Thursday 25 June 2009

Valuing Diversity part 2

One of the issues that we discussed at this weeks staff meeting was complying with our QAF in relation to diversity and inclusion. Tessa, our manager, was quite concerned that we are currently not demonstrating a high enough standard of compliance with this QAF. In particular, she highlighted the fact that our project rarely has any people from an ethnic minority background. This is due to the fact that when we do have someone from an ethnic background they tend to work hard, save their money and then move in to private accommodation as soon as they can. This is after all our ostensible goal, to support young people in to independent living. Perhaps we should ask them to stay so that we can comply with our QAF re how many people with tans or who are practising Zoroastrians are residing with us?

Anyway, I had a pretty surreal conversation with Tessa which reveals how well intentioned policies can often degenerate into a farce.

“Well guys, I’ve been looking at our QAF in relation to diversity and we really need to be able to demonstrate more that we can do to ensure that ethnic minorities have fair access to our service. The local ethnic minority population is about two percent, but we don’t consistently have two percent of our residents coming from an ethnic minority background. We need to be able to explain why this is the case and evidence that we have tried to turn this around,” states Tessa.

“First of all, if our target is two percent then we only need to have 1.2 of our residents consistently coming from an ethnic background. Tariq will suffice as one whole ethnic person, and Zara’s granddad was a Hungarian Jewish refugee during the war so that might make up the 0.2 percent we need, as she is partially a foreigner,” I quip facetiously. “However,” I continue, “perhaps the reason, we never get that many ethnic minority applications is that the few ethnic groups we have living in the community are still quite bound by familial obligations and would never dream of offloading their offspring on to the burden of the state, I may be wrong, but it’s just a thought.”

Tessa, isn’t too pleased with my irreverent tone. I hate all this QAF stuff. It patronises the very people it purports to want to help.

“Anyway, we need to get in touch with various ethnic community groups and provide them with the information about our service. We need to document and record the contact with these organisations as evidence that we are trying to promote fair access for all in the community. I really want us to consistently reflect the ethnic diversity as well as the gender make up of the community,” states Tessa.

This gets me thinking, how in the hell are we to contrive reflecting the ethnic makeup of the community within our project? Are we to descend upon the local Indian restaurants in the evening with brochures promoting our project and asking the owner to consider sending some of his children to live with us when they turn sixteen in order to prove that our organisation isn’t secretly run by Nick Griffin?

Many ethnic minority groups in the UK today are from traditional and religiously conservative backgrounds which can produce a whole load of other social pathologies. However, to their credit, they see the family and not the state as the central unit of society.

Do you think they would want to see their young living in a project with rampant drug and alcohol abuse, abortion as a form of contraception, high rates of teenage pregnancy and STDs, domestic violence, inertia and criminal activity? Somehow, I think a place like our project is the last place many families would want to see their young living in whether from an ethnic minority or not.

If I were from an ethnic minority background I would wear it as a badge of honour that my community were not availing of such a service to the extent of the indigenous underclass, if any thing it would be a mark of integrity to have nothing to do with our project rather than an indication of being discriminated against.

Friday 5 June 2009

Valuing Diversity

The Supported Housing sector like so many other spheres of the public sector has to demonstrate that we are secretly not a bunch of white supremacists. Supporting People’s Quality Assessment Framework assists government bureaucrats to measure the degree to which we are complying with regulations on diversity and anti discriminatory practice in the workplace. As the QAF states our organisation should demonstrate, “that there is a commitment to the values of diversity and inclusion and to practice of equal opportunity (including accessibility in its widest sense) and the needs of black and minority ethnic service users are appropriately met.”

On the face of it this diktat sounds great but when put in to practice they are often farcical. In measuring compliance with the QAF one of the things that Supporting People will look for is that we have provided information to service users about the availability of cultural and religious organisations and centres. Again on the face of it sounds great but here is how it works in the project I am currently working at.

Upon entering the building and standing in reception you will be greeted by a variety of posters and leaflets outlining things like “How to Complain”, “What you can expect from our Service” and so on and so forth. All these documents contain illustrations of individuals from several ethnic groups and somebody in a wheelchair. They are all smiling and look well pleased with their lot despite the fact that they share accommodation with the feral indigenous underclass. However, as there are no obvious Celtic looking people or any partially sighted lesbians on any of these posters I am deeply offended. I will be forwarding a suggestion to our *Diversity Officer that a new poster be made up with a greater degree of inclusion.

After perusing the politically correct leaflets and posters you will become aware of a very large poster outlining the tenets of various religions including obscure faiths such as Zoroastrianism. The last time I checked there were no Zoroastrians residing with us. We will soon be updating our faith information poster to include information on druids and jedis.

I must say it is a lovely poster and is extremely positive about the world’s religions and makes no mention of any abhorrent practice within these faiths or the fact that they have all been killing each other for hundreds of years or ironically that many of these faiths don’t value diversity in the same way our organisation does. If you don’t believe me then read up on most of these faiths' attitudes towards homosexuals and women. You wont find a valuing diversity section in most of their holy books.

Next to this poster, there is an information leaflet directing would be worshipers to their nearest church, mosque, temple or synagogue whatever the case may be. Should the aspirant worshiper find the challenge of getting to the local place of worship a challenge we can incorporate this in to a key work session and come up with an “action plan” that we can document in the Support Plan. This will further help us demonstrate compliance with our QAF on diversity and will give the bureaucrats that the public pay something extra to read when she or he (just abiding by my diversity and equal opportunities training) come to carry out an inspection.

Now, the main problem with this initiative is that it doesn’t correspond to the reality of our project. The majority of our residents are white British and their centres of worship tend to be the local off licence and the nearest pub during happy hour where they praise the spirits of their choice.

We have only one resident from an ethnic minority background. He is an Iraqi refugee, Tariq, and a nicer fellow you couldn’t meet. Polite, well mannered and he studies and works part time. He is contributing much more to his adopted country than many of the indigenous residents who sit in their rooms all day stoned playing video games. No doubt watching friends and relatives being tortured by Saddam and then seeing his country descend in to internecine conflict have given him an appreciation of living in a fee society and he is using every opportunity he can to better himself.

One of our residents recently complained, “these bloody Poles and other foreigners are coming over here and stealing all our jobs, it’s not fair.”

I responded, “but you never actually look for work so why would you be bothered? Do you expect an employer to come and knock on your door and offer you work? You have to look for it.” He walked away perplexed at the notion that he would actually have to do something to get a job.

Anyway, back to Tariq our only refugee. Now Tariq did describe himself as a Muslim when signing up for our project but judging from the posters of naked women that adorn his wall as well as the discarded beer cans in his room I have deduced that he isn’t practising his religion too often these days. Who can blame him after the role he has seen religion play in the violence in his native land. Never the less, should he decide to revert to the practice of Islam then we have all the information at hand to help him access his cultural and religious needs and we get to tick the relevant boxes to demonstrate our compliance with the QAF.

Now, thankfully Tariq was a fluent English speaker and we didn’t have to provide him with any interpreting service. However, according to the QAF, “where necessary service users are able to communicate in forms other than English.” Perhaps, it would be more effective and helpful to teach service users with no English, to learn the native language, after all they will need it in applying for jobs or training. Surely this would be real support?

However, nowhere in the QAF does it outline that we are to assist people in grasping the rudiments of the official language of the country. I believe that this is due to the fact that the people that formulate these regulations are politically correct zealots who perceive that asking someone to learn or improve their English is tantamount to discrimination. This is nonsense. It is the best help that we can give migrants and would help them integrate in to our society and allow them to live freer lives as equal citizens.