OPINION: THINKPIECE - True inclusivity is participation of all members

Inclusivity is a buzzword in the voluntary sector that covers a multitude of sins. At best, it enables staff and beneficiaries to be fully and genuinely involved in decision making at every level. At worst, inclusivity pays token lip service to political correctness but actually achieves little in the way of true user involvement


As an appointed trustee of Connect, a communication disability charity, a commitment to inclusivity is fundamental to our existence.

This is unusual enough for organisations working with physical disabilities.

But for a charity whose beneficiaries may have little or no language and have great difficulty expressing themselves, it is rare indeed.

Connect's team of staff and volunteers already includes people with aphasia.

More recently, the charity has appointed a Working Together co-ordinator with aphasia in the first position of its kind in the UK designed to ensure the participation of people with aphasia in every aspect of the charity's activities.

The usual recruitment process rules out people with aphasia as it requires the reading and understanding of advertisements, job descriptions and application forms. This means that people with aphasia often drop out of the job market completely. Recruiting for Connect's new position entailed a lengthy process of consultation to develop a unique recruitment package that is accessible to the widest possible audience. It is a process that employers would do well to note when considering the extent of their own equal opportunities commitment.

Connect is also in the process of setting up a communications team of advisers with aphasia who can offer feedback on publications and promotional material. And in the planning of a new Connect centre in Bristol, the charity has organised monthly consultation forums at which the views of people with aphasia have been sought at every level.

It never ceases to amaze me that this kind of inclusivity and consultation is still breaking new ground when, in fact, it should simply form the backbone of any organisation looking to genuinely fulfil the needs of its staff and clients.

ANTHONY HEWSON OBE, trustee of Connect, deputy chairman and commissioner of CHI (Commission for Health Improvement) and chairman of CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Services)

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