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13th April 2017

Equality and Diversity: When oversensitivity stops us promoting it

What was that you said?

My hearing is not great. Both my mother and sister have hearing aids, and I am just at the point where some noises and sounds escape me. That annoys me so much! The most irritating times are when someone is across the table, and they think the information is sensitive. The whir of coffee machines and clinking glasses in restaurants aids the secretive whispers.

‘Say that again?’, I say to my husband. He repeats in the same low volume exaggerated way. This is when I get my back up. ‘Look, I can’t hear you, either speak up or just tell me later’ (he annoys me so much sometimes, he knows I hate that). I snipe with enough volume that my rather old English gent of a husband grimaces and retreats into moody silence.

Interviews with a whisperer

I have been in Manager interviews asking about people’s understanding of Equality and Diversity. They have mouthed in the response the words ‘transgender’ or ‘black’ for instance, like a secret.

I have thought about this long and hard. Is it because people don’t know if what they are saying is right? Or they are offended by it?

There has become, in my book, a cultural myth that we must erase or always keep quiet about difference, and that is somehow an acceptance of it.  That can create barriers if a person does want to talk.

Equalities, Diversity and Human Rights in Inspection

One role of The Care Quality Commission is to look at Equality, Diversity and Human Rights. This is done through the Key Lines of Enquiry in inspection.

As an organisation they check Providers consider people’s;

  • Protected characteristics
  • That they are protecting human rights, treating people fairly, with respect and dignity
  • Giving choice and control over the care people receive
  • Looking at the action they take to ensure equality for staff

To strengthen this, CQC have set themselves a two-year plan with their latest Equality objectives released in March.

Breaking the Silence

We are often told what we can’t do, aren’t we?  That can lead to fear and make us slow to speak up.

Equality and Diversity is not about pretending everyone is the same and avoiding talking about everything other than the weather. It’s about ensuring people are equal in the level of outstanding service offered, celebrating what makes them unique and offering a service that supports that.

So here are some things that are OK to do;

It’s OK to ask questions – As long as you have the permission of the person (remember if people wish to keep things private that is OK too), it is OK to ask people more about themselves. This may take time and relationship – it’s OK to add things at a later date to people’s information.

It’s OK to ask for help – Because everybody is unique. Everyone should have Equality and Diversity training but don’t be afraid to ask for more specific training if you don’t understand and look again through QCS' policies as well as blogs which may help.

It’s OK to be different – It’s OK to be who you are. Your life and choices are as important as everybody else’s, but you must be sensitive and not overpower or discourage people in being who they are.

It’s OK to plan for who is not there - Don’t hide behind who uses your service now. Be ready for who could use your service.

What did you want to say?

On the journey home I asked my husband what he had been trying to say in the restaurant… ”I was saying that I really love you and I am glad we are together”.

”Oh!” I said… ”that is something to shout about, not to whisper!”

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

Abi Spence

Registration and Inspection Specialist

Abi has worked for and with Government agencies relevant to social care for the past 12+ years. Primarily with the Department of Health, Social Services Inspectorate, Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) and since its inception the Care Quality Commission (CQC). As part of this long involvement Abi has developed a wide and detailed understanding of relevant issues and has worked closely with stakeholders such as people that use services, carers, providers, local government, the Department of Health, Ofsted and the Audit Commission. Read more

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