The Barnet Safeguarding Children Partnership

BSCP's Cultural Competency practice statement

BSCP's Cultural Competency practice statement

This statement was produced further to recent learning from local child safeguarding practice reviews and based upon feedback from across the partnership, with the support of partners and independent research.

Click here to access a copy of the statement: here

What do we mean by culture?

Culture is not the same as ‘ethnicity’. Ethnicity denotes the origin and membership of a group of people linked for example by language or nationality. This may or may not correspond with a particular culture. Culture is specific to the person, encompassing many facets that have contributed to their individuality, including ethnicity and family values. Culture embraces diversity in its broadest sense and includes differences and similarities due to age, gender, ethnicity, religion and belief, sexual orientation, and disability. 

Research in practice defines cultural diversity as being a system of shared beliefs, values, norms, and expectations [which shape] social structures, practices, traditions, and individual’s psychology (including emotions) and social behaviour. “Faith, cultural norms, and even ethnic background may not be immediately obvious. People of similar ethnicities often have different cultures (perhaps because they belong to different age groups or social classes). 

What is cultural competence?

Like competence in general, cultural competence is the responsibility of both the individual and the organisation. When talking about cultural competence, should run through the department in its entirety therefore this will then filter through to the frontline work with the young people and their families. 

Ethnocentrism describes the opinion held by an individual that their view of the world is the universal standard by which every other culture is or should be judged. Failure to explore and respect the reasons behind someone’s behaviour leads to inappropriate and ineffective practice and interactions. Stereotyping operates when assumptions are made about someone based on their culture, ethnicity, or other factors, ignoring variations that exist within and between cultures.

Understanding your own culture and the underpinning values and beliefs that contribute to this is the starting point for acquiring cultural competence. A culturally competent person recognises and responds to individual needs and adapts their practice accordingly. Individuals and employers have a legal responsibility to be culturally competent. An individual’s view upon family life and what is best for their family will be based on their culture and values, and they will interact and respond accordingly. 

 Why is cultural competency important?

There are, of course, strong professional and service reasons also for being culturally competent because you then practice effectively. 

You and your practice must be: 

  • person-centred 
  • non-discriminatory 
  • accessible to all 
  • legally compliant. 

Under the provisions of the Equality Act 2010, public sector bodies have a duty to consider the equality impact of everything they do. There is a requirement on public sector employers to ensure staff receives equality and diversity training to enable them to play their part in fulfilling the general and specific duties outlined, and employers will be expected to monitor staff performance in this area. 

How we can be more culturally competent when working with families?

It is important not to prejudge or second guess peoples’ cultural practices. Instead ask families about their views, beliefs, and practices, talk with colleagues, discuss with specialists and a range of cultural groups.

When working with families it is imperative to take into consideration language, cultural variations, and different approaches when developing effective and engaging relationships with families. Every member of the healthcare workforce must therefore be able to understand, respect, and work effectively with persons or groups from various cultural backgrounds, including different genders and ages. 

Culturally Competent Practice and Engagement:

  • valuing people’s identity, experience, expertise, and self-determination
  • maintain awareness about national and local ethnic, social, and religious demographics and how these are changing
  • spend some time getting to know the service users, do not rush meetings and interventions
  • the service user is the expert of their experience, adopt a position of ‘not knowing and be ready to learn
  • resist tokenism or simple ‘box ticking’ as a means of evidencing your cultural competence


Social GGRRAAACCEEESSS is an anacronym that stands for the aspects of an individual’s identity as detailed below:

By considering “Social GGRRAAACCEEESSS this enables practitioners to create a shift to build awareness of visible/voiced and visible/ unvoiced experiences” (Practice Supervisor Development Programme, 2019). Graces are about process, not a procedure, and therefore take into consideration the interactions between people (BASW, 2020). Below are some examples of how using social GGRRAAACCEEESSS can impact how practitioners think when working with families. 

Physical Chastisement and Cultural Competence

 With regards to physical chastisement, “Children need to protect irrespective of cultural sensitivities, different practices are no excuse for child abuse taking place” (NSPC 2015).

'Knowledge and understanding of culture and faith is critical to effective assessments of harm through neglect and/or abuse. However, culture and faith should not be used as an excuse to abuse and must never take precedence over children's rights' Safeguarding Children's Rights Special Initiative: Final Evaluation Report (Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust / University of East London Centre for Social Work Research, 2011)

Where there is a cultural explanation given concerning physical chastisement, The Children Act 1989 is clear that the welfare of the child is paramount and should remain the focus of any professional intervention. Whilst an understanding of cultural context is necessary, this should not get in the way of measures to protect the child from significant harm. 

For information relating to how cultural competency is discussed during supervision:

Social-GGRRAAACCEEESSS-and-the-LUUUTT-model.pdf (


Image’s A and B are sourced from the Practice Supervisor Development Programme (2019)

For more information relating to physical chastisement see: Barnet’s Safeguarding Partnership Physical Chastisement Statement. 


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