We are taking action to do more to become truly inclusive and anti-racist.

30 March 2021
Versus Arthritis logo.

Updated: 30 March 2021

We want all our people to feel confident and comfortable at work, to be able to raise their voice and be listened to. That’s what being a truly inclusive organisation is all about and it’s why we took steps to investigate and act on racism and bullying allegations at Versus Arthritis. The bravery and honesty of colleagues who have raised their concerns is something that will help us to become a better charity, better able to support everyone affected by arthritis.

Since receiving and accepting the report of the independent investigation into bullying and racism we have taken action:

  • We have a zero-tolerance approach to racism and bullying
  • Our Head of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) has reached out to all our people to capture their views which are now informing our D&I strategy due at the end of April
  • We are setting up a Diversity and Inclusion Action Group with representatives from across the charity to advise the Board and our executive team on emerging diversity and inclusion issues.
  • Our approach to the recruitment of our new CEO, Directors and trustees has been shaped to increase diversity of our leadership
  • Our Human Relations and Organisational Development Team have completed anti-racism training and we have updated key policies and procedures.

Since making the serious incident report we have provided updates to the Charity Commission. They have now informed us they are assured that we have taken the appropriate steps to move forward and they don’t propose to take any further action.

We will continue to work with our people, volunteers, our Board and Executive team to become a genuinely inclusive and anti-racist charity.

Statement regarding the Serious Incident Report: 30 October 2020

We were sorry and saddened to hear employee accounts of bullying and systemic racism. We acknowledge these issues may not have been properly addressed in the past and this is not acceptable.  

We are committed to stamping out systemic racism and we will be open and transparent in our progress and support people affected. 

As part of our organisation response, the Board of Trustees has made a serious incident report to the Charity Commission and informed them of the steps we have taken: 

  • We have appointed an independent provider to investigate allegations, review our case management processes, policies and guidance in relation to inclusion to ensure they support our aspirations to be genuinely inclusive 
  • We have set up a confidential helpline to support our people to raise any issues or concerns anonymously, if they wish 
  • We are supporting the creation of safe spaces for our people to meet and relate any incidents or concerns 
  • Training in inclusive leadership and anti-racism was delivered to all Directors and two members of the Board in October and is planned for all trustees and all HR employees  
  • We have recruited an equality and diversity specialist to lead delivery of our equality diversity and inclusion work.     

We are determined to be transparent both in reporting these alleged incidents and in steps we are taking to investigate them. 

Our purpose in submitting the report is to alert the Charity Commission to the ongoing investigation and to get the benefit of their advice and expertise to inform our approach. 

We regret that one trustee did not feel comfortable with the approach taken by the board and chose to resign. We fully respect their decision and are grateful for their contribution.   

Versus Arthritis is determined to be anti-racist and create an inclusive and diverse charity. We know this will take time, but we will make the changes needed. 

Tell Jane

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