Working for all children: launching our new equality, diversity and inclusion strategy
EIF chief executive Dr Jo Casebourne introduces our new equality, diversity and inclusion strategy: a strong statement of our commitment, and an action plan for making changes.
Today, we launch our equality, diversity and inclusion strategy. It represents a strong statement of our commitment to promoting and actively supporting equity through our actions and our work. I believe that this document will shape EIF and our relationship with the society around us for years to come.
Our vision at EIF is for all children to fulfil their potential, and our mission is to ensure that effective early intervention is available and is used to improve the lives of children and young people at risk of poor outcomes. Crucially, this really must mean all children and young people, which is why equality, diversity and inclusion have to be at the heart of everything we do.
This commitment also reflects the fact that we live and work in a diverse country: the work we do must reflect the realities of the society we live in. Not only must our work programme reflect this, but so should our workforce, ensuring that as a team we are as diverse as the people whose lives are impacted by our work.
Today, this feels more important than ever, as the country adapts to a new phase of the Covid-19 pandemic and recovery. We must give all families and communities a real opportunity to bounce back positively and ensure that the inequalities in society that Covid has exacerbated now begin to be reversed.
That is why the last year has seen us here at EIF focusing both on the content and methods of our external work, and on what more we can do internally, as an employer, to promote equality, diversity and inclusion.
We must give all families and communities a real opportunity to bounce back positively and ensure that the inequalities in society that Covid has exacerbated now begin to be reversed.
All protected characteristics are important, and over the months and years ahead, we will do more to focus on all of them in our work programme. However, we have chosen to start first with work focusing on inequalities centred on ethnic background, given that the Covid-19 pandemic has increased existing and unacceptable racial disparities in people’s experiences and outcomes.
To help us to decide which areas of research on racial inequality we should prioritise in our work programme, we partnered with the Race Equality Foundation to facilitate a series of ‘action learning sets’. These guided discussion groups helped us to create a set of principles about the language we will use when talking about ethnicity in our work.
Through this process, we also designed a new approach to ensure that we search for and comment on evidence on the impact of interventions, policies and practices on minority ethnic children and families in our evidence reviews, and, where such evidence does not exist, to highlight these gaps to improve the research that is done in future. Our recent report on genetic science and early intervention, for example, focused explicitly on issues of race and ethnicity in answering the question ‘can genetic data be used to improve outcomes for children and families, without marginalising individuals, entrenching disadvantage or increasing inequalities?’
And we used the action learning sets to help us prioritise a number of ideas for new pieces of work. As a result, we have now begun a new project focusing on minority ethnic families’ experiences of accessing local family support services, which we will be launching in the autumn.
Alongside this focus on equality, diversity and inclusion in our external work, we have been examining what more we can do internally, as an employer, a partner and a commissioner of services. We have made a commitment to create an inclusive workplace where everyone feels valued and respected because of their differences: a place where every member of staff and volunteer can be themselves, so they can reach their individual potential and help us to achieve our shared goals.
We have been making progress over the last year, in the run-up to today’s launch. As some examples, we now have a more diverse board and expert evidence panel to guide our work; all staff have had initial equality, diversity and inclusion training; and actively supporting diversity and inclusion is now a competency in our performance appraisal framework.
Today is the start of the exciting next phase of this work, and I am delighted that we have reached this milestone. Our strategy sets out our principles, goals and objectives, as an employer and research organisation, on building an inclusive organisational culture; recruiting, retaining, developing and supporting a diverse workforce; and developing work to engage and meet the needs of our diverse society.
By setting and measuring ourselves against some challenging targets, and producing an action plan, I believe we have put in place the building blocks for an organisation that is responsive, open and able to make a real, positive contribution to improving the lives of all children and families.
We still have a lot to do, however, and a lot to learn. I hope you will join us on this journey.