Workplace discrimination on the grounds of sexuality is a common problem in the social care profession, a new poll of social workers suggests.

An online survey conducted by Community Care found that 40 per cent of social workers believed that homophobia is an issue in social care.

Just under a third (30 per cent) said they “didn’t know” whether it was a problem, while the same number did not believe it was an issue.

The survey highlighted a number of alleged specific incidents of homophobic abuse and prejudice faced by social workers, from both colleagues and members of the public.

This included a family complaining that a male social worker, who they were convinced was gay, was “attempting to remove children out of bitterness regarding his inability to biologically reproduce”.

Another reported incident involved a homosexual social worker being asked by colleagues if he wanted to be “the fairy on the Christmas tree this year?” and being told “it’s not normal is it though?” in reference to his sexuality.

Respondents highlighted a need to deal with discrimination in the workplace within the social care profession in general, not just in relation to sexuality.

“It’s regrettable that homophobia, racism, prejudice, oppressive and discriminatory practice and bullying is rife in social work … though I would admit that this is not from every social worker,” said one social care worker.

“I am speaking as a black male newly qualified social worker,” he said. “There are practitioners who make life hell for others, and unfortunately not a lot is being done to address this.”

The survey was carried out in response to concerns raised in Community Cares forums that gay social workers were being prevented from being open about their sexuality during working hours.

One forum user said his social work manager had told him not to disclose his sexuality to clients, but was told it “was OK for heterosexual workers” to disclose “as this is normal”.

Over 80 per cent of social workers polled agreed that managers should not be able to tell a staff member not to disclose their sexuality.