... and the vital role of inclusive social work practice
Pride Month is a time to celebrate and honour the resilience, diversity, and accomplishments of the LGBT+ community. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the importance of inclusive social work practice when working with individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Adopting good social work practices is crucial for providing effective support and creating a safe and affirming environment for LGBT+ individuals.
I went to see a wonderful play, Es and Flo, at the Kiln theatre last week. This is the story of two women who have lived together as long lasting lesbian partners for 40 years having met at the Greenham peace camp in the 1980s. Es is developing dementia and has always found it too shameful to be open about her relationship, including with her only son. She still lives with the fear she had in the 80s of losing her job as a head teacher when Section 28 laws hung heavy over our community, as well as fears about losing contact with her son if the courts knew she was a lesbian.
The poignant layers of her love for her partner and the fulfilling life they have had, her shame and fear, Flo's frustrations, who has felt invisible to the outside world and her anxiety of losing her home, which is in Es’s name, tensions about how Es's wishes should be met, all make for great theatre.
However the most remarkable aspect for me , was the skill and inclusive practice of the social care worker supporting Es and Flo. This character demonstrated fundamental principles of social work and good social care practice. Creating positive relationships and an inclusive environment that respects and values the unique experiences and identities of all individuals.
Self determination and autonomy
When working with LGBT+ people, it is essential to cultivate acceptance and respect. By demonstrating the core skills of social work practice, genuine empathy, actively listening, and using inclusive language, social workers and social care staff can help build trust and foster open communication. This supportive environment enables LGBT+ individuals to feel comfortable sharing their stories, concerns and aspirations.
Good social work practice involves recognising and challenging norms and overcoming systemic barriers that hinder the wellbeing of all, including LGBT+ individuals. By promoting education and awareness about sexual orientation and gender identity, social workers can challenge stereotypes, reduce discrimination and create a more inclusive society.
Another crucial aspect of good social work practice is promoting self-determination and autonomy. LGBT+ individuals have the right to make decisions about their own lives, including their identities, relationships and self-expression.
Social workers should actively involve clients in decision-making processes, empowering them to define goals and aspirations. By acknowledging and validating their experiences, social workers can help LGBT+ individuals reclaim their agency and lead fulfilling lives on their terms.
Advancing rights and wellbeing
Recognising that individuals may experience multiple forms of discrimination and marginalisation based on intersecting identities is also key. When working with LGBT+ people, as social workers we should be mindful of their diverse experiences and challenges, taking into account factors such as race, ethnicity, disability, and socioeconomic status. By adopting an intersectional lens, we can provide more nuanced and comprehensive support, considering the complex dynamics shaping their lived experiences.
In addition to working directly with individuals, social workers have a responsibility to advocate for systemic changes that advance the rights and well-being of LGBT+ individuals. This can include advocating for inclusive policies, supporting legislative efforts, and collaborating with community organizations. By actively engaging in advocacy work, social workers can help challenge oppressive systems and promote equality, justice, and social inclusion for all.
As we celebrate Pride Month, it's crucial to recognise the role of social work and social care practice in supporting and empowering LGBT+ individuals. By creating inclusive environments, challenging norms, promoting autonomy, addressing intersectionality and advocating systemic change, we can contribute to the ongoing fight for equality and acceptance.
So let’s keep striving to make a positive difference in the lives of all people we work with, including LGBT+ individuals by fostering inclusive social work practices throughout the year, beyond the month of Pride.