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Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion: How ellenor is Working to Increase the Diversity of its Staff and Patient Population

ellenor is more than a hospice – it’s a hospice with an ethos:

“Hospice care in your home or ours.”

It’s a commitment to delivering seamless, personalised hospice care for life-limited patients – and their families – in the local community, in the environment that suits them best. But the service ellenor provides to its patients in the North Kent and Bexley communities is also based upon the values of caring, focused and inclusive.

Which begs the question – who, exactly, is that community made up of? And can you fully do justice to its needs without a crystal-clear understanding of the many diverse demographics within it: whether they be cultural, religious, or socioeconomic? 

Furthermore, without adequate representation of these groups within a charity like ellenor – not only on the payroll, but in positions of leadership – can it really claim to be a reflection of its own community makeup?

It’s these kinds of questions which prompted ellenor to apply for a grant from the Masonic Foundation. This grant was successful, and the funding allowed ellenor to employ an Equality, Diversity, and Inclusivity (EDI) Consultant, Anna Willson. A Gravesend local with over a decade’s experience managing the delivery of palliative care projects within the community, Anna will work with the ellenor staff and volunteers, their patients and the local community to develop ellenor’s EDI strategy over the next year.

Supervised by ellenor’s CEO Vikki Harding and mentored by Harjit Bansal, Head of EDI at the North East London Foundation Trust, Anna will audit ellenor’s current EDI processes. Through data gathering, best practice analysis, and local and national research, Anna will create a strategic plan to include increasing the accessibility of ellenor’s services to patients and improving the diversity of its workforce.

As part of this EDI strategy, ellenor is actively engaging with organisations that support people from black and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds – particularly the Sikh community. There is, after all, a large Sikh population in Kent, with over 4,700 Sikhs making up 9.1% of the local population.

Despite this, only 3% of the patients referred to ellenor in 2020/21 were from non-white backgrounds, and, from a nationwide perspective, only 2% of Sikhs in the UK live in care homes. According to ellenor’s contact at the North Kent Gurdwara – the focal point of the Sikh community in the UK – Sikhs tend to prefer caring for family at home, and there is a cultural stigma around accessing hospice care.

ellenor is also working with Porchlight, a charity which advocates for homeless people.

Individuals in this group often have multiple diagnoses related to sleeping rough, such as cirrhosis of the liver and alcohol-related dementia. Exacerbated by substance abuse and alcohol dependency, these conditions render the need for palliative care services among the homeless community as disproportionate to the actual availability – and visibility – of them.

Similarly, ellenor is forging connections with the Martha Trust, an organisation championing the needs of those with learning disabilities. For these individuals, the barriers to hospice care coalesce around a lack of staff understanding of the complexities of these (often profound) disabilities. With nurses at times electing to speak to the carer – rather than the patient themselves – the patient can be left feeling without agency or franchise, and without a proper understanding of the kind of care they can expect.

ellenor’s EDI strategy work also involves working with Stonewall – a charity that advocates for the LGBTQ+ community – as well as the Kent Police’s liaison groups, which have established connections with the area’s traveller and gypsy communities. Through better engagement with – and understanding of – these groups, ellenor hopes to break down these barriers to hospice care.

But of course, EDI isn’t solely about looking at the diversity of the populations it serves in the community. It’s about looking inward, too, and examining the current profile of ellenor’s staff and leadership team. Despite a 50/50 male/female split, ellenor’s Executive Board is 100% white. Cast the net wider, and just 9% of UK charity employees – and 6% of its CEOs – are from BAME backgrounds, although they make up 14% of the country’s populace.

Evidently, more EDI work is required at a nationwide level – but locally, at least, ellenor is committed to making progress. Working with the charity’s CEO and Head of HR, Anna will be evaluating ellenor’s recruitment processes, and ensuring that the hospice is not only actively reaching out to BAME communities in its job advertising, but tackling unconscious bias in the interview process, too.

Anna will also be producing EDI training sessions – both online and face-to-face – which will be mandatory for all ellenor’s staff and volunteers to increase the understanding of EDI.

In the community, ellenor’s outreach work with Gravesend’s Sikh population is already underway. Moreover, this engagement is – at the time of writing – the only work of its kind being carried out by local hospices or healthcare organisations with the area’s Sikhs. Part of the work will involve attempting to tackle the culture’s taboo around hospices by illustrating that care can be a thing that comes to them – in the home – rather than at a separate location, away from the family unit, and in isolation of their support structures.

In addition to embedding improved EDI processes across the organisation – most notably in the aforementioned areas of recruitment and training – ellenor will have also increased its visibility to potential patients and job applicants. 

Individuals from marginalised and minority communities will have a greater understanding of – and access to – ellenor’s holistic form of social, clinical, and psychological care. And ellenor will have also cultivated an even more open, welcoming, and inclusive environment, an organisation where everyone – regardless of class, creed, culture, or condition – can receive care in an accepting, non-judgmental manner.

A place where everyone can feel at home.