Refugee Action published a short statement in early June 2020 on our commitment to tackling structural racism both within our organisation and in society. Since then we have worked to develop our understanding of the approach we should take and our immediate priorities. We have benefited greatly from input received by a new working group of staff who have made compelling recommendations to our leadership team on both our overall approach and immediate priorities.
This statement lists the specific short-term steps we will take by March 2021. This is a summary of a longer document which has been distributed to all Refugee Action staff. Refugee Action has also signed the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO) statement on eight principles to address the diversity deficit in charity leadership. This is a step we previously chose not to take until we could set out publicly the concrete actions that we are taking. These are:
1. Training for all staff: all staff will participate in one of a series of training events. These are being led by Birmingham Race Action Partnership (BRAP). The overall aim of this training is to develop a consistent understanding and appreciation of the role of structural racism and unconscious bias on us and our work, and to help all staff to understand how we can help ourselves and others to live and work free from unconscious bias.
2. Training for managers: we will also work with BRAP to design and deliver a training for managers. The aim of this is to increase confidence and competence among managers in managing diverse teams, modelling positive behaviour, and ensuring a good understanding of racial bias and how it impacts leadership decisions. The staff working group will be involved in the design of both training events.
3. Anti-racism wellbeing support: We will develop and establish new anti-racism wellbeing support roles to support any individuals in need of this. This was a proposal from our staff working group. We will also arrange appropriate psychosocial support for the working group or anyone else who experiences wellbeing concerns as a result of this process.
4. Tackling racism through our front-line services: we have committed to take four specific actions that will establish the strong foundations we need for a successful long-term approach to tackling structural racism as experienced by our clients. These include working with a staff group and people with lived experience to develop a policy statement on the impact of structural racism on our client group and the approach Refugee Action will take to this, and prioritising the actions we will take to implement this through an analysis of our current front-line services.
5. Anti-racist communications: we commit to being positively anti-racist across all our external communication – including general communication, fundraising and campaigning. To achieve this we will take five specific actions. These include developing a clear narrative both on our organisational commitment and our understanding of the impacts of racism in the asylum system and on resettled refugees and embedding this across our external communications to supporters, funders, partners and allies. We will also find opportunities to stand alongside partners and allies in fighting racism.
6. Data: we will improve the evidence and data we have to support our decision-making on issues relating to racism. We will collate data on issues relating both to our front-line services, and our staff team and recruitment processes. We will also identify where additional data needs to be collected to inform future discussion and decisions.
7. Anonymous feedback mechanism: we have established an anonymous feedback mechanism so that staff who wish to comment anonymously on their experiences in Refugee Action or to submit proposals for action are able to do so anonymously. This was identified as important by the staff working group.