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February 2024: Launching Diverse by Design for Adults Social Care at NCASC

In this blog, Lindsey Martin, Partners in Care and Health Workforce Advisor, takes us to Bournemouth for the launch of their new equality, diversity and inclusion workbook. It’s Friday 1 December, it’s the last day of the National Conference for Adult and Children's Services (NCASC), and it’s been snowing!


The Partners in Care and Health (PCH) Workforce Team collaborates with councils, sector partners and people who draw on care and support, focusing on effective people planning and growing a sustainable workforce for now and for the future.

Lindsey Martin Partners in Care and Health Workforce Advisor

In this blog, Lindsey takes us to Bournemouth for the launch of their new equality, diversity and inclusion workbook. It’s Friday 1 December, it’s the last day of the National Conference for Adult and Children's Services (NCASC), and it’s been snowing!

Early morning

Up and at 'em at 6.30am. No alarms needed for me as I’m one of those delightful (!) morning people who you know and love. I think of my colleague Pat who’s also here at NCASC, who has started her last few days with an invigorating walk on glorious Bournemouth beach. I shall join her, thought I! What a great way to start the day, right?

Reader, I didn’t. 

Instead, it was down to the hotel restaurant for a double-quick breakfast. No time to linger today (even though hotel breakfast would be my chosen death-row last meal), I wanted to head straight down to the Bournemouth International Centre because the session I’ve been planning for the past couple of months would happen this morning: a lively panel discussion on Diverse by Design for adult social carewhich we published earlier in the week.

Networking

After grabbing a cappuccino, I visited some of the many brilliant conference stalls. I speak with as many colleagues as possible to drum up interest for the Diverse by Design session. Last night, I’d confessed to my manager Amanda that I was hoping we’d get a good crowd as I was conscious it was one of the last sessions of the day. What I didn’t tell her was how close I came to having a T-shirt printed with the session details on it for me to wear as a walking advertisement! 

The power of teamwork

Back in May when we started bidding for sessions, Amanda told me that NCASC was the best conference you could hope to attend. She was absolutely right. This conference has been a much-appreciated opportunity to zoom out from the world of workforce and connect with people and areas of work from across our wider sector.

I confess that, even though I wasn’t presenting, I still have that jingly feeling in the solar plexus you get when something important is about to happen in your professional life. 

Thanks to the first-rate advice I’d got from Emma J and the team of conference planners, I’d managed to secure a pretty sensational chair and panel: Cllr David Fothergill would chair the session and the panel comprised Caroline Baria, the Equality Diversity and Inclusion lead at the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and Director of Adult Social Service at Leeds City Council; Oonagh Smith, the CEO of Skills for Care; and Dr Clenton Farquharson, the Chair of the Think Local, Act Personal board.

I’d decided not to use PowerPoint but to structure a session that would allow plenty of time for a good, crunchy discussion between the panel and delegates. I took inspiration from Element 4 of Diverse by Design. This element sets out the importance of agreeing how to talk about equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). It acknowledges that folk often don’t find this easy and worry about saying the wrong thing. But, while these discussions do have the potential to stir strong emotions, if managed respectfully, discussions about our differences will increase understanding and help encourage people to connect.

And we’re live! 

I slipped out of another workshop slightly early and walked to the main hall where the Diverse by Design session would take place. Clenton, Oonagh, and Caroline were there, and we chatted about the discussion topics that might come up from delegates. Soon after, Cllr Fothergill arrived after hot footing it from chairing another session. A great crowd of delegates entered (phew!), the music started to signal the start of the session and the lights were dimmed. We began!

Yep, it was crunchy alright!

Well, I’d planned for a good, crunchy discussion and boy did we get it! What a phenomenal job the chair and panel did. Delegates had insightful questions on EDI and offered some illuminating insights with the challenges and opportunities we have when it comes to having a workforce that reflects the communities we serve.

I love hearing questions that come up on a piece of work I’m leading, and I really love it when they are the types I couldn’t have predicted. What an opportunity this gives to uncover your blind spots and see things from an unexpected angle. There was one question that I genuinely wouldn’t have had an answer for. I pinned it in my mind to investigate later. That’s the gold of diverse groups of people, isn’t it? You simply cannot help but learn and see things from perspectives that you yourself just don’t have.

Thunderbolt City

Another two of the 15 elements in Diverse by Design are inclusive Leadership’ and ‘creating confident line managers. Both elements capture the vital behaviours of leaders and managers when creating an inclusive, brave and safe work environment.

Take, for example, being comfortable with tough questions. I remember the first manager I had when I was fresh from uni and starting my career in the 90s. We were working on preparations for Stephen Lawrence Day and I had a question that was bugging me about how we were working. I can’t remember the specifics of the question, but I remember my manager’s answer because it rocked my foundations.

She said: “I don’t know. I don’t have an answer for you. But I’m going to go away and speak with a few people. They’ll help me arrive at an answer and I’ll come and find you to share it.”

Thunderbolt City! I remember thinking, ‘Ahhh, so THAT’S what leaders do. They say when they don’t know something and see it as an opportunity to pause, ask and reflect.’

Let’s be honest, in a busy sector like ours, this cannot always be easy for a leader. One of the reasons why I’m excited about our Diverse by Design resource is that it highlights the power of such behaviours

Conference comedown

After the final sessions of the day, Cllr Fothergill’s closing remarks and a tip-top lunch, it was time to leave the conference.

Folks, conference comedown is real! I was so sad to leave. I love the energy you get from networking and participating in discussions and debate with a wide cross-sector of people. I’m usually a ‘fast asleep at 10pm’ type of gal, but I’ve been awake and buzzing with ideas until 1am these past two nights. After a couple of goodbye hugs with colleagues, I was on the road home.

My final message to you is this: if you get the chance to attend NCASC 2024, grab it with both hands. Oh, and please share the link to Diverse by Design with your networks!

This Diverse by Design for adult social care workbook sets out 15 elements that we believe are fundamental in helping adult social care organisations to embed fair values, systems, and behaviours. It builds on the work and resources of the Diverse by Design for local government guide published by the Local Government Association (LGA) in 2021.