The percentage of adults who say they’ve experienced discrimination of some kind in the workplace or when applying for a job in the UK is 36%. So with London being 10% more than the national average, it is important that as an organisation that focusses on supporting care-experienced young people into work that we make our stand point on discrimination 100% clear.
Adding Our Voice Against Racial Discrimination
For International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 2022, we want to share our own Anti-Racism principles here at Drive Forward. These principles apply towards staff and care-experienced young people alike. Care-experienced young people have enough to deal with without adding racism to the list.
We strive to live and work by these values every single day and actively encourage all our partners in the corporate as well as public world to do the same.
When new partners join our network, we train them by raising their awareness of the stigma attached to being care-experienced, challenging their unconscious bias and providing practical advice on how to adequately support care-experienced individuals and a diverse workforce as a whole.
By doing so, we can be certain we are working with the best employers who match our principles and ensure the wellbeing of any young people that they may support with a work placement. However, we also recognise that Drive Forward and our partners don’t always get it right. Care-experienced young people carry trauma from their time in care and often have their education disrupted as a result of being moved from carer to carer. So navigating the world of work can already be daunting without adding in work place discrimination or unsupportive employers and so we try to mitigate this as much as possible.
Can you imagine being in your first job without the experience or support of a family network and you are subjected to discrimination by colleagues but your employer doesn’t believe you?
One of the things we’ve learned over the years, especially in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter Movement in 2020, is that racism is not always straight forward. It can be subtle, especially in the workplace, with its own culture, traditions, and often seemingly secret codes. It’s these environments that provide fertile ground for racism to thrive.
What can racial discrimination in the work place look like?
- It can be refusing to promote a young person despite their capabilities or refusing to develop their skills so they can progress.
- It can be inappropriate comments made about someone’s skin colour either maliciously or in humour.
- It can be exclusion from work gatherings, friendships groups or making it difficult for the young person to do their job.
- It can be subtle but follow a pattern of negativity, for example always criticising work more harshly or ensuring that person doesn’t have the same level of responsibility as their peers despite having the same skill set or higher
- It can be refusing to acknowledge the situation as racist, as an employer, in favour of your existing employees
If a young person informs us of an incident whilst on a work placement with a corporate partner, we launch a full investigation into the incident, provide an opportunity for all involved to review findings and deliver further training to our partners in order to tackle racism and unconscious bias. However, if these measures aren’t enough to deal with the issues, Drive Forward will end partnerships that no longer benefit the wellbeing or career progression of our young people.
How can racial discrimination impact care-experienced young people?
- It can knock their confidence
- It can create a long lasting negative impression of a type of workplace e.g. a large office
- It can stop young people from pursuing the career they want for fear of discrimination
- It can make them quieter and not as willing to contribute to the team
- It can make them feel “seen” in the wrong way or introduce a further barrier to work against before their talents can be appreciated
- It can stop them from asking for help or speaking out for fear of not being believed – especially if a senior member of staff is involved
- It can affect their mental health and the incident will most likely add to their existing experiences that reinforce that certain work places aren’t for them
- It can stop them from attending work altogether
At Drive Forward
we want the very best work opportunities for our care-experienced young people and we are proud of our collaboration with the Department for Education to broaden the scope of and improve ring-fenced opportunities within the Civil Service. Over the past couple of years, almost 100 young people working with us have successfully gained a 12-months long internship and we continue to support them throughout and beyond. The Civil Service Care Leaver Internship Scheme is one of the few opportunities that’s not only sustainable (meaning that it pays enough for a young person to cover their monthly outgoings), but it also provides a unique springboard for their future career progression within as well as outside of the civil service. On average, 80% of Drive Forward young people completing their internship are subsequently offered a permanent position!
As one of the largest employers in the country, the Civil Service strives to be a role model for fair recruitment and employee treatment as well as spearheading successful diversity initiatives. A recent report by the Social Mobility Commission found that:
Still More To Do
However, the report also acknowledges that even though entry into the Civil Service has become more accessible via ring-fenced schemes, there is still more work to be done to tackle internal racial discrimination before they can achieve real change:
What our young people want employers to know about racial discrimination:
- It takes a lot of courage for a young person to speak out about the potential racism they are facing
- If they have approached you to report their incident, listen fully to the account without being dismissive as it may not be something that effects you personally
- Racial discrimination is sophisticated and not always explicit which is why it can be difficult to address or brush off as something else
- Young people don’t want to be treated differently if they report an incident to you. They want to be heard with the same respect and care you provide other employees
- Young people can be more vulnerable, they are likely to be in a working environment they aren’t familiar with and so do not want to “cause trouble” by reporting an incident.
- There is a power imbalance between the young person, their colleagues and employer and they do not want to hurt their chances of employment.
- Any incident of racism will likely remain with that young person for their life and could alter their behaviour at work, even if you believe the incident has been resolved
This isn’t new information, in fact, many of our partners acknowledge that “talent is distributed equally but opportunity is not.” As a result of the barriers our society has in terms of systemic racism, we are proud to work with and train corporate partners to change their mind set and practices when it comes to recruiting. We developed a blind recruitment process to show the success of talent of our young people via written, spoken and task-based interviews without revealing the candidates! Read more on that here.
We have appointed a Diversity and Inclusion lead with whom staff and young people can raise concerns about racial discrimination and micro-aggressions. We also established FORE, Forward on Racial Equality, with the aim of providing young people we work with a safe space to talk about race, how it impacts their daily lives, and how we can champion racial equality across our organisation, our partners, networks, and beyond.
With over 70% of Drive Forward young people being Black, Asian or from minority ethnic backgrounds, we understand the need for representation and a clear voice for raising concerns as well as empowering everyone one we work with.