I decided after my two initial blogs to pause and reflect before releasing any more blogs, this was for two reasons.
Firstly, I experienced uncomfortable behaviour online directed towards me. I was shut down and blocked by one of the campaigners, and accused of being discriminatory by another.
In my view, these are two serious behaviours and make very clear statements. The campaigners say they want to listen to everyone’s views, especially those who are care experienced (which I am), but block those who ask questions. I also know that this experience has happened to others who have also spoken out. Also to point the finger of discrimination so easily, given the context of their campaign, I find this concerning.
I could understand being shut down if I was opposing, or being disrespectful, but I was asking genuinely constructive questions. Those questions being:
- Whether discrimination is the cause of the issues that care experienced people face, or if there are other factors involved.
- What are the pros and cons of making care experience a protected characteristic as part of the solution to these issues.
- What actions need to be taken to lead to improvement for care experienced people, and whether making care experience a protected characteristic is one of them.
I was accused of being age discriminatory because I asked:
Please can you share with me any feedback/consultation that has happened with young people locally?
The response I got was:
“Your question was not inclusive, triggering and is discriminatory in the age characteristic because it implies older CEP have no voice. This is for care experienced people of all ages not just young people. Older care experienced people have a voice too. And often it is not heard as many of us languish in the criminal justice system, prison, and homeless population.”
I believe the answer to my question should have been:
‘Absolutely, let me share that with you, to make you aware we have also spoken to a whole host of care experienced people too’.
This worries me about the campaign – surely they should openly share views of others, instead they freely point the finger of discrimination – to distract from the fact they are not speaking widely enough to the groups this protected characteristic will impact. I only know of a handful of councils who have done any consultation at all, why is the campaign not championing consultation with the rigour it rightfully deserves?
The second reason I took a step back, is because I was asked by Terry Galloway directly to read his Briefing Report.
The has recommendations for government:
We are making the following recommendations to Government.
- Government should introduce legislation without delay, so that “Care Experience” becomes a Protected Characteristic in UK Equality law.
- Government should commission an information campaign to inform care experienced people about Protected Characteristics, Equitable Equality, and the powers available in relation to section 149 and Equality Impact Assessments that could relate to Care Experienced people if it were a protected characteristic.
- Government should consult with care experienced people and those who are associated with us about the difficulties we face in relation to stigma, direct and indirect discrimination and to explore the ramifications of introducing care experience as a Protected Characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.
- Government should consult with and listen to the devolved nations of Scotland and Wales about whether protected characteristics for care experienced people should be introduced across the United Kingdom.
- Government should commission a destinations study identifying where care experienced people are, which services they use and their long-term outcomes and experiences.
I want to understand this further because it seems to me the order of these points are backwards and one point is quite frankly dangerous, if not properly considered.
Nowhere in this recommendation does it ask for the obvious; widespread consultation with care experienced people about protected characteristics – before making it a protected characteristic.
Point 1 suggests making care experience a protected characteristic first, ‘without delay’ and therefore without consultation. The only consultation is suggesting is to consult after the protected characteristic has happened (point 3), to speak about the ‘ramifications’ of it.
I am wary of Point 2, I think this could be dangerous. I know many care experienced people who choose to not disclose their care experience, they choose to keep it private. Dose this campaign really recommend that we ‘commission an information campaign to inform care experienced people about Protected Characteristics’?. This campaign is asking the government to seek those people out and expose them. What if you haven’t told your spouse, loved ones or your family – because you have chosen to keep it private. Could this be breaking the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) / Human Rights Act 1998? Specifically, Article 8 which protects your right to respect your private life.
This campaign doesn’t accept problems beyond discrimination, it has no operational solutions (which it admits) and isn’t working with everybody. Furthermore, is this campaign now suggestion we seek out care experienced people and identify them, overlooking those who want exercise their right to privacy?
We need to act with thought and not fury, make decisions based on principle and not pressure, and dutifully consider, scrutinise and asses the wider risks this could cause. I absolutely agree that care experienced people experience discrimination, I don’t agree that there is currently enough evidence to warrant making this a protected characteristic nor have we considered the cost/benefit analysis of doing so.
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