The UK is
a multicultural society which contains over 300 languages and has at least 50
non ingenious communities (Wood, Landry,
and Bloomfield 2006). UK being a melting pot for so many cultures, has resulted
in a multitude of challenges for state agencies, these include a lack of
understanding of the cultural practices and beliefs of the users (Asquith, Clark
and Waterhouse 2005). Regrettably, in the field of social work it is assumed
that humans possess the same characteristics and the same rules and practices
applies for all. However unfortunately humans do not have uniformed experiences
with varied cultural and social beliefs, which challenges the characteristic of
sameness within the practice social work practice in recent times. 

Ethnicity
and Race

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Race is
traditionally defined with respect to differences in skin color, type of hair
and facial features that are used as markers for ascribing differences. Whereas,
ethnicity refers to the group membership in which the defining features is the characteristic
of shared cultural traditions and heritage (Chavez,
A.F. & Guido?DiBrito,
1999).
Therefore it can be concluded that race refers to quantitative aspects of one’s
physical features and ethnicity refers to the qualitative aspect of an
individual such as nationality, language.

Within the
context of social work due to the impact that race within the UK has given rise
to anti-racism social work. Anti-racism social work has highlighted the factors
that has evolved due to inequality, oppression and discrimination (Tedam 2013).
The paper further states anti-racism social work policy addresses the issues of
both 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 which
seek to understand social work student’s account of their own identities and
how it has an impact on them as aspiring social workers. It was concluded in
the study that in order for social workers to provide unbiased and efficient
service in a multi-cultural/race/ethnic environment, there need to be “Continued
Professional Development which updates social work practitioners of new
developments 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 and
contemporary manifestations of racism.” A key understanding of one’s ethnicity
and race and its impact on the outlook and services provided to clients.  Research such as (Bender et. al 2010) highlights
the impact how one’s cultural background and the responsive in the profession. The
results indicate that there is a direct relationship and in order to obtain the
best results on needs to have continued education about self-awareness.

The growth
of a multi-cultural society within the UK has given rise to the concept of “cultural
competence” in the field of social work. Cultural competence provides a guided
framework to practitioners’ in order to eliminate bias and foster understanding
for social workers and users. Culture is undeniably a factor in influencing
ones behavior. Users and social workers, throughout their lives were exposed to
their own cultural beliefs which influences their outlook on life, which result
in them imposing their beliefs on users. This is classified as atomism in social
work, which is defines as a state of consciousness to which we have privilege
access (Fay 1996). In the context of social workers, whom have a background of
their own beliefs and will unintentionally impose biases and be judgmental
towards users and take what we belief to be an expert stance which the social
worker may imposing their own beliefs. Practitioners need to be cognizant when
assessing a case, and should contemplate the cultural context which a behavior develops.
If not adequately guided social workers can make judgements on other cultures
that are based on their own ethnic background and cultures, which may have
exposed them to stereotyping cultures that they were not previously exposed.

Framework of Cultural competency and its
impact on social work practice

UK is a cultural diverse society and in order for social
workers to deliver optimal services, it is necessary for social workers to be
aware of various cultures beliefs and practices, through a framework called
cultural competence (Simmons et. al, 2008: Davis & Donald, 1997). Definitions of cultural
competence highlights factors such  as 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. Additionally, authors have stated that cultural
competence as practice depends, amongst other things, on an understanding and
appreciation of the impact of faith and belief (Gilligan, Philip A. and
Furness, Sheila M. 2006). The frameworks for cultural competence have varied definitions
which depends on having an understanding about the individuals understanding.

 

 

 

Importance of Cultural Competence in Social
Work

Race and ethnicity is an important variable in the treatment of
a user within a multicultural society as it establishes their profile as an
individual and there outlook on circumstances. A social worker that is culturally
competent is able to foster an environment of inclusion for individuals or
groups that are marginalized as a result of ethnic background and cultural
beliefs. Based on the research conducted two methods are primarily used to assess
users are reflective and assessment models (Furness & Gilligan, 2010). (Furness
& Gilligan, 2010) highlights that these methods of information collection
is used to aid in the collection of information and the understanding of
specific service users’ strengths, needs and circumstances (Isaacs & Benjamin,
1991; Purnell & Paulanka, 1998; Hodge, 2001, 2005; Hogan-Garcia, 2003). Reflective
models are aids the social worker to develop relevant skills and awareness of
the situation, whereas assessment models aid in the collection of information and
the understanding of specific issues and circumstances. These methods
facilitates discussions between the social worker and the users and aids in
providing a better understanding to groups that do not confirm to customary
beliefs within the context of traditional UK society. The use of assessment of
model in the achievement of cultural competence can be superior to the use of
reflective model. The assessment model allows for the understanding of the
unique situation for that particular end user of the system. This provides the advantage
that there is more room for an open discussion with the individual and fosters
a greater understanding of the situation in order for social workers to make a
specific judgement towards that particular case. Additionally, with a room that
fosters open discussion, it will foster trust between the user and the practitioner.
 Whereas for the reflective models the
social worker is seeking a general understanding of the situation. Given that
each person’s perception of the world is based on their individual ethnic
background and race, the reflective model will give a general overview and will
not provide the social worker with specific details about that individual.

Furness
and Gillian (2010) developed a framework that took the approach of using both reflective
and assessment framework within the UK. The framework included having basic
guidelines in achieving cultural competence. This framework involves not just
having an understanding of the users beliefs and unique situation, but also
having an understanding of the one’s own self beliefs and how these beliefs can
have an impact on your interaction and by extension your performance as a social
worker.

A mix
approach was proposed towards attaining cultural competence (Furness & Gillian
2010). They conducted a study to assess the competence of the structure in
achieving cultural competence among students enrolled in a MA Social Work
programme.  The students were placed with
various cases of persons with varied beliefs and were encouraged to use the
framework. At the end of the study it was stated “Piloting the framework with
students indicated that it can help to develop a greater self-awareness and
recognition of the impact of individuals’ personal beliefs. Underestimating or
ignoring the place of religion can result in the loss of opportunities to make
real differences”(Furness & Gilligan 2010). The authors stated the
importance for social workers to be self-aware of their own beliefs which has a
direct impact on their performance and outlook on varied situations. Other
studies that were conducted such looked at cultural competence with respect to
religion and beliefs and the intersection of social work (Gilligan 2003:Furness, S. 2012: Gilligan & Furness
2006: Gilligan 2009) and have concluded that more attention needs to be paid
toward religion within social work practice in order to attain optimal outcome
for clients.

In order
to mitigate against bias when dealing with various cultures, the UK has
established a framework to address the conduct of social workers when faced
with situations of dealing with users from various cultures and vulnerable
groups. The frameworks is embedded in the training of social workers, which attempts
sensitized social workers  to deal with
persons from other cultures this is in order to negotiate various issues that
may arise due to opposing beliefs and cultures.  The establishment of training frameworks which
guides social workers is expected to decrease unintended bias or imposing our
own beliefs on clients.

Moving Forward

The field
of social work required for practitioners to have an understanding of oneself
and one’s customary beliefs to provide optimal results to cases that are consigned
to the social worker. This is in order to relief social workers of biases that
are brought on by their own cultural beliefs and ethnic background. Proposed framework
such as Furness and Gillian is based on engaging the users and social work practitioners
trying to gain an understanding of the experiences of the clients centered on dialogs
with clients in a familiar setting.

Inorder to
have the continued advancement of the profession there is a need to constantly
do training and reflect on one’s own experiences and cultural beliefs and be cognizant
on how it has an impact on how cases are managed.