We must do more to become truly inclusive and anti-racist.

01 February 2021
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Being a truly inclusive and flexible organisation that prioritises the health and wellbeing of our people is the standard we set for Versus Arthritis. So, we were shocked when some of our people came to us with allegations of racism and bullying last summer.

In response we set up an external, independent investigation run by employment specialists Tell Jane. We asked them to investigate all known open cases, review our HR policies, practices and case management processes.

The findings of the Tell Jane investigation into those allegations has now ended. The investigation found that only one of the 14 bullying and racism cases was partially upheld. It also told us that of the four allegations of racism only one could be fully investigated.

Based on their investigations, Tell Jane highlighted that some people may not feel able to be raise issues or feel confident that they will be addressed; some people lack trust in the HR team and/or managers to deal with issues effectively and there are undercurrents of race issues. This is not in line with our values or the charity we want to be.

Next Steps

We want all our people to feel confident and comfortable at work, and able to raise their voices and be listened to. That’s what makes us a strong force, together against arthritis. We’re trying to face these issues with humility, honesty and compassion. Humility because the lived experience of our people is essential to creating an equal and inclusive culture at Versus Arthritis. Honesty about where we are now, because this is the critical foundation on which trust and confidence can be restored. And compassion because we need to demonstrate understanding and support to all our people.

Racism and bullying will not have a foothold in Versus Arthritis and we will work on delivering a programme together that will ensure a zero tolerance of racism and bullying.

We are taking action to ensure we are better equipped to deal with issues raised and importantly to prevent them. Last year we signed up to the ACEVO eight principles to address the diversity deficit in charity leadership and we continue to keep the Charity Commission updated – we have informed them of the findings and the actions we are taking. The development of our Diversity and Inclusion strategy and plan will start in earnest with a comprehensive listening phase. We will improve our policies and processes and roll out anti-racism and anti- bullying training.

We want a more diverse board and leadership group, and we’re working with external experts to achieve this. A review will be commissioned to look into the way that our leaders handled the issues and ensure that we learn from it.

It has been a challenging period for us all at the charity and we have to do more to become truly inclusive and anti-racist. This work will be difficult, and we will not always get it right, but I’m committed to working together for lasting change.

I respect and appreciate the courage of our colleagues in sharing their experiences. We will become a stronger organisation as a result, and better able to serve the needs of all people with arthritis.

You can view our Versus Arthritis Outcomes and Next Steps (PDF, 202KB), and if you have any further questions, or would like to know more, please email ask@versusarthritis.org

Ellen Miller

Acting Chief Executive Officer