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Tackling inequality in social care

In his latest column, Mark Topps discusses inequalities and discrimination in social care and what care providers can do to tackle the issue.

A person in a hat and long sleeve shirt sitting on the floor of an empty room with their head on their knees.
Mark Topps
Mark Topps
Regional Business Manager
Published on:
1/6/2022
· Last Edited On:
9/6/2022
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8-minute read

As a single, white male I was always cautious that I may not be the best person to advise on this subject. Last year I was invited by Dudley Sawyerr to speak at the Care Show on this subject and received some praise for the awareness factor. Since then, I’ve spoken at a number of conferences and educational settings to speak about equality and diversity and how to utilise social media to break down the barriers and stigma. I quickly realised that my thoughts of being that single, white male preaching didn’t matter… what matters is using your voice to raise awareness and encourage others to speak out.

In this week’s blog I want to touch on some of the inequalities that affect social care, and steps we can all take to reduce and remove it.  

Disability discrimination

I’ve seen first-hand how people living with any form of disability can be left behind and be denied equal access and how this can impact their mental health and sense of self-worth. Prior to writing this, I spent time speaking with a lady called Sophie who came into the care system due to neglect and abuse from her family. Because of her learning disability, people, throughout her life, assumed that she cannot do things and she’s been blocked from opportunities due to those prejudices. She’s repeatedly been told she won’t achieve goals. For years she had to choose between living in a care home or having a job. As she spoke to me about her experience, her story felt eerily familiar. I’ve seen this play out numerous times while supporting people living with a learning disability. I dread to think how many people have to sacrifice taking on a paid role, for which they have the skills and capabilities, out of fear of losing their benefits and with that their care home placement. Instead of utilising their skills and knowledge, they are forced to volunteer their time doing meaningless tasks.

I recently met with Rachel Baber, Managing Director of Living 4 Moments, who aims to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities. Rachel told me how workplaces have a responsibility to ensure they are adaptable enough to meet their employee’s needs, for example, meeting notes could be provided in advance for deaf, neurodiverse and dyslexic employees and how lighting could be adjusted for people who rely on lip-reading.

One thing that stuck with me from our  conversation was when Rachel stated:

Working with disabled people can contribute to fresh ideas and different perspectives, making a business’ products and services more accessible to a wider range of consumers

Age discrimination

Age is just a number, but a staggering 70.8% of UK workers reveal discrimination around age is common in their workplace. With such high statistics, why are we not pushing back and standing for what we know is right? The first step we should be taking is ensuring a policy is in place and that the organisations position on discrimination is known, make sure that the leaders within the organisation are on board, train staff and look at new ways of working such as using new images to break down stereotypes and ensuring collaboration is taking place between older and younger employees so that views and experiences can be shared. Listening to the views of a wider demographic can help shape better and more inclusive outcomes.

Ethnic discrimination

The inequalities facing black, Asian and minority ethnic heritages is often discussed and yet I feel it is a slow journey to overcoming these. Research has confirmed that race discrimination is a factor although many argue that Britain is not a racist nation. I can, therefore, only assume that racism is very deep-rooted in the culture we live in, meaning people are often unaware of their own discriminatory tendencies. We, therefore,  all play a part in up-rooting it and ensuring people do not feel discriminated against. In the workplace, we should be stomping out bullying, discrimination or racism towards others, training staff in equality, diversity and unconscious bias; have an equality champion to support everyone, implement changes and take time to learn about other cultures and religions.  

Sexism

Sex inequality just like race discrimination is often spoken about but appears to be a slow burner to overcome. It has been unlawful for nearly five decades, however, there continues to be an issue with sexual harassment - pregnancy and maternity discrimination topping the list. In a workplace dominated by females, we need to ensure we utilise their experience to shape the future. Social care does really well at making sure our frontline staff receive the same pay, regardless of gender, but I am sure this is not the case for higher management roles. According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2020, it will take another 100 years to achieve gender equality based on the current rate of progress. I am a father of three young girls and I hope that by the time they enter the workplace things have changed, but it means organisations need to step up, and make changes now. Not because it is the law but because it is the right thing to do. We need to have policies and workplace practices that allow flexible working conditions, increase the number of women in board positions, and provide training and guidance which is led by example.

What matters is using your voice to raise awareness and encourage others to speak out.

There are many reasons why people are not treated equally and/or are discriminated against, now imagine if you were living with two or all of these aspects, such as a mixed-race lady living with autism, and think how much harder your life would be and the hurdles you would have to jump through to get the same access and rights.  

We all have a part to play in tackling inequalities in social care (and beyond), but we first need to ensure that everyone has an accessible seat at the table so that their voices, experiences and opinions can be heard. The first step for all of us should be to produce an action plan to explain their current situation and to set realistic goals for improvement, reporting on the plan’s progress in subsequent reports.

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