Social care is often late to the party with many initiatives, like using technology to evidence delivering quality care. But diversity and inclusion are not one of them.
These two words are what drives many of us to deliver compassionate and meaningful support. I was talking to someone this week who was starting their career in social care, and I think I take for granted the meaning and impact of these two words. So, I wanted to hit the pause button, go back to basics, and look at what diversity and inclusion means and why it's important in the delivery of social care.
What is diversity and inclusion?
Diversity refers to the unique characteristics, experiences, and backgrounds that make each person different, encompassing factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation and disability.
Inclusion, on the other hand, involves creating an environment where diverse individuals feel valued, respected, and empowered to participate fully.
So, why does diversity and inclusion play a big part in social care?
We are the largest workforce in the United Kingdom, with more staff than the NHS and supporting millions of people per year. We are not here to just raise awareness of the industry, we are here to embed the values that diversity brings to the table.
How to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace
There are a number of things you can do that are simple yet effective to implement:
- Having a clear commitment is crucial, and communicating this through the team at all levels is vital to ensure staff know what is expected of them and the goal for the organisation. Many organisations will make commitments through their mission statement and values.
- Develop, revise, and implement diversity and inclusion policies. Regularly review and update your company policies to ensure they are inclusive and reflect your commitment to diversity. Make sure you also review and implement documents that are accessible and inclusive, such as large print or pictorial.
- Train employees in diversity and inclusion to raise awareness about unconscious biases, promoting empathy, and to develop cultural competence. Also think about the people you support, and implement other training such as learning disability awareness, dementia awareness, mental health awareness, and communication. This will upskill your workforce.
- Ensure your recruitment processes are inclusive from start to finish. Your adverts should be inclusive, and you should consider using job sites that reach diverse audiences or attending job fairs in different towns and villages. I have worked for companies where CVs have names redacted so that you cannot make any unconscious biases. Think about your interviewers and how you can have a diverse of interview panel.
- Actively promote a culture of inclusivity where all employees feel respected and valued. Encourage open and honest communication, promote collaboration, and discourage discriminatory behaviour. Celebrate diversity by acknowledging and appreciating different cultures, traditions, and perspectives.
- Ensure that all employees have access to equal opportunities for career progression and strive to ensure you have a diverse leadership team.
Implementing a workplace champion
You can also think about introducing an equality or diversity champion into your workplace. This is someone who can champion change and raise awareness throughout the organisation.
There are many resources online that will be able to support you with this, but here are some of the things I have seen in different organisations that you can do, too:
- Raise awareness about diversity and inclusion issues by organising workshops, training sessions, and presentations.
- Help educate employees on topics such as unconscious bias, cultural competence, and inclusive practices.
- Collaborate with HR to develop and update diversity policies, guidelines, and strategies as well as reviewing existing policies and practices to identify areas where inclusivity can be enhanced.
- Share best practices.
- Work closely with the HR team to implement inclusive recruitment and hiring practices.
- Collaborate with the learning and development team to create training programs that promote diversity, inclusion, and cultural competence.
- Ensure that the organisation has accessible documentation, resources, and equipment for those who require it.
- Act as a vocal advocate for diversity and inclusion initiatives within the organisation for inclusive benefits and flexible work arrangements.
- Promote the importance of diversity to leadership, employees, and stakeholders.
- Track and analyse diversity metrics within the organisation, such as representation (gender, age groups), retention, and exit reasons. They can use this date to generate reports and share insights with leadership teams to identify areas for improvement and to inform decision making.
- Collaborate with external organisations, industry groups, and community leaders to share best practices and stay updated on current diversity and inclusion trends.
- Network with other diversity champions to exchange ideas and learn from their experiences.
- Organise events and initiatives that celebrate diversity, such as cultural heritage months, pride month, International Women's Day etc.
- Act as a mentor or sponsor to employees from underrepresented groups.
Remember to regularly review your practice. If you implement champions, this is something they can do. Send out surveys to gauge employee feedback and identify areas for improvement and make sure you act on this feedback to address any concerns or issues promptly.
We are not perfect, and our teams are made up of people with unconscious bias that can creep in and rear its ugly head in the form of racial or ethnic bias, stereotyping, gender inequality, ageism, or prejudice towards individuals with disabilities.
It is essential to actively challenge instances of discrimination and investigate and learn to ensure it doesn’t happen in the future. Unconscious bias and discrimination can break up teams, develop closed cultures, and ultimately result in poor delivery of care.
The benefits of diversity and inclusion in social care
There are many benefits of ensuring diversity and inclusion in social care, and these include:
- Improved outcomes to the people we are supporting. Diversity isn’t just visible characteristics, and when people come together, they bring different experiences, ideas and perspectives. These can help problem solve and allows us as a team to be responsive to meet the needs of those we are supporting – both physically and mentally – which, in turn, increases satisfaction from the people you support and their representatives.
- Increased innovation and creativity.
- Building trust and rapport, both for the people we support and within the team. Inclusive organisations create a sense of belonging, that family feel, and this acts as a safety net for many people. You will often hear people who work in social care talking about their colleagues and service as if it is ‘like a family’ and this can help people feel valued, understood and more comfortable. These three things can create a positive environment where supportive and high-quality care can be delivered.
- Improved decision making, as you will have a broader range of perspectives.
- Community Engagement. Our regulators expect services to integrate within their local communities. Inclusive organisations can come together to create events and occasions that are inclusive for their communities, which can increase brand awareness, build a positive image within the local area, and help with recruitment.
- Attracting candidates seeking an inclusive environment that values and respects their unique contributions. Employees tend to have higher employee satisfaction rates in these environments, which can improve retention rates.
Implementing a diverse and inclusive workforce is not going to happen overnight, and you will need to work on it and have commitment from the leadership team down. Change management will be crucial because it is important to communicate, seek the opinions of your staff, and go on the journey together as a team.
My biggest piece of advice would be to have one or more diversity and inclusion leads who can help you champion the change and foster the culture that you want to see within your organisation.