In 2018, the SPA executive recognised that issues relating to ‘race’ and ethnicity should have a higher profile and prominence within Social Policy in the UK. We then commissioned Gary Craig, Bankole Cole and Nasreen Ali to carry out an independent audit and to produce a report, The Missing Dimension: Where is ‘race’ in Social Policy teaching and learning? which recognises various areas where teaching and learning in Social Policy could be diversified, as well as the role of the SPA in supporting a higher profile for journal articles, research and curriculum development. As a first step in response to that report, the SPA organised for the opening plenary at the 2019 SPA conference in Durham to focus on ‘race’ and ethnicity in Social Policy, including esteemed academics within this field.
The goal of this action plan is to further and directly respond to the recommendations of the report. As a starting point, it is important that the SPA recognises the need for action. For example, in terms of the SPA’s nomination and endorsement process for the REF 2021, the lack of diversity among those submitting interest and subsequently being nominated was stark. And it is also evident that the Social Policy conferences lack diversity in terms of attendees and paper content, BAME writers and topics are under-represented in journals, and there is some evidence to suggest that there is limited diversity amongst Social Policy undergraduates. This reflects a broader trend in academia of under-representation of BAME staff, which is especially pronounced at the highest levels.
This action plan, alone, cannot be a panacea to all of these concerns, but it can be a springboard to recognising areas of concern and making a public stand to address them. Concerns regarding under-representation of (i) BAME academics in Social Policy, (ii) BAME students studying Social Policy, (iii) papers in journals and conferences examining BAME issues, and (iv) BAME academics featured in journals and conferences, can form part of a wider debate that is happening within other learned societies at the current time. This not only means that we need to ‘keep up’ with such debates, but that we also have the opportunity to bring learned societies together to create synergy. The latter means that not all of the recommendations in the report need to be addressed solely by the SPA, and we will seek to work collaboratively with wider stakeholders in doing this work.