Opening Minds, Opening Services A Self-Assessment Tool

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1 Opening Minds, Opening Services A Self-Assessment Tool Building inclusive services for young people from black and ethnic minority communities with learning disabilities and other support needs

2 Introduction Everyone has a right to services that meet their needs. It is widely recognised that younger people, people with disabilities and people from BME communities can face barriers to accessing services. Research shows that BME groups are under-represented in take-up of services across sectors. The Action Group s BEMAS Services have worked with black and minority ethnic (BME) carers of children with learning disabilities since The purpose of this work has been to provide information, advice and assistance to help people access the services they need. In 2011 we began working directly with young disabled adults from BME communities, thanks to funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. The main aims of this work were: To help young, disabled BME people (aged 14-25) to develop goals and to realise these goals. To help young, disabled BME people to access the services and supports that could help them realise their goals. To learn more about the nature of the barriers that existed and to use this knowledge to make changes within our own organisation. To share this knowledge with other service providers so that they too could become more accessible to this group. In order to inform our work, we collated experiences from our 1-1 work with young people and their families. We also ran focus groups with young people and their carers on accessibility issues and worked closely with Council for Ethnic Minority Voluntary Sector Organisations (CEMVO) to review our practice and our learning. We have also learned from research carried out by other organisations. The questions below are designed to help raise your awareness of barriers that young people and their families have identified, and to help you assess where you, your team, and your organisation could make changes to improve this, so that you do not indirectly discriminate. 2

3 Reaching out: how will people know that you exist and that you re there for them as well as the mainstream population? The lives of young adults with learning disabilities and support needs are likely to be very closely entwined with their parents into adulthood. So building engagement and trust with parents can be an important part of making a service accessible to young people. When parents trust and understand your service they can encourage and support their young person to engage with it, as well as help with the practicalities of enabling the person to engage. One major issue facing disabled people and their families is knowing what services and supports are out there. This issue can be compounded for people from BME communities: some will have English as a second language, some may have come from another country with very different social infrastructure systems and different terminology, some may have experienced a lack of understanding or discrimination when using other services, so may be fearful of dealing with a new organisation. Young people with learning disabilities and support needs can also face barriers to traditional methods of communication. For example, they may have limited reading abilities or visual impairments. It makes sense to understand the makeup of the community that you re serving, so that you can think about how best to reach them. Census information can give you a good picture of who is living in your local area: the community backgrounds, the languages spoken, and the number of people with disabilities. Your Local Authority and NHS Board should have studied this in-depth to help them plan. They should be able to describe the local picture to you. This can help you adapt your communication methods. For example, you can identify if there are any languages you may want to translate information into, and whether providing Easy Read or spoken word information would be helpful. te: Our learning is that using a diverse range of communication methods will give you the best chance of reaching out to a diverse range of people. 3

4 Understanding the Communities You re There to Serve: Do you understand the makeup of the local population and know who you re trying to reach? Do You Know Who You re Reaching Already? Do you collect information on the people who are currently accessing your services and benchmark this against the statistics for the local population? This will help you work out who you are currently accessible to and those you have not yet reached. Once you understand the local population and you know who you need to focus on reaching out to, you can start an action plan. Beneath are ideas that can help you to think of how you might reach out to the groups you re less successful in reaching. 4

5 Working with Other Agencies and Community Groups Do you work with other agencies and community groups to explain and promote your services? These services may already be in contact with the people you want to reach. Connecting with other organisations about the work you do, and how you can promote it to people they have contact with, can be a really effective way of reaching new people. There are a range of organisations working with different disability groups and diverse communities. There is a list attached to this document. Clear Written Communications Are your letters, leaflets, and publicity materials written in a clear, straightforward way? Have you considered use of Easy Read? Have you made sure that text on your website is compatible with software for people who have visual impairments? Tip: Avoid using jargon or acronyms. This is another barrier for people who have English as a second language and for people with learning difficulties. Do not assume that people have prior knowledge of services. 5

6 Alternative Ways of Communicating Do you have alternative ways of getting word out about your services? (Eg. Video clips on your website, use of social media.) Some people are not literate in their first language, so translated leaflets won t help. Feedback from carers we worked with was that they were inundated with leaflets, and these sometimes went straight to the bin. They felt that a clip of someone explaining the service would make it feel more personal and approachable. Many young people we work with report using social media, so this can be a good way to reach them too. Working closely with schools and colleges also means that you can let young adults know about you directly: building relationships with key staff can help. Promotional Images Do you think about the visual images you use to promote your service? Do you depict a diverse range of people in images you use to advertise your services? Families we ve worked with have told us that seeing and meeting other people who have similar backgrounds and experiences makes it feel less daunting when approaching a service. So images that include young, disabled people from different communities help to let people know that the service is for them too. 6

7 Target Audience When you promote your services by delivering presentations or workshops, do you think about your target audience and adapt your communication methods? If the session is aimed at young people with learning disabilities, avoid one person talking for long periods, keep language simple, use images to reinforce words, make sessions as interactive as possible. Use practical examples not abstract concepts, and keep examples relevant to young people s experience. Word of Mouth Do you encourage word of mouth? Many people using our BEMAS services have heard about us through word of mouth. So if you start reaching new groups and you do a good job, there s a good chance that people will tell others about you too. Encourage people to spread the word about your service. 7

8 By using the steps above, young disabled people from BME communities and their families should know that you exist... Will they be able to access your services and will they know that you re a trustworthy organisation that is genuinely welcoming of them? Young People Are young people accessing your services? Young people have told us that they want to meet other young people (including people from similar backgrounds). Make it clear that this is a space for them and that topics and activities are likely to be of interest to them. Again, monitor the age-range as well as the ethnicities of people who are accessing your services, and take action if younger adults (16-25) are under-represented. 8

9 Diversity of Staff Do the staff you employ reflect the diversity of the local population you are serving? Feedback from carers and young people has been that seeing others from similar backgrounds can make a service feel more approachable. Again, understand the make up of the local population, and monitor the diversity of your staff. If your workforce does not reflect the diversity of your local population, take action to try and address this. Organisations like CEMVO can help. Please see the attached list of agencies. Confidentiality Do you make it clear that your service is confidential? There can be stigma attached to disability so some people are worried of others finding out that they, or a family member, are disabled. This is particularly important to bear in mind for services where the details of someone s support need are discussed. In some cultures, confidentiality isn t a standard expectation, so it s important to explain at the start that your work together will be kept confidential and to reiterate this, especially if you re bringing in a new agency. Carers and young people told us that organisations need to be clear about their confidentiality commitments before they feel able to trust them. 9

10 Welcome Are front-line staff friendly and welcoming to all, and is there a process for assisting people who need translation services or interpreters? Feedback from carers and young people is that first impressions matter. Access to your service may fall at the first hurdle if reception staff are not welcoming and have not been trained and equipped to assist a diverse range of people. Consider membership of the Happy to Translate scheme to assist with this. Take steps to ensure that your organisation challenges any prejudiced attitudes amongst its staff. Interpretation Do you have a budget for interpretation and do you proactively offer this to people? Effective communication from the start saves time and stress. Some carers we have worked with are reluctant to ask for interpreters because they are worried about being a burden on a service. Many don t know that they can ask for this. Trying to understand a service, remit and rules that are new to you is hard for anyone, but if English is your second language then even more so. Proactively offer interpretation where someone has little or no English and where they have English as a second language. It is worth spending time with the interpreter beforehand if you are going to be explaining something complex, so that they are clear what it is you re trying to get across. Happy to Translate is a scheme that offers a range of services and tools that can help you communicate effectively with people. MECOPP is also developing a range of tools to help effectively communicate Self Directed Support. See the attached list for organisations that can help you. 10

11 Being flexible and responsive will give people the best chance of engaging with your service. Comfortable Venues Do you offer to meet people where they feel most confident and comfortable, and do you consider that it may be difficult for them to get to you/your activities? It can be daunting for people to approach your service for the first time. Young people with learning disabilities or other support needs can find it difficult to use public transport and can be very reliant on parents for getting from place to place. Offering to meet people at their homes or where is most convenient for them (at least initially) can help to overcome these barriers and enable them to begin to engage. Ask people how they will get to your service or activity. Will they need any support or help to do this? 11

12 Additional Support If you are a mainstream service, do you consider the additional support that people with learning disabilities may need to engage with your service? The amount of support will depend upon the individual and may be minimal, but think about recruiting volunteers and implementing buddying systems to make sure that people with support needs can access and engage with your activities. When applying for funding do you consider asking for an additional staff time to provide extra support where needed? Flexibility Can you be flexible about the times you meet people and run activities and events? Young people are often at school or college in the daytime and so may need evening or weekend appointments. 12

13 Avoid Assumptions Are you confident that staff are not making assumptions? In our work with families we have come across professionals who have failed to offer a service because they have incorrectly assumed a family won t want it (based on their own perceptions of that person s culture or faith). Similarly, we have also met professionals who have placed expectations on a family that are inappropriate for them. If you re working in a service that needs to make any kind of initial assessment, ask questions sensitively and explain why you re asking the questions. Don t make assumptions about what an individual will or won t want, based on your perceptions. Our experience is that that within communities there are many different attitudes, so ask what will be suitable for a family or individual and don t assume you know the answer. Use this document as a starting point for discussions with staff and consider whether further cultural competency training may be useful. See the attached list for organisations that can offer this. 13

14 Checking understanding Do you take time to explain what you mean, check understanding and allow time for questions? As with publicity materials, don t assume that people have any background knowledge of your service, or of their rights or entitlements. Explain any information in a clear, straightforward way. Avoid jargon and acronyms. Effective interpretation is essential where there is a language barrier or other communication need. Allow time for people to process the information and think of questions. Always check understanding. Explain again if needed, and be clear that you re happy for them to ask if there s anything that s unclear. Some people we have worked with have reported being rushed through appointments and leaving without really understanding what has been advised or agreed. This is a poor outcome for everyone. 14

15 Accessible events When you plan events, do you take into account the needs of a range of people? As explained, young adults may not be able to attend an event in the daytime because of school or college, so running evening and weekend events can be helpful. If you want carers to attend, think about providing support or childcare to enable them to come. Check a religious calendar to make sure your event does not clash with a religious festival. If you are catering, make it clear that you re happy to cater for different dietary requirements and ask people what they need. A good range of vegetarian options means that there is at least a fall back option for most faiths. Label all food clearly so people can make informed choices. Ask people whether they need an interpreter. Providing a room for prayer and publicising this beforehand is also good practice. Advertise the event across a variety of agencies and community groups. Think about how young adults with support needs are going to get to an event and offer support or transport to help them. If planning a programme of events or activities, check with people whether they are comfortable with what is available and whether there is anything that would need to be changed to make it accessible to them. See attached checklist for planning events. 15

16 Proactive Practices Are you proactive? Don t assume that initial non-engagement means there isn t a need for your service. There could be a range of reasons that are preventing people from engaging. Try to find out what those reasons are. Do you follow-up with people that have been referred to your organisation then haven t taken up the service? Have you asked other organisations who do reach that group of people to peer assess your service to see whether it could be more accessible? 16

17 Finally Diversity of Influence Do a diverse range of people have chance to influence and steer your organisation and services (including young people, people with disabilities, and people from BME communities)? Drawing from a diverse range of experiences and viewpoints is likely to ensure that your service naturally becomes more relevant and accessible to a diverse range of people. Think about how a range of people can be given a voice at all levels. Use a variety of methods to seek feedback so that people have different options for engagement. Make sure evaluation forms are straightforward and use Easy Read guidelines. Ask people whether they would like forms translated into another language. Offer a telephone call with someone independent to go through the evaluation and explain the questions. (Ask an interpreter to do this wherever needed). 17

18 18 The Action Group rton Park Centre 57 Albion Road Edinburgh EH7 5QY Tel Fax Web

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