Prejudice in social work?


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Comments from 317 respondents to a Community Care poll asking if homophobia is a problem in the profession.

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Prejudice in social work?

  1. 1. Comments submitted to a Community Care online poll
  2. 2. “Even in organisations with good policies, LGB socialworkers experience heterocentric views and norms andsometimes excluded from the types of small interactionsthat build social capital.”“Everybody in my team and some of my service users knowI am gay and I own it as mine to disclose as & when I needto. The subtle experiences of homophobia are present -people stereotype you as lovely and suddenyl all gaypeople are lovely.”“My line manager loves working with gay men but told me I dont get lesbians. Like racism, sexism ageism etchomophobia is present and needs to be discussed andtackled head on.”
  3. 3. “Weve had social workers in our office who have been hounded out byattacks on the building because they were gay males.”“I always encourage students not to discuss their sexuality as it forcesothers who may not be comfortable to do so into self-disclosure. In myarea this really could be a personal safety issue for men. Females donttend to get the same response. “Quite a few of the families I work with think I am in a lesbian relationship as I use partner to describe my relationship. They seem to accept that I dont like discussing my personal life in any detail (again this is safety reasons; I actually live in the area I work in). I am sure the reaction would be different if I was a male. I also generally find that male social workers face a high level of distrust and greater aggression from families.”“I can absolutely understand the direction not to disclose, and alsounderstand why this is shocking. However I can not see any justificationfor allowing heterosexual workers to self-disclose when gay workers cannot.”
  4. 4. “As social workers we are not supposed to makejudgements on service users so why should this be thecase in the work place? As long as its not impeding onour work then I for one do not see why homophobiashould go back in to the closest.”“If heterosexuals are allowed to go about there businessas usual without question. I feel that this should be thesame for those that are gay, this may be a naive way ofthinking, but we should be going forward and notbackwards, have we not learnt anything from using one’ssexuality as a scapegoat?”
  5. 5. “It regrettable that homophobia, racism, prejudice,oppressive and discriminatory practice and bullying isrife in social work…though I would admit that this notfrom every social worker.”“I am speaking as a black male newly qualified socialworker. There are practitioners who make life hell forothers, and unfortunately not a lot is being done toaddress this.”
  6. 6. “I believe that the decision to share personal detailsi.e religion, sexuality, political affiliation etc with aservice user should be based on the professionaljudgement of the worker and with the view ofmaintaining therapeutic relationship with theperson.”“These decisions may need to be discussed andagreed in supervision if the worker is notcomfortable or unsure about what to do.”
  7. 7. “No one should be "declaring" their sexuality, whateverit is. They are in a professional environment and theirsexuality should be off limits, just as much as theirpolitical views, religion and what they had for tea lastnight. Personal stuff stays at home!”
  8. 8. “Homophobia is a problem in my student cohort.Im a lesbian and have heard fellow students linkLGBT people as suffering from mental healthissues and say that if a service user identifies asLGBT they should be treated with suspicion.”“It absolutely horrified me and I just hope that bythe time we qualify they have lost thosethoughts.”
  9. 9. “I dont think you should disclose any personalinformation to clients, whether is sexuality orwhether you have children, which is mostcommon in my experience of child protectionsocial work.This kind of personal information is not requestedby most service users for care or concern, more touse against you in one form or another. “
  10. 10. “While I don’t agree with social workers being instructednot to disclose, I have rarely been involved with clientswhere I have felt it would be beneficial to them for me todo so. I’d suggest reflection on this should inform decision.“I was once instructed by a well meaning manager not tofrequent local gay pub in case I was seen by clients!”
  11. 11. “If working with a gay service user it would be helpfulto assess the possible impact of sexuality in order toensure that an anti-oppressive approach was assured bythe worker - but all of our interventions ought to befrom that ethical basis in any case.”“Why should workers / managers have to say what theirsexuality is? Do we routinely ask Teachers, solicitors,doctors etc? - No.”
  12. 12. “Any and all forms of discrimination should bechallenged and discussed. Why should it beokay to ask anyone to hide their try self, butstill expect them to practice in anantidiscriminatory way? Discrimination iswrong at any level!”
  13. 13. “[Managers should be able to tell socialworkers not to disclose] only in circumstancesto protect that worker from abuse from serviceusers, jeopardises the case progressing orcreates personal risk.”“As a gay social worker, that is my businessand any questions raised by service userswould be dealt with by being boundaried andrefocusing my role etc ...Im there to assess /help service users , not to talk about me !”
  14. 14. “Personally Ive not came across a situation where I have feltthe need to explain my sexual preferences to a service user butif I had to I would only do it if it was safe and appropriate.”“The manager in the case in question may have expressedthemselves in a less than ideal manner, using the termnormal can definitely be seen as clumsy if not prejudiced, butI understand that they may have been concerned that somepeople may find that their sexuality can be a barrier to them inengaging with some people and could pose a risk to theirsafety in extreme cases, as could many other factors of course.”
  15. 15. “Im gay and dont feel comfortable discussing it with colleagues.The office is very hetero-centric with comments and questions inprevious teams always asking "do you have a girlfriend" - never"girlfriend or boyfriend" or partner.”“The assumption continues to be that everyone is straight unlessthey look or act what they perceive as stereotypically gay. Theculture of the discussions around the tea tray are quite exclusionary- its all about peoples children and suchlike.”“I do think many of my clients would react very negatively and itsrarely I feel disclosing would be of any particular benefit -nevertheless I appreciate there is an argument that nothing willchange unless these views are challenged somehow.”
  16. 16. “The manager was completely wrong. In being open about sexuality thereis always a risk that service users will have prejudice against you.”“However, I work with social workers who often face prejudice for beingblack or asian, or even their class and have to deal with it. I dont shoutabout my sexuality but do not believe in lying, so if asked I would not lieabout having a boyfriend when I have a girlfriend.”“On the whole many service users may try to find a way to undermine youto try make themselves feel better, but its an important part of pro-socialmodelling to show everyone that they should be comfortable with whothey are.”“Prejudice about sexuality as with race etc can only be broken down whenpeople get to meet different people and realise its not a big issue on thescale of things.”
  17. 17. “All social workers should be told notto disclose their sexuality.”
  18. 18. “I personally think it should be up to the social workersjudgement. I my self am a social work student and havecome to learn that social workers have to makejudgements in situations to work out how to handle it.”“I think from a client point of view it would help themto trust there social worker if the social is upfront whenasked questions like where their interests lie whether itis man or woman that they prefer.”“How can we be expected to help others if we cannot behonest ourselves?”
  19. 19. “I dont think anyone should feel embarrassed abouttheir sexuality. It can only only be used against peoplein an environment of prejudice and the best weaponagainst this is an open commitment to the social workvalues of equality. “
  20. 20. “We do not know the meaning of why clients may ask workerswhat is their sexuality and what they would ascribe to this.”“I agree right across the board workers should keep information tothemselves about such matters. In the same way, when familiesask child protection social workers if they have children - as theyoften do in loaded situations? Social workers should not admit ordeny.”“Those that do have children and admit this may not see what thismeans for their colleagues who dont have children. Its anotherdebate, but along a similar vein.”“It is simply often not appropriate to disclose personal informationand it is not about being asked to be in the closet about a socialworkers sexuality. It is asking social workers to be cautious aboutanything they share.”
  21. 21. “I would like to think that homophobia isnt a problem in social workbut I can think of some instances when service users may use thisagainst the worker.”“Also I have to say, I have very rarely discussed my personalsexuality with a service user so cant really see when this issue wouldarise unless used in an empathic way.”“I am carful about who I disclose to in term of clients group generally Iwould not disclose unless the person demonstrates good equalityawareness, for example, by asking if I have male or female partner. Ithink this type of respect deserves respect.”“I would be very offended if my manger told me not to disclose. Iwould expect them to support me, if I became subject to homophobiafrom either professionals or the vulnerable clients and their families.”
  22. 22. “Homophobia does exist in Social WorkRacism exists in Social WorkExtreme right wing views exist in Social WorkBullying existsSexism exists”“Unfortunately not everyone who comes intosocial work has a solid value base.”“Perhaps more stringent probing social workinterviews ,when recruiting for the SW courseand when interviewing for posts.”
  23. 23. “This is surely a question about the difference betweenadvise and instruction? A manager might advise asocial worker of any or no sexual orientation to reflecton the consequences of disclosing their sexualpreferences, this is part of managing the separation ofthe personal and the professional.”
  24. 24. “Homophobia is completely at odds with social workvalues. Any homophobia within social work must bechallenged. I teach on a social work degree and this isnot something that would be tolerated.”“Students are encouraged to explore their values andconsider how they would challenge homophobia-along with other forms of oppression anddiscrimination- in practice.”
  25. 25. “As a profession we should challenge any form ofprejudice. Unfortunately social work is no differentfrom society at large and various forms of prejudice arenot uncommon. The current economic situationappears to be an opportunity for the worse sort of viewsto see the light of day again.”
  26. 26. “I have been working in Social Work and am both transgenderand lesbian. I have had very few problems but there have been acouple of occasions when I have not been able to continueworking with clients due to discrimination.”“There are some services that I dread going to because the clientswhisper behind their hands as soon as I walk into the room. Onthe whole there have not been problems, but I generally do notdisclose me sexual orientation, and have only on a couple ofoccasions discussed my gender identity.”“I am fortunate that I do pass well with relation to gender, so it isnot obvious that I am trans except sometimes on the telephone. Itry not to discuss my personal life, but sometimes have to saythat I have a partner, but tend not to use pronouns so that theclient does not know that my partner is female.”
  27. 27. “I have worked in several different agencies and job roles- including working in HIV with gay men - and I havenever disclosed my sexuality to anyone even though I ama lesbian. I feel that it is not anyone elses business who Iam, but I will disclose to colleagues if I feel I can trustthem!”
  28. 28. “As social workers we are not supposed tomake judgements on service users so whyshould this be the case in the work place? Aslong as its not impeding on our work then Ifor one do not see why homophobia should goback in to the closest.”
  29. 29. “A Social Workers sexuality is a personal matter not tobe displayed,discussed nor discouraged. I believe aManager’s role is to support social workers and where,when possible allocate cases with consideration of allfactors and this should include sexuality.”
  30. 30. “I am openly gay in my work place in a multi-disciplinary team and havenever suffered any negative prejudice.”“However, due to the client that I work with being young offenders Ihave made my own decision not to disclose. If they guess then that’san issue for them but I would never disclose it to them, but even thenits never been an issue that I have been made aware of. I think this is apersonal choice not a professional one.”“Although your private business is your business and I do not agreewith disclosing because of the sake of it (specially in care situations itis not appropriate for workers to draw personal parallels with serviceusers to make them feel better), for people that are openly gay I feelthere are a lot of undisclosed homophobia particularly from serviceusers, parents and professionals.”
  31. 31. “It is the competence in social work that matters andwhat it stands for. We are all human beings and life ischaracterised by differences. Homophobics shouldget over it.”