Making sure the voices of staff from all ethnic backgrounds are heard are central to the objectives of the Workplace Race Equality Standard (WRES). Staff have fed back feelings of uncertainty or distrust towards organisational action, based on experiences of previous multiple commitments made but not always acted upon.
It is essential to work with staff and be open throughout this journey, creating safe spaces in which to safely and positively engage with the issues.
Over the coming weeks and months, we will be introducing guest blogs from each of our 18 local authority sites, sharing their experiences with you as their WRES journeys get underway.
In our first in a dedicated series of WRES blogs, Brighton & Hove City Council’s Principal Social Workers Richard Cattell and Tom Stibbs reflect on challenges within their organisation, how the WRES supports their aims, and their commitment to transform workplace culture with collaborative, scrutinised and transparent work.
Making good on a pledge
This is a time of real change for Brighton & Hove City Council. We have made a pledge to become an anti-racist council and city, working hard to be a fair and inclusive place to work. Like all council services, we have collaboratively developed meaningful and measurable actions as part of our fair and inclusive action plan.
As Principal Social Workers, we have a vision of what excellent social work and social care should look like; anti-racist practice is central to that.
Implementing the Workforce Race and Equality Standard (WRES) provides an opportunity for us to work in collaboration across our children’s and adult social care workforce, and alongside 17 other local authorities towards a shared vision of genuine organisational change.
The WRES will, transparently and publicly, track the impact of our diversity and inclusion work and shine a light on the experience and opportunities for development and progression of Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff.
Practically, it will provide a tangible framework for collecting and analysing data on the experiences of our staff, broken down by ethnicity. The council has already learnt simply collecting data on race and equality will not bring about real change. We need ways to measure what is different and turn this into action. The WRES will do exactly that, making sure we hold ourselves accountable and make a real difference to our staff and citizens.
We are excited to be one of the first local authorities to drive this agenda through the WRES. We know this will not happen overnight and will require significant, visible commitment.
We also know we won’t always get it right. With a willingness to learn, listen and, most importantly, act on what we find, we hope to take real steps to creating an organisational culture promoting equal and fair opportunities for staff, regardless of ethnicity.
The WRES is not the only answer
The WRES complements our wider aims and programmes. We recently signed up to the Race at Work Charter and are already taking action towards making sure our social care practice is anti-racist.
The council has an existing fair and inclusive action plan:
“It’s built around the themes of ensuring accountability and consequences for our behaviours, improving learning and development on equality and diversity, making sure our recruitment, retention and progression is fair and inclusive, and improving how we work and understand the city’s diverse communities.” Council Chief Executive Geoff Raw.
Both children’s and adult services have demonstrated a commitment to embedding anti-racist principles into organisational development. In children’s social work, the recent appointment of a lead practitioner for anti-racist practice is a good example of turning intention into action.
These initiatives must be built on with parallel action in our recruitment and progression processes, such as improving representation of BAME staff on recruitment panels.
Listen, learn and act
The WRES puts learning from staff experience at its heart and we know that creating safe spaces for learning and challenge will be central to how we navigate this path as well as respecting the honest views and experiences of our workforce.
We know how important it is for people to feel able to talk about race and racism with their colleagues and the people they support. This has already had an impact on practice.
Initial feedback to the WRES in our area have included comments on how brave it is to sign up for this level of public scrutiny. However, we know true transformation must come from open and transparent work. Meaningful change will only happen if we take deliberate action.