Making the change and committing to race equality
2 Mar 2023
A new report shares learning on the steps Children in Scotland has taken so far to embed our commitment to race equality but this is just the beginning, says Amy Woodhouse, our Head of Policy, Projects & Participation
Back in September 2021 Children in Scotland published its race equality statement (click here to access), which outlined five organisational pledges to strengthen our commitment to race equality and inclusion. These pledges cover areas including policies and procedures, representation, removing barriers and staff training. Click here to read a blog I wrote to accompany the statement’s publication, describing our race equality journey up to that point and where we were hoping to go next. We were both hopeful and realistic – recognising the in-depth work that was needed throughout the whole organisation but committed to making change.
Now, eighteen months later, we in a position to share our progress. Our Equalities and Diversity Working Group has finished its current phase of activity and has brought together a report, which we have discussed internally with our staff and Board. We also agreed that it was equally important to share this work externally.
Our fifth organisational pledge states: ‘We will continue to improve race equality through learning and working in partnership /collaboration with experts. In return, we will share our own learning and experiences openly and honestly with others’
In sharing our learning and experiences openly and honestly, we have to be able to highlight where we have struggled, stumbled or got things wrong, as well as the successes. The ‘key learning’ section of our report is probably the most valuable in the whole document, as it outlines some of the challenges inherent in race equality work (as well as some inherent to Children in Scotland), and how we have tried to address them. It might be helpful for other organisations that are undertaking similar work internally.
One of the pieces of advice we were given early on was to gather data so that we could establish benchmarks. We couldn’t know our starting point or assess our progress if we didn’t measure things. We had to ask ourselves questions such as whether it was appropriate to ask every helpline caller or child we engage with equalities monitoring questions. What if it’s just a one-off interaction for example? And if we put some limits around that, how then do we accurately measure our reach? In the end, sometimes we have had to compromise and accept that if we are not able to achieve gold standard, then at least our approaches are better than where we were before.
Some things have been more straightforward. Having the pledges has provided us with a framework for making change. Having a committed cross-organisation working group has supported buy-in from across teams and departments, and working with external partners has been absolutely essential to ensuring we were on the right track.
Feedback from staff
When reflecting back on the last couple of years, here are a few quotes from members of the Working Group which help to illustrate our journey;
‘It was both humbling and inspiring to see how Children in Scotland staff got on board with the work we’ve been doing over the past couple of years. While it built on previous equalities work, it wasn’t formulaic and was shaped by people’s lived experiences and what was happening in society. We developed something that is both meaningful and challenging (in the right way!) for all parts of our organisation to build upon.’
‘We are looking forward to continuing working with colleagues across the organisation on equality and diversity issues on a structured, ongoing basis. One dream would be to be able to appoint a permanent colleague responsible for co-ordinating, and keeping everyone informed of, all the equality and diversity work that happens across Children in Scotland.’
‘From someone who recently joined Children in Scotland/Enquire and having a minority ethnic background, I was astonished at the willingness to set up such a group and seeing that focus on making true, meaningful change. It was refreshing to see that it was not artificial or a tick box exercise. I was glad to be part of the group.'
Our sincere thanks to those that have helped us along the way, particularly to CEMVO who helped us shape our statement and our pledges, WSREC for their brilliant and wise training that supported our understanding and confidence and Intercultural Youth Scotland, who have stayed with us as valued partners (despite our mistakes) and helped us to develop our understanding how anti-racism work with children and young people needs to be delivered.
This is just the beginning of our work. The test will be whether we achieve real and meaningful change over time. Whether the steps we have taken mean in the longer term that Children in Scotland is a more diverse, inclusive, equalities-focussed organisation. Whether our staff team, our board, the people who use our services and the children and young people we work with reflect the diversity of Scotland, in terms of race and other protected characteristics as well. That barriers to access are removed. That we are strong adversaries of discrimination and prejudice wherever we encounter it.
We cannot confidently say we are there yet. The work needs to continue.
As part of our ongoing commitment to improving representation and working in partnership, we will be offering a free 12-month Children in Scotland Membership to organisations in Scotland whose primary focus is working with minority ethnic children and families. We hope to remove some of the barriers that organisations may face, while also better reflecting the diversity across Scotland. Please keep an eye out on our social media and website for more information in the coming days.