Craig Simpson, national lead for staff network RISE, speaks to NQ about supporting BAME staff and why representation matters.
Most of the pressures of working in probation are universal. Workloads and stress are at an all-time high, while the erosion of the profession and increased job insecurity lingers in the air leaving many on edge. But for BAME staff working in the service there is another dynamic to contend with – issues relating to their race.
According to the NOMS Staff Equalities Annual Report, staff appraisal outcomes are far worse for black staff. BAME employees are also more likely to be investigated and be subject to conduct and disciplinary action than their white counterparts.
Napo plays an invaluable role in supporting members when these situations arise; and so too does RISE, the staff network tasked with addressing race related issues across HMPPS.
“The business case for having a race network such as RISE has not changed for decades as we continue to see disproportionate outcomes for BAME employees and offenders. BAME staff generally experience worse outcomes across most areas of the business and so RISE provides much needed support for individuals who may be feeling quite vulnerable and may need a safe space to talk and receive support,” explains Craig Simpson, national lead for the newly formed staff network.
Previously a probation officer, equality officer and transforming development manager in the Greater Manchester Probation Trust, Craig now draws on this knowledge to head up RISE across England and Wales.
Describing RISE as a “vehicle through which the organisation can consult and engage with staff”, Craig believes it is especially needed to help BAME employees feel part of a wider organisation, particularly where they may be the only BAME person in an office or team leaving them feeling isolated.
This isolation that some BAME employees face is symptomatic of a wider problem in which BAMEs are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, but underrepresented in the staffing group.
“In the past I can recall being involved in numerous initiatives to specifically target and engage BAME communities to raise awareness of the work of the probation service and present it as a realistic and rewarding employment option. All were delivered by predominantly BAME employees,” Craig says.
Changes in recruitment methods have not only impacted on the potential for diversity in the organisation, but also have implications for service users.
“If a client group cannot see themselves, i.e. someone who looks like them within the workforce, there is the assumption that the organisation is unable to meet their needs and is less likely to understand them. A representative workforce is more likely to have an increased awareness and knowledge of cultural issues, and thereby aid the rehabilitative process and public protection,” explains Craig.
So many problems seem to have arisen as a consequence of Transforming Rehabilitation, and less opportunity for innovation and creativity in meeting the needs of minority groups seems to be another of them.
“Ultimately we now see less bespoke programmes and interventions than we previously experienced. However, it is hoped that the publication of the Lammy Review may provide a refocusing and new impetus for the race agenda,” says Craig.
To find out more information about RISE email RISE@noms.gsi.gov.uk