The participation of adult service users, including older people, in developing social care
Practice - People from Black and minority ethnic groups
Many participation exercises have failed to engage effectively with people from Black and minority ethnic groups (Butt, 2005).
Reasons for this include:
- the unsuitability of many mainstream services, leading to lower levels of uptake (Chahal & Ullah, 2004);
- racism and stereotyped attitudes among many service providers (Chahal & Ullah, 2004; Evans & Banton, 2002);
- insecurity of funding among many Black organisations meaning that service user involvement is seen as a lower priority when compared with their primary aim (Evans & Banton, 2002).
These help to create situations whereby many people from Black and minority ethnic groups feel reluctant to participate at any level, whether individual or more strategic (Begum, 2006).
Research undertaken with Black professionals and service users has suggested the following ways of removing these barriers:
- recognising the impact of multiple oppression (such as being Black and having a disability), raising awareness of issues, better working across organisations, and using Black and bilingual workers;
- using various communication techniques (especially audio tapes), providing transport and an accessible venue, meeting cultural needs and holding regular meetings/events;
- building relationships with individuals and families, having a dedicated role to develop the work, providing specific services for black disabled people and active outreach;
- providing varied opportunities for involvement including consultation, evaluation and policy development, offering training and respecting the skills that Black disabled people have.(Evans & Banton, 2002)
It can also help to use local organisations that already have credibility within their communities.
Strategies for improving participation among service users from Black and minority ethnic groups also need to recognise the diversity within them. While progress has been made in engaging with some communities, others remain under represented. For example, many service users are unwilling to criticise a service in case it is withdrawn, such fears may be even more common among groups such as asylum seekers and refugees (Begum, 2005).
There is also evidence that participation strategies have been less effective in reaching more newly arrived communities or very dispersed communities, such as those living in rural areas (Butt, 2005).
Earlier parts of this section have suggested how care should be taken in the choice of venues for participation activities and that account should be taken of religious and cultural preferences and the timing of holidays or periods of religious observance.
A further consideration is that interpreters may be necessary for some service users whose first language is not English. However, the quality of interpreting services varies and there are risks of over-reliance upon family members or interpreters who have not been trained to report accurately what has been said to them (Gerrish, 2001).
Research carried out with people using interpreting services showed that:
- good interpreting is about more than language proficiency and the literal exchange of words; it is about the interpreter putting forward the user’s view of their situation;
- interpreters’ personal qualities and attitude may sometimes be more important than their gender, age, and nationality for some service users;
- people need to feel that they can trust an interpreter and this is why they sometimes prefer family and friends to professional interpreters, even though they may be less familiar with technical terms and jargon (Alexander et al., 2004). Nevertheless, services need to be confident that individuals really do want members of their family and friends to act as an interpreter and need to be ready to offer and provide trained interpreters.