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A racially diverse family running hand in hand away from the camera on a sunny autumn day

Uncovering the legacy of Black British Social Workers: Between the personal, the professional and the political


National Heritage Lottery Fund



Project team

Dr Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor, Professor, Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations
Dr Alison Halford, Assistant Professor, Research Centre for Computational Science and Mathematical Modelling
Dr Kusha Anand, Research Assistant, Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations


July 2023 – September 2024

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Project overview

Historically, SW practice has not always met Black children’s identity needs. In the 70s, it was standard practice to place Black children in white homes. In 2002, legal policy was amended to emphasize children's religion, race, and culture in finding permanent homes. However, in 2014 the legal requirement to consider ethnicity was removed, allowing transracial placements. Many frontline social workers did not agree with this change, arguing that by removing ethnicity, the law devalued the significance of ethnicity to individual children’s identity. Against this backdrop of policy U-turns, this heritage project will explore Black SWs historical navigations around identity – how did they perceive and experience these changes?

Project objectives

This project will uncover the history of racialised identities and inequalities in the children’s care system in Britain. We will collect oral histories of Black SWs in Britain, to understand their (1) historical, personal and professional experiences of their own identity, (2)experience of caring for Black children and (3) negotiations with changes in policy inrelation to the needs of Black children in care.

Impact statement

This project uncovers the heritage of Black British Social Workers (SWs) to create avenues for contemporary and future SWs to learn from this heritage, to improve the well-being of society’s most vulnerable children. In doing so, this heritage project will showcase the histories of three separate yet inter-linked marginalised groups. Firstly, and most crucially, this project will uncover the professional and personal commitment of Black SWs, who historically in the face of indifference (to ethnicity) often went above and beyond to care for vulnerable children and to meet their identity-needs. Secondly, the heritage reveals the contributions of Black, South Asian and other minoritised communities to social work in particular, and civil society more generally. These communities’ contributions to British civil society remain under-recognised. Finally, it will contribute to understanding the heritage of care-experienced children and adults, who remain one of the most marginalised sections of society.

 Queen’s Award for Enterprise Logo
University of the year shortlisted
QS Five Star Rating 2023