‘Safe Spaces in Secure Communities’ – Understanding Gender and Violence in a Health and Social Care Context
By Manor Community
As a provider of health and social care to adults who are all living with a range of very particular emotional needs and cognitive abilities, we at Manor Community are frankly unable to avoid the most sensitive or upsetting parts of people’s lives, such as experiences of gender-based violence. We simply cannot avoid dealing hands-on with any of the issues that can cause embarrassment, distress or confusion for some people to even just talk about because they involve such acute malice and harm. We plainly cannot be squeamish about any behaviours that can be so viscerally ugly because our organisation exists fundamentally to provide what may be the only interpersonal support available to people and potential victims, because they are also some of the most vulnerable people in our community anyway.
We depend on our incredible staff who accept as routine the value of being constantly vigilant and to understand and tackle the patterns, trends or motives that cause abuse and discrimination. We can only successfully provide a service when we understand and drive robust safeguards against any acts like gender-based violence that stand in the way of a person’s genuine independence and happiness. Joining the Zero Tolerance Initiative is a promising opportunity for us to work with committed experts to challenge what is one of the most unpleasant realities of society today.
Of course, it is a basic principle of caring to care. But we would not be a highly-accredited, award winning provider if genuine equality was not a major part of what we all want to achieve. The industry and its regulators are placing evermore focus on sexual violence and massive changes in government law and guidance is about to restructure how providers understand the process of assuming consent on behalf of somebody else. The recent news coverage and surrounding reactions regarding the ongoing case of whether a man has a ‘fundamental human right’ to have sex with his wife who has a deteriorating learning difficulty related condition shows the distance we still need to go. (Guardian – April 2019) This distance is to overcome the discomfort that many can feel facing these practicalities and get to a place where right and wrong are confidently understood and acted upon, even in the most complicated cases.
We are leading a campaign to make sure the most vulnerable voices are heard in the consultation process informing these national changes. There is no power or platform for the majority of people whose intimate, personal lives will be affected by these changes and so the opinions and advice of those who understand how vulnerability to gender-based violence in some of the most heavily marginalised groups would be best improved are going to be ignored unless we are successful in getting experiences better communicated to the most senior levels. Another aspect of this campaign is understanding the power of collaboration and exchange of either knowledge or resources. Without groups like Bristol Women’s Voice facilitating networks to battle discrimination change will not happen. We recognise this and it is another reason why we are excited to sign the Bristol Zero Tolerance Pledge.
Equality and diversity in our workforce is also a massive part of our business, we make sure that discrimination does not exist in response to any part of someone’s identity or personal characteristics. We are starting a big initiative to develop autonomy and opportunity in some of the most marginalised groups we engage with and this is guided by comprehensive investigations into the current state of equality in our organisation. An important part of this is that care is one of the few industries where women and other commonly marginalised groups can thrive and so, robust, appropriate action here is where big changes in gender equality across society can really be fuelled. This is why we again appreciate the collaborative work, it is vital to make the structural and cultural changes needed to improve female representation and opportunity across the world of work. Some of the projects we hope to develop will depend on the knowledge and access possessed by the groups tackling women’s barriers to areas of life like business and management.
These networks are being built across our city, the Mayor has been vocal recently about equalities and networking charters that are needed to overcome the biggest barriers to inclusion. We are not allowed to shy away from sensitive or inconvenient issues, it is our responsibility that these are understood and handled in a way that keeps everyone as happy and safe as possible. We look forward to progress that will come from putting an action plan in place in partnership with Bristol Zero Tolerance.