she filmed a longer talk for Netflix which you can search for titled ‘A Call to Courage’. Brown argues that we need to work with vulnerability in all our relationships using simple self-talk such as ‘the story I’m telling myself is’… This acknowledges the way we use explanatory stories to understand our relationships but these stories may trigger our threat-protection system. This can be highly relevant to issues for supervisors of feeling they must present as confident in order to reassure supervisees or have authority to lead teams. In Call to Courage Brown says without vulnerability and tolerance of failure it’s impossible to have creativity and innovation in an organisation.

Useful ideas

  • Imagine an ethical dilemma arise of an NQSW who is feeling stuck with a risk-averse mother of a young disabled man called Robert. Robert identifies as gay and wants to be supported to go to appropriate venues and activities to seek a relationship, his mum is worried and the support provider is also hesitant.
  • What types of intervention could be used to support the NQSW to unpick the mother’s fears, the provider’s hesitance and their own views about the standard of ethical values and rights-based practice and the ethics of self-determination?
  • How could you help them to plan interventions?
  • Developed from the British Institute of Human Rights case study of ‘Robert’.

Go to supervisor resource 11 – Good supervision (including virtual practices)

As part of the suite of supervision information and resources, we include here some learning and development materials for managers, supervisors and employers.

Adaptable materials for your organisation

We offer some adaptable training materials which your organisation can use online or face to face to provide learning sessions to NQSWs.

These are notes for people facilitating learning sessions for each suggested half-day training session for either NQSW or their supervisors. These notes include some learning from themes arising from the presenters and participants in test sessions.

The intended audience for these materials includes experienced supervisors who wish to train others who are either new or established supervisors of NQSW.

This recognises that in smaller organisations or in rural or remote offices there may not be readily available social workers with a learning and development role.

The materials include an example of a simple one-page feedback form you may consider using locally to help you adapt the materials as you develop the training with an intention of creating an off-the-shelf option that could then be adapted to suit local needs.

These materials would not be suited to a mixed group of NQSW and their supervisors without significant revision.     

We would recommend that you take time to read the supervision and professional development overview along with the supporting materials on this website and integrate this information into your session.

In the test session that we ran, the overview for either NQSW or their supervisors was used as pre-reading to reduce direct input from the trainer and to create discussion applied to experience in practice and group work among the participants.

This session for NQSWs includes two experiential components around contracting and negotiating individual supervision and introducing a model for peer group supervision.

“The training made me think more about the supervision I give to everyone, not just NQSWs”

Experienced supervisor

The session for supervisors was developed following consultation with the sector and benefits from initial testing out. The training materials include a pack of suggested slides, trainer notes, a pre-reading overview and an evaluation template all of which can be adapted to local needs.

“The supervisors training session was helpful, delivering further sessions ourselves would be good as it is such a huge undertaking to roll that out and to ensure that everyone is getting the same standard of supervision”

Local Authority Manager

There are notes for the session included for you to download. You can download and adapt both the presentations and the notes. The content is for you to take and expand or apply locally as you wish within the wider framework of standards and ethics for NQSWs and the supported year. This approach is sometimes known as remixing and attributions/references within slides to original material need to be maintained in any remix. Although these materials are offered to be adapted locally, it is really important to note the context of these and the supporting information.

There are many more related resources allowing you to go into more depth should you wish to expand the training beyond the half-day session outlined.


Useful ideas

  • We will be using these materials in the next stages of our national project and would love to hear about what you think.
  • Let us know how these might be used in your organisation

Training material downloads

This learning resource is from SSSC Learning Zone. Every day we have to make decisions relating to our roles. Some of these are straightforward and easy to make, while others are more difficult and may involve a range of options.

We are all accountable for the decisions that we make in our roles, so making a ‘wrong’ choice could mean that you have to justify why you made it, particularly if it leads to poorer outcomes for people who use your services. This learning resource provides you with some challenging decisions, which enables you to see how your decisions might affect the outcomes of people if you had to make them in real-life situations.

In this learning resource, you will find a number of scenarios that relate to your work role. All the scenarios reflect real situations and dilemmas in which workers have made ‘wrong’ decisions that have led to investigations about their actions. They include aspects that commonly arise in such cases.

It is important that the scenarios reflect real situations as closely as possible to enable learners to relate to these. Therefore, a few of the scenarios contain language and terminology that may offend some people, however, this must be placed in the context of providing realistic issues and dilemmas for learners to develop their decision making skills.

There are five pathways – Managers; Supervisors; Social Workers; Adult Care; Child Care. Choose the pathway that most closely relates to your current role.