The number of black and Asian managers at the top in local government is still woefully low, but moves are being made within social services to bring about change.
There are now two black directors of social services in England, and Daphne Obang, the new director of social services for Bracknell Forest, is the first female black director in the country. At assistant director level there are some 20 black post-holders, and a significantly larger number at the tier below this.
Two important initiatives have helped to bring about change: the Association of Directors of Social Services/Improvement & Development Agency's Horizons mentoring scheme, and the Social Services Inspectorate's black managers development programme. As one of the organisers of the Horizons scheme I have found it fantastic to be part of a scheme involving 15 directors of social services and other senior managers as mentors for rising black and Asian managers.
The mutual learning from this initiative has been really positive - opening up directors' eyes to the realities of operating as a black senior manager, and giving black managers an insight into the challenges of a directorship.
An essential part of these relationships has been the creative use of shadowing opportunities. Following a matching exercise, all managers from one social services directorate were all given a mentor from another setting, preventing problems which would have occurred had the mentee been a direct employee of the mentor.
Another initiative the ADSS is pioneering is a scheme to ensure there are black representatives on all of the policy committees of its executive council.
Following advice from black managers, each of the committees has at least two advisers and, in some cases, a wider network of contacts.
This scheme has taken careful planning and support to get under way. It has now been working for two years and has made a positive difference to the work of the policy committees and the quality of the association's response to government consultation papers.
But councils need to strengthen the monitoring of the ethnicity of their staff, to examine recruitment, retention and promotion arrangements, and to adopt schemes such as mentoring promoted by the ADSS and IDeA.
-Roy Taylor, director of community services, Kingston upon Thames LBC.