Diversity and anti-discriminatory practice

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Diversity and anti-discriminatory practice

Diversity is defined as: “The recognition and valuing of difference in its broadest sense.”12 Diversity includes all ways in which people differ, not just the more obvious ones of age, gender, race or disability that we can see with our eyes. The iceberg model demonstrates this:

iceburg model

Anti-discriminatory practice can be defined as an approach to working with families that promotes:

  • diversity and the valuing of all difference.
  • self-esteem and positive group identity.
  • fulfilment of individual potential. 


There are various pieces of legislation in place to promote equality and reduce discrimination. These include the Disability Discrimination Act 2005, the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001, the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN, 1989), The Human Rights Act 1998, The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (as amended), Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003, the Equality Act 2010.

The aim of this legislation is to promote equality of opportunity for all, regardless of age, sex, sexuality, disability, race, religion or any other difference. However, whilst legislation is important because it protects people, the one thing it cannot do is change people’s attitudes

Everyone has internalised layers of expectation based on personal upbringing and experiences that operate on a conscious and subconscious level. A key worker acknowledging the extent of the baggage that they may bring to an environment is a vital first step along the road to anti-discriminatory practice.

Putting it into practice
In terms of addressing discriminatory practice one of the functions of a key worker should be to “work with and encourage families to address threatening, offensive and prejudiced behaviour including domestic abuse, bullying, overtly racist, sexist or homophobic behaviour” 13

It is important to note that:

  • The aim of anti-discriminatory practice is not to generate discomfort, conflict or negativity, although these feelings may be encountered along the way.
  • Treating families the same is not the same thing as treating them equally. To treat equally it is important to recognise that society does not provide a level playing field; a variety of factors may have to be taken into account. It is important not to expect to find easy or right answers to everything.

While some knowledge can be desirable and useful, it is counter-productive if it leads to assumptions, for example, that families from a particular culture or religion will have an identical interpretation or application of those ideas. This is a process which involves getting to know people on a personal and professional basis and avoiding pre-judgement and fixed expectations. This approach will often demand creative and individual solutions.

Appreciation of diversity encourages:

  • the exploration and valuing of differences.
  • a readiness to develop mutual understanding that goes beyond tolerance to a broader appreciation of the varied nature of human life.
  • acknowledgment that there is often curiosity and sometimes fear of difference that has to be surmounted through information, knowledge and a willingness to gain new understanding.

12Adapted from www.surestart.gov.uk/_doc/P0000198.pdf and  ‘CWDC Induction Training Programme For level 3/4 children’s workforce practitioners - Handbook for generic modules, Module 1: Principles, values and legislation

13Family Intervention Key Worker functional map ref. 2.3.7.