A Community Care poll has found that four in ten social workers believe that homophobia is a problem for those in the profession, with some claiming their colleagues have been forced out of their jobs owing to their sexuality.

Of the respondents to the poll, which took place online, 317 people (40 per cent) believed that homophobia was a problem in social care. Just under a third (30 per cent) admitted they “didn’t know” whether such prejudice was an issue, while 30 per cent did not believe it was an issue at all.

One respondent said: “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.”

Examples brought to light by the survey included a gay social worker being asked by colleagues if he wanted to be “the fairy on the Christmas tree”, a social work student who found themselves unable to continue with a placement at a religious school “that openly aired homophobic views” and 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.”

Respondents also wrote of less obvious but equally pernicious experiences of homophobia. One woman wrote: “People stereotype you as ‘lovely’ and suddenly all gay people are lovely. My line manager loves working with gay men but told me I don’t ‘get’ lesbians. Like racism, sexism ageism etc, homophobia is present and needs to be discussed and tackled head on.”

Another respondent said: “The assumption continues to be that everyone is straight unless they look or act what they perceive as stereotypically gay.”

The survey was composed following concerns raised on CareSpace forums that LGBT social workers were being “forced back into the closet.”

One respondent said: “No one should be ‘declaring’ their sexuality, whatever it is. They are in a professional environment and their sexuality should be off-limits, just as much as their political views, religion and what they had for tea last night. Personal stuff stays at home.”

Another responded: “I don’t shout about my sexuality but do not believe in lying, so if asked I would not lie about having a boyfriend when I have a girlfriend.”