Diversity means variety. The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual. Diversity is a reality created by individuals and groups from a broad spectrum of demographic and philosophical differences. It is extremely important to support and protect diversity because by valuing individuals and groups free from prejudice, and by fostering a climate where equity and mutual respect are intrinsic. “Diversity” means more than just acknowledging and/or tolerating difference. Diversity is a set of conscious practices that involve:
Understanding and appreciating interdependence of humanity, cultures, and the natural environment.
Practicing mutual respect for qualities and experiences that are different from our own.
Understanding that diversity includes not only ways of being but also ways of knowing;
Recognizing that personal, cultural and institutionalized discrimination creates and sustains privileges for some while creating and sustaining disadvantages for others;
Building alliances across differences so that we can work together to eradicate all forms of discrimination.
Diversity includes, therefore, knowing how to relate to those qualities and conditions that are different from our own and outside the groups to which we belong, yet are present in other individuals and groups. These include but are not limited to age, ethnicity, class, gender, physical abilities/qualities, race, sexual orientation, as well as religious status, gender expression, educational background, geographical location, income, marital status, parental status, and work experiences. Finally, we acknowledge that categories of difference are not always fixed but also can be fluid, we respect individual rights to self-identification, and we recognize that no one culture is intrinsically superior to another. Health and social care settings reflect the diversity of the population at large. Residents in a care home for elderly people – men and women, possibly gay and lesbian – may range in age from 60 to well into their ninth decade. Each will have their own set of personal experiences and in locations with an immigrant community, may hail from a variety of different countries. And preferences, for example for food and music, will vary from one person to another, as will attitudes, for example to staff and fellow residents, beliefs, for example political ideas and religious faiths, health status and physical and intellectual ability. Apart from differences in age, sex and gender, physical characteristics, ability, experiences and personal attributes, people also differ in respect of their:
Diet, for example different health conditions mean that some people have specific dietary needs, and vegetarians and vegans can’t take medication that is derived from animals.
Religious faith, for example some religions have specific requirements with respect to diet and method of worship, others require the use of running water to maintain personal hygiene, the right hand for eating and the left for personal cleansing after using the toilet, and so on. Need for modesty and dignity, for example some people aren’t comfortable being touched or seen undressed by someone of the opposite sex or that they don’t know; and different people have different ideas about how to be addressed when being spoken to. Communication, for example different physical and mental health conditions require the use of different methods of communication; some people express their fear, pain and grief freely and openly whilst others are more reserved; and different people have different ideas about the extent of their personal space. Working with and getting to know a diverse range of people – service users, patients, their friends and family, colleagues and other professionals – enables health and social care workers to develop their knowledge and understanding of different ways of thinking and living and the reasons for different behaviours. As a consequence, tolerance of and respect for others develops, both of which are essential for meeting diverse – and individual – needs.
And having their differences acknowledged and understood helps people to develop a sense of belonging. In addition, learning about different ways of thinking and living can be life-enriching. We become more open-minded to new experiences, opportunities and challenges, and are able to develop new relationships. As a result we grow as human beings and are able to achieve our full potential. Equality Equality is about treating people fairly, regardless of their differences, by ensuring that they have access to the same life opportunities as everyone else, ie that they have equal opportunities. Life opportunities include: Housing. Warmth and shelter are basic human needs. Education and employment. Just about everybody is capable of learning, and education not only enables us to find employment, it helps us to realize our full potential as human beings. Transport, without which we couldn’t get to work, to the shops, to see friends and family, to gp and hospital appointments, and so on. Health and social care, which all of us need at some point in our lives.
Having enough money to buy a decent quality of life and not live in poverty. Being able to buy goods and services, in person, by telephone or online using cash, cheques, credit or debit cards or electronic transfer. Some people need extra help to access life opportunities. For example, having a physical or sensory disability can impact on gaining an education, a job, using public transport, getting to the doctors; and being elderly or mentally ill can affect an individual’s ability to maintain a decent standard of living, buy goods and services, speak up for themselves and have others listen to them. For this reason, equality is also about giving people help, providing them with appropriate services, so that they are not disadvantaged or treated less fairly than anyone else. People are disadvantaged for many reasons, but usually because they are different with respect to their: Appearance. Racial harassment and attacks are usually acted out on people whose appearance, for example their skin colour and style of dress, is different from that of the perpetrator. Sex. Men are still more likely to be better paid than women and to reach the top of the career ladder, and some jobs are still perceived and advertised as being ’women’s’ or ‘men’s’ work.
Sexual orientation. Gays and lesbians remain subject to physical and verbal abuse. Age. Older people often describe themselves as invisible, undervalued and a burden because of the way society treats them. Ability. A general lack of understanding about the needs of people with physical or mental disabilities results in them finding it very difficult to make the most of life’s opportunities. Imposing disadvantage on people can prevent them from entering into the everyday life of their community and of society. In other words they can become socially and financially excluded. Inclusion The term inclusion is seen as a universal human right and aims at embracing all people irrespective of race, gender, disability, medical or other need. It is about giving equal access and opportunities and getting rid of discrimination and intolerance. Inclusion nurtures a sense of wellbeing and of confidence in ones own identity and abilities. And it ensures that everyone can achieve their potential and take their rightful place in society. The potential effects of discrimination A prejudice is an attitude or way of thinking based on an unfounded, unreasonable pre-judgement of an individual, particular group of people or situation, rather than on a factual assessment.
Prejudices can be positive or negative. If we are positively prejudiced towards someone, we think well of them. On the other hand, if we are negatively prejudiced against someone, we tolerate them less. In the main, negative prejudices develop against people who are different in some way. Discrimination happens when we act out our negative prejudices. Discriminatory behaviour results in unfair, unjust treatment. The people most likely to be discriminated against are those who are different in respect of their: Age. Age discrimination, or ageism, isn’t only targeted at elderly people – youngsters can also be on the receiving end of bullying, harassment and undeserved criticism. Sex. Men and women continue to be treated unfairly in certain walks of life, in particular in the workplace. Discrimination based on sex is known as sexism. Nationality, ethnic background, religion. Some people consider themselves superior to those from different backgrounds and faiths.
Victimisation, bullying and harassment of people for such reasons is known as racism. Ability. Barriers that prevent disabled people from accessing the same opportunities as able-bodied people and the ignorant acting out of negative prejudices against physically or intellectually disabled people, for example through namecalling and damage of their property, is known as disablism. Size. Some of us are guilty of judging people by their size and treating them unfairly as a result. This behaviour is known as sizeism. Financial status. Discrimination against people on the grounds of their income, for example treating people living in poverty as inferior, is known as povertyism. There are two forms of discrimination, direct and indirect. Direct discrimination occurs when someone is intentionally treated unfairly, for example harassment on the basis of skin colour or religion. Indirect discrimination occurs when rules or guidelines meant to apply to everyone unintentionally affect one group of people more than others.
For example, a company policy requiring everyone to work night shifts indirectly discriminates against single parents or people who care for elderly relatives, and menus that fail to offer a selection of food indirectly discriminates against people with specific dietary needs or preferences. Discrimination takes place in a variety of settings, for example within educational establishments, where learners may not be given support and encouragement if it’s assumed that their disability or advancing years affects their ability to learn; in the workplace, when people are persecuted on the basis of their skin colour or sexual preference. In housing, when landlords refuse to let their property to someone because of their refugee status or ethnic background; and in health and social care, when people are denied access to care on the basis of where they live – the postcode lottery. Inclusive work practice Inclusive practice is about the attitudes, approaches and strategies taken to ensure that people are not excluded or isolated. It means supporting diversity by accepting and welcoming people’s differences, and promoting equality by ensuring equal opportunities for all. Inclusive practice is best practise.
Health and social care workers demonstrate inclusive practice by working in ways that recognise, respect, value and make the most of all aspects of diversity. Having a sound awareness of and responding sensitively to an individual’s diverse needs supports them in developing a sense of belonging, wellbeing and confidence in their identity and abilities. And it helps them to achieve their potential and take their rightful place in society. In addition, inclusive practice involves having an understanding of the disastrous impact that discrimination, inequality and social exclusion can have on an individual’s physical and mental health. Having such an understanding ensures appropriate, personalised care and support, thereby enabling an individual to develop selfrespect and maintain a valued role in society. Because people who fail to support diversity or promote equality are usually entirely unaware of their attitudes and the impact of their behaviour, inclusive practice involves reflecting on and challenging ones own prejudices, behaviours and work practices. It also involves challenging those of colleagues and other service providers, with a view to adapting ways of thinking and working and to changing services to build on good practice and to better support diversity and promote equality.
Discrimination is an injustice and has devastating effects. The UK has in place numerous pieces of legislation (laws), rules, regulations, guidance documents and statutory codes of practice, all of which are intended to promote diversity, ensure equality and end discrimination. In other words they are in place to promote everyone’s right to fair and equal treatment, regardless of their differences. Acts of Parliament and regulations include: The Human Rights Act 1998. This covers many different types of discrimination, including some that are not covered by other discrimination laws. Rights under the Act can be used only against a public authority, for example, the police or a local council, and not a private company. However, court decisions on discrimination usually have to take into account what the Human Rights Act says. The Equality Act became law in October 2010. It replaces previous legislation (such as the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995) and ensures consistency in what you need to do to make your workplace a fair environment and to comply with the law. The Equality Act covers the same groups that were protected by existing equality legislation – age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity – but extends some protections to groups not previously covered, and also strengthens particular aspects of equality law.
The Equality Act is a mixture of rights and responsibilities that have: Stayed the same – for example, direct discrimination still occurs when “someone is treated less favourably than another person because of a protected characteristic” Changed – for example, employees will now be able to complain of harassment even if it is not directed at them, if they can demonstrate that it creates an offensive environment for them Been extended – for example, associative discrimination (direct discrimination against someone because they associate with another person who possesses a protected characteristic) will cover age, disability, gender reassignment and sex as well as race, religion and belief and sexual orientation Been introduced for the first time – for example, the concept of discrimination arising from disability, which occurs if a disabled person is treated unfavourably because of something arising in consequence of their disabilit.
Other pieces of legislation that protect the rights of people who use care services include: The NHS and Community Care Act 1980. This protects the rights of older and disabled people to receive care at home and in the community in ways that take account of their choices. The Children Act 2004. This protects children’s rights by requiring Local Authorities to be flexible in meeting their needs. Health and Social Care Act 2008. This Act established the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the remit of which is to protect and promote the right of people using health and social care services in England to quality care and to regulate its provision. CQC took over the roles of the Healthcare Commission, Commission for Social Care Inspection and the Mental Health Act Commission in March 2009. These pieces of legislation have helped us move forward on equality, but in 2009, women were still earning, on average, 23% less per hour than men; less able but better off children were overtaking more able, poorer children at school by the age of six; people with disabilities were still more than twice as likely to be out of work than able bodied people; and one in five older people was unsuccessful in getting quotations for motor insurance, travel insurance and car hire.