We have spoken with Antonia Ogundayisi, our new Service Manager for Anti-Racist Practice, to hear more about her role, and what she believes is the key to eliminating racism within Social Care, and spreading a message of compassion and truth. Read on to hear more about Antonia and her plans for Children & Families Social Care at ECC.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and your journey to joining Essex County Council?
I am a social work leader who has been part of this wonderful profession for over 13 years. My specialism is Youth Justice and I have worked in various roles in both the voluntary and statutory sector. In my roles and across diverse settings, I have observed the racist structures that are continually upheld. I came out of the statutory sector to see if I could instigate change from the voluntary sector, but I very quickly came to understand that the same issues were parallel across both areas.
I was tired of reading the repetitive narrative, trends and statistics and seeing an overrepresentation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic children in a plethora of sectors. From my perspective, it highlighted that we still do indeed have a long way to go; that there is much work to be done and I was compelled to do something different. The key for me was ‘do’ and no longer accept this narrative.
I was surprised and equally delighted to see Essex County Council advertising for the role of Service Manager – Anti Racist Practice. Firstly, because of the boldness of the title. It does what it says on the tin. It doesn’t hide behind Diversity and Inclusion; it says what it is… Anti-Racist Practice.
Secondly, because of the position of influence. It is a senior management level role which I don’t believe other organisations have done at this level of seniority before. For me, it set the tone and showed me what Essex are standing for which is powerful.
I have come to Essex to be agent of change and collaborate with others who can make society a better place and hold true those social work principles, compassion and truth, which I think can get lost along the way.
I want us to go back to those foundations of social justice, freedom and ultimately love.
The Service Manager – Anti Racist Practice is a newly created role within the organisation. What are the key priorities for this role?
We are examining our work with Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic staff, as well as with children and families. There are 4 key priorities. These are: 1) To examine our leadership, 2) To review our policies and procedures; 3) to review our workforce composition and 4) to inspect our social care practice. These 4 areas are key and will ultimately bring the change that we need.
We already have an Anti-Racist Practice working group who voluntarily work closely together as experts, to drive this change. We also have an Anti-Racist Practice Steering Board who will provide governance, scrutiny and oversight over our work. Everybody is interested and everybody is involved.
We will look at the composition of our workforce – so what are our figures like in terms of diversity and inclusion and everything from recruitment, promotion, and retention. We want to ensure that Essex is equal, fair and impartial.
I want us to look at our social care assessments and consider whether culture, race and ethnicities are identified in our assessments. We are looking at the way we work, right from the front door, all the way across to leaving care to see what needs to be done differently with this particular group. Eventually, we want to divert families that don’t need Social Care away from the Children & Families hub. We want to look at Policies and Procedures, to review whether we are upholding racist structures which oppress staff and whether our procedures promote psychological safety.
What about your key visions and aspirations in your role?
I want our organisation to be confident and competent to talk about race and racism, so people don’t shy away from it and are no longer paralysed by fear, indifference or attitudes of supremacy. I want us to have open, honest, courageous, and critical conversations about race and how it impacts people. I want us to be taking ownership of our own learning, rather than just relying on ethnically diverse people, as I recognise the trauma and weight that is perpetrated by this.
By being courageous, I hope to see levelling of overrepresentation of ethnically diverse children and families in social care, and a reduction in our figures.
I am hopeful that our social workers and practitioners will be confident to ask questions around race in their assessments and they are able to use practice tools to help them highlight any concerns, with clear oversight from leaders around the impact of race.
I want children to feel included and feel heard and allow them to have the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential.
Ultimately, solidarity is at the heart of what we are aspiring to achieve. It`s not about them and us; it`s about us all working together as agents of change and taking a unified approach.
“Ultimately, solidarity is at the heart of what we are aspiring to achieve. It`s not about them and us; it`s about us all working together as agents of change and taking a unified approach.”
Thank you for reading. To find out more about our Children & Families function, please click here.
If you are interested in roles within the function, please click here.