Equality, Diversity and Human Rights training for Volunteers

Please read the training material below and then go back to the previous page.

Learning Objectives

  • Explain what we mean by equality, diversity, human rights and person-centred support and why they are important
  • Explain why we need to know about people’s different backgrounds and why it is important not to make assumptions about individuals
  • Describe what you can do to challenge prejudice and discrimination

Equality, Diversity & Human Rights

Promoting equality and diversity should be at the heart of all organisations. As a volunteer, you can help ensure that we exercise fairness in all that we do to make sure that no individual, community or group is left behind.

This session will describe what we mean by equality, diversity and person-centred support what you can do to help create a more inclusive community or organisation.

Equality does not mean treating everyone the same. It does mean:

  • Making sure people are treated fairly
  • Meeting individuals’ needs appropriately
  • Challenging the factors that limit individuals’ opportunities

Diversity is about:

  • Recognising and valuing individual and group differences
  • Ensuring many different types of people contribute to society

Human rights refer to the basic rights and freedom that belong to every person in the world

Inequalities refer to the differences between people or groups due to social, geographical, biological or other factors. These differences have a huge impact, because they result in people who are worse off experiencing poorer health and shorter lives

Support the individual using person-centred values by promoting:

  • Individuality
  • Independence
  • Privacy
  • Partnership
  • Choice
  • Dignity
  • Respect
  • Rights

Person-centred care is a way of thinking and doing things that sees the people using health and social care services as equal partners in planning, developing and monitoring care to make sure it meets their needs.

The Equality Act

Volunteers have a duty to uphold the principles of The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. The following characteristics are protected within the Act.

What are the nine protected characteristics referred to in the Equality Act?

  1. Age – Means a person belonging to a particular age group.
  2. Disability – A person is deemed to have a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment, and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Someone who may have had an impairment or condition such as cancer is also covered by this legal definition of disability.
  3. Gender Reassignment – Where a person has proposed, started or completed a process to change his or her sex.
  4. Marriage and Civil Partnership – People who are married or in a civil partnership have this protected characteristic.
  5. Pregnancy and Maternity – Maternity refers to the period after birth, and is linked to Maternity leave in employment. In non-work context, protection against maternity discrimination is for 26 weeks after giving birth, and includes treating a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding.
  6. Race – People who have or share characteristics of colour, nationality or ethnic or national origin can be described as belonging to a particular racial group.
  7. Religion or Belief – People who have a religion or religious or philosophical belief, or a lack of religion or belief, share this protected characteristic.
  8. Sex – Under the Equality Act a person is seen as a man or woman ,although it should be noted that some individuals see themselves as non-binary rather than exclusively male or female.
  9. Sexual Orientation – A person’s sexual orientation may be towards :
  • People of the same sex as him or her (in other words the person is a gay man or a lesbian)
  • People of both sexes (the person is bisexual)
  • People of the opposite sex to him or her (the person is heterosexual)

The Equality Act protects everyone. It is illegal to discriminate against a person because of a protected characteristic.

Equality and Human Rights in Practice

  • Fairness
  • Respect
  • Equality
  • Dignity and
  • Autonomy

Otherwise known as FREDA. FREDA is a way of thinking about human rights.

How to Make an Inclusive Environment

Farrah, Robert, Ruth and Sophie are all volunteersThe team hold regular ‘girls’ nights out’. A poster has appeared in the coffee room and several volunteers are discussing their plans for the night. The last night out was a great success, but it was noticed that some volunteers did not attend despite the night being advertised in the coffee room, which everyone knew about. It is agreed that to be more inclusive partners can come next time. Farrah, Robert, Ruth and Sophie all feel excluded – why might this be?

Farrah – I love volunteering. I get really good feedback. Most volunteers went on a girls’ night out. They asked me to go but I’ve never been on this type of night out; it’s not something I think I would be comfortable with. My religion is important to me and I don’t drink. I feel a bit left out this morning and everyone is talking about it.

Robert – Why didn’t I go on the girls’ night out? Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? Don’t get me wrong I have been invited as a ‘token boy’ but I’m not really comfortable with that. I suppose this is what it’s like volunteering here amongst females. Seriously though, I would like to get to know my team a bit better and have some down time.

Ruth– Well, I was going to go as it sounded like a good night out and an opportunity to get to know my team better. But then I was in the toilet and I heard a couple of the other volunteers talking – they said they thought that I probably would not want to go because of my age. I was really upset –it makes me wonder what else they say about me.

Sophie – Yes I was invited but I said I couldn’t go. They were talking about it in the coffee room this morning and decided to make it more inclusive by inviting partners and they know my partner is a woman. They think that’s why I don’t come out, but that’s not it. I’m deaf; everyone is aware and some volunteers have said ‘Don’t worry Sophie, we treat everyone the same even if they have a disability’, but for me going on a noisy night out is quite difficult. I don’t want to make a fuss – everyone gets on well.

The volunteering team didn’t deliberately discriminate against any of their colleagues and they hoped their girls’ night out would help to create a friendly atmosphere and a good team spirit. They’d made sure that they weren’t excluding their lesbian and gay colleagues when they invited partners along.

Making Assumptions – The team still assumed that everyone would feel comfortable on a noisy girls’ night out with alcohol and this wasn’t the case for Farrah, Robert or Sophie. And some colleagues assumed that Ruth was too old to enjoy a noisy girls’ night out. It’s very easy to make assumptions.

Assumptions like this are part of what leads to inequalities between different groups of people.

Feeling excluded – In this case, some volunteers felt excluded and this is likely to have a negative effect on their health and how well they contribute.

We all need to do our best to make sure that we are including everyone, and not make assumptions linked to someone’s characteristics. We should talk to any colleague that we see doing this.

Volunteering in an Equal and Diverse Environment

If an equal and diverse organisation, we will see the following benefits:

  • A fair, moral and inclusive society
  • Better recruitment and retention of volunteers
  • Fewer complaints
  • High morale
  • Fewer bullying and harassment cases
  • A better reputation as an organisation
  • Better access to services for everyone and better experiences when using the services.

Person-centred support also means that a range of environmental factors including lighting, noise, temperature and unpleasant odours can contribute to a negative experience for an individual.

How to Challenge Prejudice, Discrimination and Unfairness

It can be difficult to challenge a colleague’s inappropriate behaviour. The following suggestions will help:

  • Have the conversation in private
  • Avoid blame and confrontation. Your aim is to help the person you are speaking with to understand why their behaviour/remark is not OK (remember that it may not have been deliberate) and to work out how to behave differently in the future
  • As in any effective conversation, you should aim to do as much listening as talking. Sometimes we can work out how to do better for ourselves without being told
  • You can get advice before the conversation from your volunteer coordinator or manager

If you don’t feel able to challenge a colleague, then report the matter to your volunteer coordinator. If you experience discrimination yourself you should report your concerns immediately to your volunteer coordinator. Remember you are entitled to be treated fairly at all times.

Equality vs Equity

While equity and equality are related, there are important distinctions between them. Equity involves trying to understand and give people what they need to enjoy full, healthy lives tailored to the individual. By contrast, equality delivers the same quality of care in order for people to enjoy full, healthy lives. Like equity, equality aims to promote fairness and justice, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same care.

Making individual adjustments for individual people makes things fairer and more equal for those people. Removing barriers, or the causes of inequality, is the most effective way to make services and society fairer for everyone now and in the future.

Some inequalities have multiple causes so this can take time and effort but in the long run it’s what we should be aiming for.

Session Summary

Key Points

  • Equality, diversity and human rights are important to everyone working and volunteering
  • We all have a role to make sure that services are accessible and that everyone has a positive and inclusive experience
  • In the workplace, we also need to think about inclusion and recognise the diversity of those we work and volunteer with, ensuring that they feel valued and respected
  • Think about what you can do to promote values and behaviours when you are volunteering



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