The UK isa multicultural society which contains over 300 languages and has at least 50non ingenious communities (Wood, Landry,and Bloomfield 2006). UK being a melting pot for so many cultures, has resultedin a multitude of challenges for state agencies, these include a lack ofunderstanding of the cultural practices and beliefs of the users (Asquith, Clarkand Waterhouse 2005). Regrettably, in the field of social work it is assumedthat humans possess the same characteristics and the same rules and practicesapplies for all. However unfortunately humans do not have uniformed experienceswith varied cultural and social beliefs, which challenges the characteristic ofsameness within the practice social work practice in recent times. Ethnicityand RaceRace istraditionally defined with respect to differences in skin color, type of hairand facial features that are used as markers for ascribing differences. Whereas,ethnicity refers to the group membership in which the defining features is the characteristicof shared cultural traditions and heritage (Chavez,A.F.
& Guido?DiBrito,1999).Therefore it can be concluded that race refers to quantitative aspects of one’sphysical features and ethnicity refers to the qualitative aspect of anindividual such as nationality, language. Within thecontext of social work due to the impact that race within the UK has given riseto anti-racism social work. Anti-racism social work has highlighted the factorsthat has evolved due to inequality, oppression and discrimination (Tedam 2013).The paper further states anti-racism social work policy addresses the issues ofboth race and ethnicity and in order to succeed in a multicultural environment.
In a study conducted by (Tedam 2013) that involved students of social work whichseek to understand social work student’s account of their own identities andhow it has an impact on them as aspiring social workers. It was concluded inthe study that in order for social workers to provide unbiased and efficientservice in a multi-cultural/race/ethnic environment, there need to be “ContinuedProfessional Development which updates social work practitioners of newdevelopments around racial inequalities and Professional Capabilities Framework(PCF) must include a core element of blackness, migration and diaspora studies,to render complete the academic and practice based scrutiny of historical andcontemporary manifestations of racism.” A key understanding of one’s ethnicityand race and its impact on the outlook and services provided to clients. Research such as (Bender et. al 2010) highlightsthe impact how one’s cultural background and the responsive in the profession. Theresults indicate that there is a direct relationship and in order to obtain thebest results on needs to have continued education about self-awareness.The growthof a multi-cultural society within the UK has given rise to the concept of “culturalcompetence” in the field of social work. Cultural competence provides a guidedframework to practitioners’ in order to eliminate bias and foster understandingfor social workers and users.
Culture is undeniably a factor in influencingones behavior. Users and social workers, throughout their lives were exposed totheir own cultural beliefs which influences their outlook on life, which resultin them imposing their beliefs on users. This is classified as atomism in socialwork, which is defines as a state of consciousness to which we have privilegeaccess (Fay 1996). In the context of social workers, whom have a background oftheir own beliefs and will unintentionally impose biases and be judgmentaltowards users and take what we belief to be an expert stance which the socialworker may imposing their own beliefs. Practitioners need to be cognizant whenassessing a case, and should contemplate the cultural context which a behavior develops.If not adequately guided social workers can make judgements on other culturesthat are based on their own ethnic background and cultures, which may haveexposed them to stereotyping cultures that they were not previously exposed.Framework of Cultural competency and itsimpact on social work practice UK is a cultural diverse society and in order for socialworkers to deliver optimal services, it is necessary for social workers to beaware of various cultures beliefs and practices, through a framework calledcultural competence (Simmons et.
al, 2008: Davis & Donald, 1997). Definitions of culturalcompetence highlights factors such as theintegration and transformation of knowledge about individuals and groups ofpeople into specific standards, policies, practices, and attitudes used inappropriate cultural settings to increase the quality of services, therebyproducing better outcomes. Additionally, authors have stated that culturalcompetence as practice depends, amongst other things, on an understanding andappreciation of the impact of faith and belief (Gilligan, Philip A. andFurness, Sheila M. 2006). The frameworks for cultural competence have varied definitionswhich depends on having an understanding about the individuals understanding.
Importance of Cultural Competence in SocialWorkRace and ethnicity is an important variable in the treatment ofa user within a multicultural society as it establishes their profile as anindividual and there outlook on circumstances. A social worker that is culturallycompetent is able to foster an environment of inclusion for individuals orgroups that are marginalized as a result of ethnic background and culturalbeliefs. Based on the research conducted two methods are primarily used to assessusers are reflective and assessment models (Furness & Gilligan, 2010). (Furness& Gilligan, 2010) highlights that these methods of information collectionis used to aid in the collection of information and the understanding ofspecific service users’ strengths, needs and circumstances (Isaacs & Benjamin,1991; Purnell & Paulanka, 1998; Hodge, 2001, 2005; Hogan-Garcia, 2003). Reflectivemodels are aids the social worker to develop relevant skills and awareness ofthe situation, whereas assessment models aid in the collection of information andthe understanding of specific issues and circumstances. These methodsfacilitates discussions between the social worker and the users and aids inproviding a better understanding to groups that do not confirm to customarybeliefs within the context of traditional UK society.
The use of assessment ofmodel in the achievement of cultural competence can be superior to the use ofreflective model. The assessment model allows for the understanding of theunique situation for that particular end user of the system. This provides the advantagethat there is more room for an open discussion with the individual and fostersa greater understanding of the situation in order for social workers to make aspecific judgement towards that particular case. Additionally, with a room thatfosters open discussion, it will foster trust between the user and the practitioner. Whereas for the reflective models thesocial worker is seeking a general understanding of the situation. Given thateach person’s perception of the world is based on their individual ethnicbackground and race, the reflective model will give a general overview and willnot provide the social worker with specific details about that individual.Furnessand Gillian (2010) developed a framework that took the approach of using both reflectiveand assessment framework within the UK.
The framework included having basicguidelines in achieving cultural competence. This framework involves not justhaving an understanding of the users beliefs and unique situation, but alsohaving an understanding of the one’s own self beliefs and how these beliefs canhave an impact on your interaction and by extension your performance as a socialworker.A mixapproach was proposed towards attaining cultural competence (Furness & Gillian2010).
They conducted a study to assess the competence of the structure inachieving cultural competence among students enrolled in a MA Social Workprogramme. The students were placed withvarious cases of persons with varied beliefs and were encouraged to use theframework. At the end of the study it was stated “Piloting the framework withstudents indicated that it can help to develop a greater self-awareness andrecognition of the impact of individuals’ personal beliefs. Underestimating orignoring the place of religion can result in the loss of opportunities to makereal differences”(Furness & Gilligan 2010). The authors stated theimportance for social workers to be self-aware of their own beliefs which has adirect impact on their performance and outlook on varied situations. Otherstudies that were conducted such looked at cultural competence with respect toreligion and beliefs and the intersection of social work (Gilligan 2003:Furness, S.
2012: Gilligan & Furness2006: Gilligan 2009) and have concluded that more attention needs to be paidtoward religion within social work practice in order to attain optimal outcomefor clients.In orderto mitigate against bias when dealing with various cultures, the UK hasestablished a framework to address the conduct of social workers when facedwith situations of dealing with users from various cultures and vulnerablegroups. The frameworks is embedded in the training of social workers, which attemptssensitized social workers to deal withpersons from other cultures this is in order to negotiate various issues thatmay arise due to opposing beliefs and cultures. The establishment of training frameworks whichguides social workers is expected to decrease unintended bias or imposing ourown beliefs on clients. Moving ForwardThe fieldof social work required for practitioners to have an understanding of oneselfand one’s customary beliefs to provide optimal results to cases that are consignedto the social worker. This is in order to relief social workers of biases thatare brought on by their own cultural beliefs and ethnic background. Proposed frameworksuch as Furness and Gillian is based on engaging the users and social work practitionerstrying to gain an understanding of the experiences of the clients centered on dialogswith clients in a familiar setting.
Inorder tohave the continued advancement of the profession there is a need to constantlydo training and reflect on one’s own experiences and cultural beliefs and be cognizanton how it has an impact on how cases are managed.