Equipping Managers to Ensure Social Workers Have Cultural Competencies

Values and Ethics

Apply social work ethical principles and values to guide professional practice.

  • Social workers have an obligation to conduct themselves ethically and to engage in ethical decision-making, including through partnership with people who use their services. Social workers are knowledgeable about the value base of their profession, its ethical standards and relevant law.
  • Demonstrate confident and critical application of professional ethical principles to decision-making and practice, supporting others to do so using a legal and human rights framework.
  • Model and support others to reflect on and manage the influence and impact of own values on professional practice.
  • Provide guidance and support to analyse, reflect on and work with ethical dilemmas.
  • Demonstrate confident application of an understanding of the benefits and limitations of partnership work, support others to do so, and promote service user and carer participation in developing service delivery.
  • Promote and advance wherever possible individual’s rights to autonomy and self-determination, providing support, guidance and challenge to others.
  • Demonstrate skills in the sensitive exploration of issues of privacy and information-sharing in complex or risky situations, offering support and guidance to colleagues in managing such these dilemmas.


Recognise diversity and apply anti-discriminatory and anti-oppressive principles in practice.

  • Social workers understand that diversity characterises and shapes human experience and is critical to the formation of identity. Diversity is multi-dimensional and includes race, disability, class, economic status, age, sexuality, gender and transgender, faith and belief. Social workers appreciate that, as a consequence of difference, a person’s life experience may include oppression, marginalisation and alienation as well as privilege, power and acclaim, and are able to challenge appropriately.
  • Inform, guide and model good practice in the application of understanding of identity and diversity to practice; identifying and taking up issues when principles of diversity are contravened in the organisation.
  • Model critically reflective practice and support others to recognise and challenge discrimination, identifying and referring  breaches and limitations in the ability of your own or other organisations’ ability to advance equality and diversity and comply with the law.
  • Demonstrate and model the effective and positive use of power and authority, whilst recognising and providing guidance to others as to how it may be used oppressively.

In general, social work has operated within a ‘problem oriented’ framework which is characterized by deficit and dysfunctional theories of black families. – Lena Robinson 2012

Black children and families are overrepresented in the controlling aspects of social work and underrepresented in the welfare aspects of social work…..We need a shift from a deficit model of social work control to a strength model of social work empowerment. – Dominelli 1992

If we look for deficits we will usually find them, and their view of the situation will be coloured by this. If we ask people to look for successes they will usually find them, and their view of the situation will be coloured by this – Kral 1989 p32


Anthropologists Bates and Plug (1990) Affirms that culture is an inherited system of shared beliefs, customs, behaviour that members of society use to cope with their world and with one another and that are transmitted from generation to generation through learning.


Storkey (1991) defines Ethnicity as all the characteristics which go to make up cultural identity e.g. Origins, physical appearance, language, family structure, religious belief, politics. food, art, music, literature, attitudes towards the body, gender roles, clothing and education.

Cultural Competence

The integration and transformation of knowledge about individuals and groups of people into specific standards, policies, practices, and attitudes used in appropriate cultural settings to increase the quality of services, thereby producing better outcomes.

The ability to think, feel, and act in ways that acknowledge, respect, and build upon ethnic, socio-cultural, and linguistic diversity.

Cultural Competence vs. Cultural Awareness

Cultural competence:
– The ability to effectively operate within different cultural contexts

Cultural awareness:
– Sensitivity and understanding toward members of other ethnic groups


Culture Matters

When culture is ignored, families are at risk of not getting the support they need, or worse yet, receiving assistance that is more harmful than helpful.

According to Thompson (1997), the workings of oppression can be analysed using a model that examines three levels – P (personal) C (cultural) and S (structural):

PCS model

Using this model will help you as a manager to assist the social worker to develop an understanding of the local community in which they are working.

Levels of Oppression

Personal –
Personal (P) Level

This is normally concerned with an individual’s views, particularly in the case of a prejudice against black or other minority ethnic groups. For example, this could relate to a social worker who makes racist comments about a parent or child they are working with. It is purely related to individual actions and you are likely to come into contact with this in practice with some colleagues during your social work career. The ‘P’ is located in the middle of the diagram, because that individual has his/her beliefs and ideas supported through two other levels.

Cultural (C) Level

This analysis relates to the ‘shared values’ or ‘commonalties’. For example, shared beliefs about what is right and wrong, good or bad, can form a consensus of opinion.

Structural (S) Level

This analysis demonstrates how oppression is ‘sewn into the fabric’ of society through institutions that support both cultural norms and personal beliefs. Some institutions such as sections of the media, religion and the government can cement the beliefs.

Testing the Model

Try to think of a commonly held assumption that you, or someone you know, hold to be true. From this, see if it is a shared view in anyway. Then begin to see how national institutions, such as the newspaper you read or a television programme you watch could help to support your views. More specifically how are these views supported within the social care arena?

Cultures and Child Protection

  • In social work professional practice we work with some of the most disadvantaged and marginalised individuals, families and communities, often at the most difficult points in their lives. As a social worker/manager it is important that you are aware of the importance of power and structural inequalities that exist in wider society.
  • Social workers need to be aware of power dynamics and be proactive in addressing these through anti-discriminatory and anti-oppressive approaches. Working with diversity and becoming a culturally competent practitioner are core tools in the social worker’s toolkit, and must be kept up to date with current legislation and evidence.
  • Social workers should always question their own prejudices and assumptions.
  • What evidence do they have?

Check out the whole webinar video in our page HERE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *