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Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Anti-racism hub: “Anti-racism is everyone’s business”

Posted in Blog

Anti-racism hub: “Anti-racism is everyone’s business”

Anti-Racism is everyone’s business. As a Trust, we are committed to becoming an actively anti-racist organisation, which challenges racist behaviours and actively works to oppose racial prejudice.

Together with Evolve, our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic staff network, the Trust is developing a set of anti-racist activities and initiatives to work towards anti-racism. This includes the recent launch of our new anti-racism hub, which offers a range of resources to support staff. Here, members of Evolve and the team behind the hub explain more about its purpose and ambitions for the future.

Anti-racism hub: a coalition aiming to actively move towards creating an anti-racist Trust

It is inevitable that the deep-rooted inequalities in society and in the mental health system are also found within South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust. We recognise that we need to change – in terms of how we support the mental health of people from our diverse communities, how we improve the experience of our Black and Ethnic Minority workforce, and how we acknowledge and challenge racism within our organisation and more widely.

“Anti-racism is a process of actively identifying and opposing racism”

It is not enough to sit back and claim to ‘not be racist’ or be passive in the pursuit of equality. As an organisation we need to stop continually relying on our colleagues from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds to do the challenging, calling out and creating change. Anti-racism is everyone’s business and all staff (and stakeholders) have a part to play in shaping an anti-racist culture and a fairer and more equitable place of work, where people feel able to be their authentic selves, to the benefit of all staff and service users.

“If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you recognize that your liberation and mine are bound up together, we can walk together” – Lila Watson

The SWLSTG anti-racism virtual hub is open to all staff, regardless of their race, religion or cultural background. The hub can be accessed via our new inSite (staff Intranet) page, where we have developed a range of resources to support staff on their anti-racism journey. For example, there is advice on being a culturally sensitive practitioner, modelling antiracist culture as a leader, and the use of language and race fluency. The hub supports and promotes a number of antiracist activities within the Trust such as: 

  • creating opportunities for staff to learn and understand what racism is and how it operates within the organisation, including how to become aware of your own unconscious biases and ‘call out/call in’ racist practise
  • policy change and development where ethnic inequalities exist
  • supporting teams who are experiencing difficulties with racial discrimination/tension by offering training and enabling discussions

Staff are encouraged to contact the hub (antiracism@swlstg.nhs.uk) with questions and to support learning, in a safe space. No question is too big or too small. It is only through new learning that we can create new practice. For example, we have had questions around the use of language (e.g. the acronym ‘BAME’); unfamiliar name pronunciation; and whether team protocol is inadvertently discriminatory. Colleagues have also contacted the hub with observations about inequalities in access (for example to school-based provision) and requests for support to ensure they are sensitive to their community’s cultural needs (working with, as opposed to trying to persuade to a particular way of thinking about mental health). 

The hub can also offer support for individuals who are experiencing racial discrimination, who don’t necessarily want to raise a formal grievance. You are believed here.  

The anti-racism virtual hub is staffed by senior colleagues who have undergone specific anti-racism training- some of whom are integral to Evolve (our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic staff network) and others who have not experienced race-based discrimination. It aims to move away from the ‘good-bad’ binary that often means people reject any notion that they can be racist, and more of a focus on recognising, acknowledging and learning from mistakes. 

The hub will be evaluated in a number of ways (feedback from participants, use of the hub’s inSite page and email address) and we hope that it will encourage teams to take part in Quality Improvement and service evaluation projects (such as how to improve access to services). Feedback and evaluation will pave the way for what is needed going forward and recognising there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.

“One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings”- Franklin Thomas

Culture change takes time, but we cannot sit back and passively wait for this to happen. We must intervene to prevent the harmful effects of race-based discrimination in our organisation and so changes can be seen and felt on the ground, until antiracism is embedded within the fabric of the organisation. We recognise that not everyone will come on this journey. But if you are not at least willing to listen and learn, then this is not the right organisation for you.