Without Prejudice

    Philip Mosley  has been with Anchor Trust since December
    2000. He manages 15 care homes in London and Surrey and leads
    Anchor’s partnership contract with Southwark Council. His
    background includes five years in registration and inspection and
    four years managing care services for adults with a learning
    difficulty.

    In 1948, the Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury, bringing the
    first main influx of black immigrants to Britain. Many of these
    people had responded to an advertisement in the Jamaican newspaper,
    The Daily Gleaner, for people to move to Britain to address the
    labour shortage after the second world war.

    The Caribbeans and Africans who followed soon afterwards had to
    endure overt racism from the British people who resented black
    people moving into their neighbourhoods.

    Those surviving white British men and women, who were in their
    prime when black immigrants first arrived in any numbers, are now
    well into their eighties and beyond, many of them receiving care in
    residential and nursing homes. Some are not well travelled and have
    few friends from other cultures. Their negative views of black
    people have remained the same, despite Britain’s status as a
    multicultural society.

    A high proportion of the staff in care homes are from ethnic
    minorities, many recent entrants to the UK. Overt racism towards
    staff from residents and relatives has become a major cause for
    concern.

    Recognising the increasing diversity of staff in Anchor’s homes in
    Surrey and Southwark in south London a project was set up to
    address the racial abuse that was regularly being experienced by
    black care workers. Misunderstandings – particularly over food,
    where residents had been served Yorkshire pudding and custard, and
    sponge cake with gravy – could provoke anger from residents and
    relatives who would say that the mistake was deliberate.

    The project was set up to address three issues:

    • Ethnic minority staff members’ experience of racism from
      service users and their families, and the need for staff and home
      managers to respond positively with a view to building
      understanding between staff and residents and their relatives.
    • The need to enhance cultural awareness of staff and increase
      the understanding of cultural differences between ethnic
      minorities.
    • The need to record the strategies used to raise the issue of
      cultural diversity so that they could be rolled out across the
      organisation.

    The project examined the views of 20 staff from eight of the
    Southwark and Surrey care homes, as were the types of racism
    experienced and their impact. The responses of care workers to
    racist abuse were many, ranging from “making allowances” for the
    resident to “playing down the impact” of remarks to avoid being
    seen as a troublemaker by senior staff. It was found that senior
    staff were poorly equipped to deal with racist incidents.

    The project uncovered some issues that were uncomfortable for
    staff, including having to write down the names that they had been
    called. Challenges included resistance to change, particularly from
    relatives, and difficulty in encouraging more staff to stand up to
    prejudice.

    But there were also positive achievements: staff had benefited
    greatly from sharing their experiences with each other and in
    learning about each other’s cultures. Some staff also felt stronger
    when dealing with residents and relatives, sometimes managing to
    secure an apology from the person who had made the comment.

    Many residents eventually overcame their prejudices and formed
    close relationships with ethnic minority staff. For the white staff
    members, residents and relatives it was a surprise to discover the
    range of cultural, language, religious, national and ethnic
    diversity among black staff, and those who took part in the project
    found their enthusiasm and commitment to their work were
    invigorated.

    Looking to the future, Anchor Homes staff and managers have agreed
    to draft a policy document for managers on responding to prejudice.
    Information will also be displayed and distributed to staff,
    including a leaflet called Be Proud to Be You that will be issued
    to staff as part of their induction.

    Issues of race and diversity will be incorporated into NVQ training
    on communication and the promotion of rights, and regular review
    meetings will let managers talk to residents about the policy on
    attitudes to black care staff. Staff are to be supported and given
    clearer guidelines on what to do if a resident is abusive.
    Exclusion of a relative or resident is always seen as a last
    resort.

    To counteract racism Anchor Homes has launched a programme of
    activities under the banner “One World”. The activities, which
    residents and relatives appear to enjoy, include reminiscence days,
    sharing travel memories and organising events to celebrate the
    diversity of all nations represented in the homes.

    Since the project, staff members have reported greater confidence
    in handling incidents of racism and lessons have been learned about
    running future events:

    • The purpose of events aimed at raising cultural awareness need
      to be clearly communicated to residents and staff. In one case the
      facilitator arrived to find that the group that had been prepared
      for a reminiscence session consisted of residents only, when the
      purpose was sharing and comparing memories of childhood between
      residents and staff.
    • Residents must be fully involved. On one occasion invitations
      to take part in a reminiscence session had not been distributed –
      one resident returned to his room to collect his photographs when
      he realised they would be useful.
    • Staff who represent their homes need to be clear in their role
      and responsibility in disseminating the conclusions of the project
      among colleagues.
    • A budget allocation for preparing food for cultural events is
      needed.

    Prejudice from one vulnerable group towards another presents its
    own set of challenges, notably the acceptance that the problem
    exists. Of course, the needs of service users are important but
    staff have the right to work without fear of abuse and without the
    additional fear that their employer will not take the abuse
    seriously.

    Response to Racism

    • Have the confidence to invite people to share their experiences
      of cross-cultural misunderstandings and of racism.
    • Don’t ignore the issue of racism hoping it will go away.
    • Never blame the victim.
    • Acknowledge the pain caused by racism and give support.
    • Have clear and firm policies on how you will deal with
      racism.
    • Raise cultural understandings through enjoyable events.  

    Abstract
    This article reports on a project commissioned by
    Anchor Trust’s care homes business, Anchor Homes. The project aimed
    to address the problems of racism, experienced by care staff
    working in homes in south London and Surrey. The racism took the
    form of verbal and physical abuse from residents and, in some
    cases, their families. Anchor commissioned a consultant from the
    Residents and Relatives Association to undertake the research and
    write the report, working alongside the operations manager for the
    area.

    Further Reading

    Contact the author
    E-mail philip.mosley@anchor.org.uk  

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