Do you want to watch an activism campaign that uses Freedom of Information requests to highlight discrimination and use this to push for equality for Lived Experience Professionals? Do you want to be part of it? Do you want to see how you can use the same technique locally?
Subscribe to this series of blogs, because we are going to do this and keep you updated as it happens. Anyone can volunteer to help. We will very much appreciate a help with sifting through the data and chasing up responses – Lived Experience Researchers (in fact any researchers!) particularly welcome. We will also be happy to pass on data from local trusts for LXPs to use to push for higher banded posts locally. So…. what is all this about, we hear you ask.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Roughly 18m ago, NHS England had been planning to offer NHS Mental Health Trusts to employ Lived Experience Professionals in a senior post (Band 7 on Agenda for Change). The post involved managing training delivery locally for KUF (Knowledge & Understanding Framework) training in working effectively with people diagnosed with ‘personality disorder’, ensuring that training was co-produced on equal terms with Lived Experience facilitators, who would be paid and treated equally to their non-LXP peers.
One of our Activist members knew about this funding development and had ensured that relevant senior staff in (a local Birmingham NHS Trust) responsible for developing and making decisions about this area knew about it. Previously LXPs locally had been told that such a role could not be developed because the funding did not exist.
Nationally, these posts started to be advertised, so senior staff were asked about the funding, to which they stated that they didn’t know, or that funding wasn’t available for mental health services, only forensic services. This did not fit with the positions being advertised elsewhere. NHS England were approached and asked when the funding would be offered to (a Birmingham NHS Trust). The response was that (a Birmingham NHS Trust) had already been approached regarding the funding for the post and had refused it.
The Activist put in a Freedom of Information request to gain accurate information regarding what gad happened, as it appeared that the information had remained hidden. It did not appear to have been discussed within key stakeholder meetings, the decision made about Lived Experience Professional career pathways did not appear to have been made jointly with a Lived Experience Professional. There did not appear to have been an Equality Impact Assessment done, as the post involved use of a protected characteristic.
The (Birmingham NHS Trust) took the full 21 days to answer the request. Staff who knew the answers to these questions were not open about the answers, and sadly these could only be found out through these means.
The lesson learnt was that the usual adage of there ‘not being enough funding’ to employ LXPs is not the true reason why LXPs are not employed within senior posts. The reasons behind why this is are much more complex than this – and could be a PhD thesis. Co-production is about power and decision making sharing, and declining to employ LXPs beyond menial posts – the trust in question mainly employs LXPs at a Band 2 level – means sharing this power. The true answer is indeed very sad, very bigoted, and very much the reason why we need to be employed in these posts – to challenge these attitudes and change them.
Think of the Black nurses who came here to work in the 50’s. In the 2020’s, structural racism & racist individuals still exist, but the workplace has become less overtly hostile, there are laws that make racism illegal. Current activism is to promote people of colour past the Band 8 ceiling to very senior and board director level posts.
LXPs do not face the level of violence and overt discrimination that our Black colleagues, family & friends face back then, however, we can learn from the path they have forged, feel confident that discrimination can be fought and change can happen. We can go from those menial posts and get up to that Band 8 position. Hopefully it won’t take us 70 years to reach the time to fight for our own Band 8 ceiling to be lifted, but we aren’t there yet. We are still behind our colleagues of colour as we tread this path, but have them to thank for showing the way and that it can be done. For those of us who are both LXPs and people of colour, this is particularly a source of strength – because there are much less of us, being within an intersection of a group that is already so discriminated against within Mental Health workplaces.
The next Freedom of Information Request is one that has the potential to help all LXPs in England. The funding for the Band 7 post appears to have been sent out to all NHS trusts in England, so are sending NHS Rngland to ask for a list of all of the NHS trusts who were offered the chance to apply for the funding and all of the trusts who declined. The FOI will also ask for the date when the funding will next be offered. The next stage will be contacting each trust that declined and to ask why this was, and if they are intending and making preparations to enable them to apply in the Autumn. They will also be asked if not, why this is. Trusts that did apply will be asked why they applied and for a copy of their job descriptions.
The thinking behind the FOIs will be to understand how many trusts have refused funding and what reasons they give for doing this. However the main purpose will be to let local LXPs know that this funding was available and was declined, and will be available again in the Autumn.
Our hope is that locally, LXPs across England will start asking their own trusts ‘Why?’ and pushing for equality and being treated equitably in our workplaces. We do not we are the only LXPs whose trust have made a decision to deny us a potential senior post without jointly being part of this. We think there will be other LXPs who will have a keen interest in whether their Trusts will take up this funding in the Autumn.
Viva La LXP Revolution.