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

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

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
  • The need to record the strategies used to raise the issue of
    cultural diversity so that they could be rolled out across the

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

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

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

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

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

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
  • Raise cultural understandings through enjoyable events.  

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

Further Reading

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

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