Building equality and inclusion into IAPT services

Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash

Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Lead at With You, Dean V, explores how a flagship project has developed its approach to providing inclusive services for its staff and service users.

Within our Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services, it was identified that we wanted to better understand and address the barriers to creating a diverse workforce and inclusive work culture. In addition, better knowledge and skills to increase access and improve engagement with clients from diverse demographics and communities were also needed.

To respond to these issues, as the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Lead, I managed a year long project funded by Health Education England and NHS England. The aim of the project was to better understand where our services were in terms of equality and inclusion and how well we engaged and reflected the local communities of Kent and Surrey where we run our IAPT services.

We did this firstly by gathering data on the gender, age, and ethnicity of the clients we’ve worked with over the past three years. We then compared the treatment outcomes, drop-out rates, and engagement rates of these categories with the majority. We also compared this information against the national IAPT data, as well as the demographics of our own workforce.

Next we gathered direct feedback from our staff. We looked at their experiences working with diverse clients, the overall experience for trainees during their time with our service, and whether they felt there were gaps regarding accessibility and inclusivity for clients. This feedback, along with the data comparisons, helped us develop a benchmark to understand our current service position and what direction we needed to take.

Following on from benchmarking, we developed a package of training for clinicians and community outreach materials to help improve accessibility and upskill our staff to provide a more inclusive and culturally competent therapeutic experience. It was important to engage staff in the development and delivery of these materials based on the feedback we received during the discovery phase to ensure we were drawing on the expertise of our workforce.

We also aligned ourselves with organisation-wide plans by joining the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Advisory Group where we shared a diversity calendar that we developed within the IAPT service that included observed dates and holidays not found on our internal organisational calendar. This allowed our staff to be aware of dates that may be meaningful to our clients. We also used this calendar to share messages to our staff, recognising and celebrating these observed dates and holidays. The calendar has since been rolled out and adopted by the entire organisation.

Since our initial funded period we have continued to deliver further training on working with diverse communities. We have also identified ways to adjust our recruitment process to appeal to people from diverse backgrounds, as well as create a more inclusive referral process for clients. We have also expanded our community outreach to build on our visibility in diverse communities.

The project taught us that in order for EDI to be successfully embedded within a service, we must continually engage and involve the workforce in a meaningful way. We have gone on to develop several special interest groups, made up of staff who volunteered their interest in working with a particular demographic characteristic. We are committed to continuing our work and developing a more inclusive and egalitarian service for our staff and service users.

Read the full blog post here.

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