Getting it right:
Assessments for black and minority ethnic carers and service users

Activity: Cultural competency

Achieving cultural competency – a learning model

The learning model below represents various stages an individual, team or organisation will progress through in working towards a culturally competent service.

  1. Unconscious incompetence
  2. Conscious incompetence
  3. Conscious competence
  4. Unconscious competence

Question 1 of 3

Please reflect on each of the four stages in the learning model opposite. What do you think each heading might mean?

Unconscious incompetence:

Conscious incompetence:

Conscious competence:

Unconscious competence:


An explanation of the four stages in the Learning Model:

Unconscious incompetence
Characterised by a complete lack of awareness that a need exists and therefore no effort or resources are expended to address it.
Conscious incompetence
Characterised by an awareness that a need exists but there is little or no knowledge about how to address it. This may also be compounded by a lack of resources and/or a lack of strategic direction/leadership.
Conscious competence
Characterised by a conscious effort to ensure that all aspects of an individual’s and organisation’s practice identify, respect and respond to differing needs. This may be supplemented by the availability of additional resources and strong leadership.
Unconscious competence
Characterised by good practice having become so ingrained in both individual and organisational practice that it has become ‘second nature’. This may be supplemented by the continuing availability of resources to ensure ongoing development and sustainability.

Question 2 of 9

Where would you rate your own current practice or level of knowledge?


Question 3 of 3

Where do you think the current practice of social work and health services lies?



Cultural competency addresses how services are provided to, and experienced by minority ethnic carers, service users and patients.

The learning model described in this section encompasses the attitudes, approaches and practices of both indiviuals and organizations, and represents the various stages they will progress through when working towards a culturally competent service.