The central theme discussed here is of the contrasting discourse of ‘top down’ government initiatives in recruitment and retention of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) social work students and a grassroots, community based initiative. The discourse of the former tends to recognise and work with difference, putting aside personal prejudice and the provision of support to people who are ‘different’. Whereas, the discourse of the latter has a propensity to challenge institutional racism, foster partnership between education providers, community groups and networks within the local voluntary sector and draws from a strengths-based black community development model. A starting point for this paper is the understanding that the nature of language of inclusion of people from BME communities in social work education either reflects and reinforces, or challenges the power relationships embedded in these arenas. We contrast the language and approaches of top down government policies with a grassroots community project to identify opportunities and challenges in these differing approaches. To contextualise this conversation, we draw on the work of Harris (2003), who traces the unfolding discourse of social work education from the late 1970s to early 21st Century
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