Javed Khan: Why we signed up to civil marriage equality in Northern Ireland

Barnardo's believes inclusion is not a 'nice to have', but fundamental to our purpose and mission

Javed Khan
Javed Khan

In July, Barnardo’s proudly threw its support behind the campaign for civil marriage equality in Northern Ireland. We were the first children’s charity to sign up.

Sometimes your values mean you have to put your head above the parapet.

Across the UK, we work with LGBT young people, parents and carers, and were particularly pleased when we received a Third Sector Equality Award from Pink News last year.

But as we look ahead to National Inclusion Week (24 to 30 September), it’s a good time to take stock of the progress we’ve made and the journey we still need to travel.

Barnardo’s believes in the unique worth of every individual. To translate this core value into real change for children, we’ve placed diversity at the heart of our ambitious 10-year corporate strategy.

One challenge across our sector is creating a workforce that is representative of the communities we support so that we can fully empathise and meet everyone’s needs in ways that work for them.

In 2016 we set ambitious targets to make sure we become more diverse and inclusive. By the end of the decade we want a 50 per cent increase in success rates for BAME recruitment and in the attraction rate for disabled applicants. And we want to raise BAME volunteer representation from 3 per cent to 10 per cent, young volunteers from 31 per cent to 40 per cent and over-65s from 5 per cent to 25 per cent.

Our latest data tells us that close to 20 per cent of the children and parents we support are BAME, 10 per cent of new staff are BAME and 14 per cent of our volunteers are BAME, which is above the current target. A fifth of our trustees are BAME and 43 per cent are women.

We’ve also:

  • Eliminated unconscious bias in our recruitment process, by introducing name-blind applications;
  • Established four staff networks with growing memberships – BAME, Disability, LGBT and Women; and
  • Transformed how we record data about our service users, so we can better measure impact and improve outcomes.

Our Equalities, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan is overseen by a corporate EDI Board, which I chair.

Across the sector there has been a gradual recognition of the importance of representation among volunteers and the potential in fundraising from communities that aren’t normally representative of their supporters. In a highly competitive market, this has become essential to sustainability and growth.

But the charity sector as a whole is lagging behind. It seems that "inclusion" is something entirely separate from some corporate strategies: a bolt-on, an obligation or something to be addressed when the finances are stable.

Just 6.6 per cent of charity trustees are from an ethnic-minority background, compared with 8.2 per cent on FTSE 100 boards. Sixty-two per cent of the UK’s largest charities have all-white boards. And women account for just 34 per cent of trustees at the top 500 charities.

This might come as a surprise. You might assume that becoming more inclusive is easy for charities. But it’s not that simple. Even those of us who know we’re on the side of the angels have work left to do. We might have our eyes wide open to disadvantage, but inclusivity is still too often a blind spot.

At Barnardo’s we are unequivocal: inclusion is not a "nice to have" or a tick in the box – it is fundamental to our purpose and mission. Without inclusion we simply won’t be able to reach the most vulnerable children and families, or to deliver support in the way they need it.

Javed Khan is chief executive of Barnardo’s

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