Closely allied to Inclusion is the need for anti-discriminatory practice.
Discrimination is often the underlying cause behind lack of inclusion. It means treating a person or group unfairly because of a particular characteristic, such as gender, disability, age, ethnic origin, skin colour, nationality, sexuality and/or religious belief. This usually results in negative consequences for the person or group, reducing their opportunities, excluding them from communities and restricting their ability to contribute to society and live their preferred life. Discrimination has been described as ‘putting prejudices into practice’.
People can suffer discrimination from individuals who abuse or insult them. But entire organisations – including those in health services – can also discriminate against people (usually unintentionally) by, for instance, having signs that are not appropriate for sight-impaired people, or printing patient information leaflets in only one language, or discriminating against women by making it difficult for mothers to attend appointments by giving them times outside school hours, or neglecting to recognise the needs of people with, for example, dementia or a learning disability by offering them only a very brief time with staff at clinical appointments.
Discrimination isn’t just offensive – it’s also illegal. The Equality Act 2010 protects people from discrimination from:
- businesses and organisations that provide goods or services, like banks, shops and utility companies
- health and care providers, such as hospitals and care homes
- housing associations and estate agents
- schools, colleges and other education providers
- transport services like buses, trains and taxis
- public bodies, including government departments and local authorities.
You can find more interesting information about the Equality Act 2010, including exactly which groups are protected from discrimination, at the Citizen’s Advice website, the link takes you to the site in Wales, but can you can access sites in the other UK countries from there.
Anti-discriminatory practice therefore aims to counteract the negative effects of discrimination on patients/clients and to combat discrimination in all its forms. You must not be involved in any actions that could be seen as discriminatory or potentially insulting to any individual or group, including your colleagues. The organisation you work for will have policies that provide guidance on anti-discriminatory practice, and you should also be able to access training on anti-discriminatory practice through your employer – speak to your manager or supervisor about this.