A lack of space to discuss inclusion and diversity within the service was identified. In response, an initially bi-monthly forum open to all staff was established. This has helped staff feel heard, gain confidence to take a lead on discussing diversity-related topics in other forums, and volunteer to be inclusion champions.
Staff wellbeing issue
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, along with increased media focus on racial disparities, staff reported the personal impact of these issues on them. Many did not feel able, or did not feel it was helpful, to raise in line-management and that there was less opportunity in corporate trust staff networks to focus on IAPT.
Following confidential conversations between the service Equality and Diversity lead with individual staff about what form of support would be most helpful to them, it was identified having a protected space to talk specifically about diversity was missing.
A proposal was drafted to set up a service-level Diversity Forum held for one hour, every two months. It was intentionally open to all staff in the service and for all aspects of diversity to be included. This was approved by the senior management team and the first forum was held digitally in July 2020. It has been running regularly ever since with growing regular attendance.
Since the start there has been several review points with staff, about the structure and format of the Forum, and clarifying its purpose. As well as providing a space to discuss, celebrate, connect and reflect on pertinent areas of diversity, the forum has at times been attended by different managers to gather ideas and suggestions such as on inclusive recruitment, interview processes and wellbeing strategies. Average attendance currently ranges from 5-20 participants.
There is regular attendance from staff, including senior managers. We have covered topics such as recruitment, staff feedback, ‘hidden’ characteristics, neurodiversity, development of inclusion champion roles within the service, and developing a staff wellbeing strategy.
The Forum now meets monthly. We vary the slot to avoid repeated clashes with conflicting events and enable more staff to join in. We are also introducing more themed sessions, inviting guest speakers and taking the learning into wider service developments.
We are continuing to promote the Forum to existing and new staff through our service newsletters and all-staff meetings. Our aspiration is to grow our attendance further and for our work to contribute formally to service governance and decision-making.