Equity, equality, diversity and inclusion
July 2021 Stocktake: SafeLives EEDI Commitments
On July 1st 2020, we published a statement of intent, and plan, on equity, equality, diversity and inclusion. Those materials can be found here. We committed in 2020 that we would be transparent and consistent in reporting against our statement and plan, and have published updates in December 2020 and February 2021 (when we released our diversity monitoring data, found here). In April 2021 we published a response to the Government’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities here.
We have now reached the end of the first year’s plan on EEDI and this page forms the final stocktake of 2020/21. We are publishing it alongside a renewed plan for 2021/22.
Our plans speak to the full breadth of EEDI issues. Within this, our priority focus remains on improving our anti-racist practice. In putting together this stocktake, we invited members of our team and colleagues from the wider VAWG sector to comment on progress – or lack of it. For colleagues outside the organisation, we invited reflections about us as an organisation, which might or might not have involved them being familiar with our specific EEDI commitments. Each spoke candidly, as women of colour, about their perspective and experience of our organisation. We are extremely appreciative of colleagues taking the time and personal energy to engage with us in this conversation, and we hope the work we do in the year to come will honour and respect what they had to say.
Everyone has to evolve, adapt, change.
Sahdaish Pall, Service Lead - Sikh Women’s Aid
Overall, we have started to make important practical changes. These should continue. We now want to make relational changes, too, responding to the encouragement from Kwame Christian that ‘The best things lie on the other side of hard conversations.’
- We have made changes to staff, associate, Pioneer and Trustee recruitment. For staff recruitment, this has led to an improvement in the breadth of people who apply to and are appointed by SafeLives, with 27% of applicants and 21% of appointees in the last year identifying as being from a Black, Asian, or racially minoritised group. We published our first diversity monitoring data for staff, associates, Pioneers and Trustees in February, and will renew this data in December, for publication again in February 2022.
- One external colleague noted that though she has used our resources and known us before, she felt pre-2020 that SafeLives wasn’t showing diversity in our organisation. Contact with us through recent events has “opened my eyes”. Before that, she felt like only white people worked at SafeLives but she now feels that at webinars and events she has seen people of all different backgrounds representing the organisation. She feels that “once people know SafeLives properly, they’ll feel the diversity”. But from the outside, someone might still feel that way. Indeed, Sahdaish Pall, who has used SafeLives resources a lot in her career, said “SafeLives doesn’t come across as a diverse organisation. Not necessarily in terms of race but more generally. If there is work going on about this, people don’t necessarily know about it. I have often come to you for expertise but not specialisms.”
- We know from internal conversations that staff inside the organisation don’t always feel like they are part of a diverse organisation. This feeling might have been exaggerated by remote-only working, particularly for new staff, but there is clearly still more for us to do to make sure all team members are recognised and valued, and that we keep improving the extent to which our organisation fully reflects the UK. “Being open to change is the most important thing…. Organisations need to employ people with diversity of mind, regardless of how they look. If the people who are there operate with the right mindset, that will come through in the organisation’s culture and its delivery of services” (Sabreena Grant, court-based Idva)
- We have a lot more work to do once staff, Pioneers, Trustees and associates who come from under-represented groups join the team. Within this there are fundamental issues about how we have the hardest conversations, and safely for those involved. “Whatever an organisation does, it has to be meaningful… for example how are your colleagues in the organisation treated if they experience racism? Do they feel safe, is there a culture that supports open conversations?” (Sabreena Grant). We cannot confidently answer these questions, at the moment. We are right in the middle of this – working at both anti-racist and restorative approaches to build confidence and trust for every team member. But a single year’s attention to this has not solved it and we need to do much more work to earn the confidence and trust of all members of SafeLives.
- We have developed formal and informal partnerships with brilliant organisations who hold specialisms we don’t – and we’re increasingly paying attention to how we partner, not just who with – are we experienced as working with an equity approach? Formal scoping work, due to be completed this summer, will provide further recommendations about our allyship for smaller, more specialist organisations. In the meantime, Sahdaish Pall told us ‘SafeLives has always been an organisation we look up to’ and that she’d always found staff supportive when she has got in touch directly. However, she noted she has always thought of us as ‘over there’, with some partnership working but not high levels of engagement with smaller organisations.
- Brene Brown talks about being an ‘upstander not a bystander’, and that ‘upstanding’ comes from having worked through and practiced difficult conversations. In discussing this stocktake and our commitments, one external colleague reflected “Some organisations are frightened to do this as they’re worried about offending people, but that leaves just a small number of people (usually people of colour) speaking up” (Jackie Kibanza, CEO of La Grace de Francoise). We have put effort, time and investment this year into development, reflection and training that will increase our confidence, motivation and ‘safe, strong spaces’ and have worked with Voscur, Diverse Matters and Race Resilience to do that, also developing a learning library of resources for colleagues to read into issues with which they’re less familiar. Our 2021/22 plan renews the commitment to keep going with this and ensure it is making a difference in who feels it is their role to identify and address discrimination.
- We have tried to strike a balance between reaffirming publicly our intent, ideas and support, and not ‘performing’ this. We made public our response to the Government’s report on race and ethnic disparities, and also made a short public statement about issues raised about the VAWG sector beyond SafeLives. La Grace de Francoise CEO Jackie Kibanza commented that lots of organisations didn’t say anything, and she wanted to see them do so. She noted “You need to know as someone in the minoritised group that they have your back.” Our latter statement, though it was short, told her how we feel, and that, “You’re with me.” The tone and content of our internal and external communications on issues of race and racism will continue to need close attention - we know we haven’t always got this right.
- SafeLives holds, analyses and promotes a lot of data and evidence, and we know that the language we use in our reporting (and our wider communications) matters. This year we got rid of the terms BAME and BME in our reporting (and suggested the same to others who we can influence). We have also taken steps to be more transparent about the gaps in our data and therefore how representative our insights and findings can be considered to be.
- We also considered the practice guidance we publish, and worked closely with Southall Black Sisters and Standing Together on Marac guidance where there needs to be a clear separation between safeguarding activity and immigration enforcement. The Drive partnership, for which we’re one of three partners with Respect and Social Finance, initiated projects led by specialist colleagues to address the needs of minoritised communities. Sahdaish Pall noted that she thinks of SafeLives as quite operationally focused, working from an expert perspective on issues of safety and how to safely deliver innovation in practice. She has used a lot of SafeLives resources, from the website, sometimes amending these to meet the needs of her individual service users. We talked about the role for SafeLives in seeking feedback to make these changes ourselves, so that smaller organisations don’t have to spend their time doing that.
- We have started reviewing and improving our training content. EEDI-related changes we proposed to DA Matters scripts licensed by the College of Policing were discussed and accepted. We have started to make some initial changes to Idva materials with Forward UK, as well as creating an anti-racist module as part of the training, and look forward to doing bespoke work on the Idva manual with Sistah Space in 2021/22, as well as supporting them with their campaign for Valerie's Law. Sabreena Grant shared that she found the training coordinators and other learners for her Idva course “really, really encouraging. Really empowering as a first experience in the sector.” She noted that despite the course having to move online because of Covid, it “still felt like a safe space”, and some adjustments which she needed in advance, to take part, had been well handled by the training coordinator and the two associate trainers for the course. The need for more thorough consideration of access issues has been mainstreamed into event planning, as well as training. However, Sahdaish Pall noted that having worked in the sector at a senior level for a long time, in a small specialist service, she has consistently found the cost of Idva training difficult. The housing association one of her services was embedded in wasn’t a charity (though it was a not for profit) so wasn’t eligible for existing SafeLives bursaries on offer. ‘I have put a few staff through, but it’s quite costly’. She went on to suggest that SafeLives should more heavily promote our resources to smaller and more specialist organisations who don’t know they exist and are working, “with good intentions but a lack of knowledge which could unintentionally put someone at risk.” She also asked us to consider whether CICs and some not-for-profit organisations could be considered for bursary criteria in future. We are already offering new additional larger subsidies for small specialist organisations with income of less than £500k.
- In terms of other SafeLives support to individual practitioners and smaller organisations, Sabreena Grant suggested, “Ideas about career progression. Supporting buddying or mentoring from outside someone’s own organisation.” She is still using her WhatsApp group from the Idva course, and felt the SafeLives Community (an online platform for frontline practitioners) could be developed more. She noted that although she wouldn’t necessarily have been aware of our specific EEDI commitments without a proactive conversation, she was glad to see SafeLives’ inclusivity in other ways – for example, celebrating other organisations and individual practitioners through Star of the Month on social media.
- We have been really glad this year to act in an advocacy capacity for the mighty HOPE Network, acting as the conduit for Meena to secure funding when not being incorporated as a charity could have stood in her way. The value of Meena’s work – which is all her own - is evident in the feedback from one external colleague: “Meena has been such a blessing... that’s someone I would look up to in terms of building a career after starting as an Idva”.