Tackling racism

Amaze's role in tackling racism

Amaze is an organisation set up to empower children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), and their families. We champion inclusion and lobby against inequality experienced as a result of a special educational need, disability or long-term health condition.

Young Black woman in a surgical face mask standing in a crowd of other people wearing face coverings and holding Black Lives Matters protest signs.The brutal death of George Floyd in the summer of 2020 and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests brought institutional racism into the spotlight across the globe. The Covid-19 pandemic has also highlighted health inequalities between different communities. In response, we are making it a priority to consider how race and disability combine for many families in Sussex, and how this impacts their experiences of SEND services, including our own.

We want, and need, to look harder at how different kinds of discrimination are interconnected, which can create even greater inequality. This is called ‘intersectionality’.

For instance, outcomes can be poorer for many children from Black, Asian and minoritised ethnic communities who also have special educational needs or disabilities. National charity Barnardos reports:

where a white child might be classified as having special educational needs or experiencing challenges at home, a Black child with the same behaviour might be labelled as ‘naughty’ or ‘aggressive’.

smiling woman in a hijab being hugged by her young sonOur own experience locally tells us some families from Black, Asian or minoritised ethnic communities have struggled to access services, or have been discriminated against as a result of their ethnic identity. We also know that your cultural background can affect the shape of the challenges you face in coming to terms with your child’s special educational needs or disabilities. For some, it may be harder to recognise or accept your child’s additional needs. It may be harder to reach out for help, or even to let others know about your child’s disabilities.

In the spirit of getting our own house in order, we have decided to take a look at Amaze’s own culture, practices and policies. We need to start from the assumption that some degree of intrinsic bias exists within our staff and volunteer teams. We will educate ourselves about this, and how we need to change and adapt to remove this bias.

Disabled Asian boy in motorised wheelchair with smiling familyAll our staff will attend a series of training sessions reminding us of our duty to promote equality, diversity and inclusion across Amaze. We’ve also introduced an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) reporting form so that anyone who feels we’re not living up to this duty can make a complaint and it will be investigated.

We are committed to moving from being a non-racist organisation to an anti-racist one, actively committed to eradicating intentional or unintentional racism within, as well as using our influence to call out racism in wider society.

As a starting point, we have published a set of commitments to our staff, volunteers, and service users. These are clear actions against which we can be held to account.

Amaze's commitment to tackling racism

We are committed to…

Educating ourselves more about racism and race equality and how this intersects with SEND and caring roles in particular

  • Better understand how our processes and systems might be a barrier to Black, Asian and minoritised ethnic families accessing Amaze services, parent carer forum engagement opportunities, and other SEND services
  • Better understand the journey of a Black, Asian or minoritised ethnic person with additional needs, parent carer, or family member and how negative experiences with a range of services or people could have had a potential lasting impact
  • Understand what people from these communities need from us to feel safe and able to engage with our services
  • If families tell us about any racism they have experienced relating to their child’s SEND, or their caring role, we will acknowledge it and seek to champion this issue in the sector, or signpost to ASATT or another organisation for advocacy where they may be better placed to help

Reaching more Black, Asian and minoritised ethnic families and young people in both our service delivery and engagement work

  • Better communicate, in plainer English and a range of community languages, what Amaze is about, and what we can offer
  • Better communicate our commitment to champion anti-racism, and to never make assumptions based on race or ethnicity. We will take a nuanced approach to matching members of staff and volunteers with families, taking race and ethnicity into consideration where requested, but not making assumptions.
  • Carry out an audit of the images and language we use on our website and in key documents
  • Develop more inclusive language and content in the information we provide, grow our understanding of how disability intersects with race and ethnicity and how this can impact individual and family experiences, and seek to find ways to improve outcomes
  • Be more transparent about how we will use the equalities monitoring data we collect from both service users and potential new staff. Improve collection of ethnicity data for service users accessing all our different services
  • Seek feedback from Black, Asian and minoritised ethnic service users, offering interpreters to do this if necessary. This will include working with groups of young people with SEND to identify possible barriers to accessing Amaze support, and sensitively explore any negative experiences or issues they wish to raise.
  • Check how people from Black, Asian and minoritised ethnic communities find Amaze and try to access our services, to remove barriers for these communities.
  • Review ethnicity and feedback data on quarterly basis and make improvements where necessary
  • Improve knowledge and understanding of the local Black, Asian and minoritised ethnic community sector and build relationships with these groups. Share skills and knowledge for mutual benefit, and use these connections to reach communities that might be in need of our services.
  • Work with community development partners and parent carers to support the development of Black, Asian and minoritised ethnic parent carer groups
  • Invest in more outreach into specific communities where possible

Improving what it feels like to work at Amaze as a staff member or volunteer

  • Create a culture at Amaze which encourages members of staff at every level to take ownership of our values of equality, diversity and inclusion, and where members of staff at every level are accountable to these values. Build a space where people feel safe, the importance of listening and building trust is recognised, and we celebrate diversity
  • Provide a safe space for staff and volunteers working within Amaze who identify as Black, Asian or minority ethnic to come together and discuss issues, and provide feedback
  • Improve equalities training for staff and managers so they are better prepared to meet the overall equality strategy, and better understand intersectionality
  • Encourage staff to report racist incidents, and provide a clear process for dealing with racist behaviour, outlining consequences for staff who engage in hate speech or micro-aggressions or otherwise discriminate on the grounds of race or ethnicity
  • Review our current Recruitment Policy & Procedures, to take positive action to recruit more staff and volunteers from Black, Asian and minoritised ethnic communities e.g. value and acknowledge language skills, community-based skills and lived experience
  • Appoint an Inclusion Champion on the Board of Trustees
  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) working group to meet every 2 months to regularly review our action plan, EDI policies and commitments, training and support for staff, analysis of feedback and equality data, and any other relevant matters.

Feedback

We welcome feedback about Amaze’s plans to tackle racism. Please let us know what you think at info@amazesussex.org.uk

A note on terminology

Amaze has decided to use the term Black Asian and minoritised ethnic (BAME). We acknowledge that this is an imperfect and homogenising term which in many regards is insufficient.  However, we also recognise that this term is a useful acronym for data and evidence collection, which is used within research, government and some Black Asian and minoritised ethnic organisations themselves.

As an organisation, wherever possible, we will try and be specific about the ethnic group we are referring to so as to capture the different experiences of different groups and reduce the use of umbrella terms, and we will avoid using the BAME acronym unless we have very limited character space, for example on Twitter. We commit to keeping our use of this term under review, as we understand the acceptability of terms change over time – as it does within the special educational needs and disability sector too.