The importance of union membership for Diaspora Social Workers

18th March 2024 - Diaspora Dialogues: Celebrating Social Workers On The Move | Sponsors: BASW Diaspora Social Workers SIG, SWU Campaign Fund, BASW, Brunel University London

Duc Tran, Co-Chair of the BASW Diaspora Social Workers Special Interest Group (SIG), reflects on union membership and invites diaspora social workers to the upcoming Diaspora Dialogues conference on March 18th.

All the diaspora social workers that I know are committed and hardworking people who continue to make a positive contribution to the lives and communities in which they serve.  However, misunderstandings and misinterpretations due to linguistic and cultural factors can affect their practice and effectiveness. 

This is a natural consequence of settlement and adjustment that comes with moving to a new country and with good induction, training and support that is tailored to their cultural needs, these issues can be resolved quickly.

Discrimination within the profession

Unfortunately, I have also heard reports of racism and discrimination which has left some diaspora social workers feeling victimised, isolated and depressed.  This experience can often be exacerbated by concerns about losing their sponsorship visa due to HR processes such as capability, disciplinary and fitness to practice proceedings. 

Unfortunately, the disproportionate number of Black, male and 40 plus year old social workers subject to fitness to practice investigations before Social Work England highlights the concerns about discrimination within the profession.

In this position, it can be overwhelming for any social work colleague to navigate these processes but especially traumatising for diaspora social workers who are without the support of their family and friends who live far away.  Hence it is vital to get support from sympathetic friends and peers they can trust.

Support from a union

In my experience of being a member of the Social Workers Union (SWU), a union can offer objective advice and representation when needed and empower colleagues to challenge workplace discrimination. 

However, many diaspora social workers are unaware of union membership and only seek advice and representation when it is too late.  This is because they must already be a member at least 8 weeks prior to the incident so it is important to sign up!

A union representative can help them to understand the nuances of UK employment law and provide them with the knowledge and resources to navigate HR processes confidently.  There are other benefits to union membership such as training and peer support and it also only costs a couple of pounds more if you are a member of the British Association of Social Workers (BASW)

Due to the potential risks and challenges faced by diaspora social workers practicing in the UK, it is reassuring to know that colleagues can sign up to SWU and get expert advice and support in these difficult times. 

I invite diaspora social workers in the UK to join me at the upcoming Diaspora Dialogues Conference: Celebrating Social Workers on Monday March 18th. It is a hybrid event held in London and online. Tickets to attend in person are just £20 per person and there is also the option to join online for £10. For more information visit:

Duc Tran
Diaspora SIG, BASW