Bristol’s equality and diversity questioned

Abdi Mohamed (06 Nov 017) – In March this year, the Home Office Quality Assurance (QA) Panel considered a Domestic Homicide Report (DHR) for Bristol, which examined “agency responses and support given” to a 22-year-old female victim prior to her death in July 2015. It was a death that had shocked the whole community and city, and possibly had left scars on the hearts and minds of her immediate family and friends.

The report which was recently published by Bristol City Council, together with a letter (attached as an appendix) from the QA Panel, acknowledged good practices and noted shortcomings, and made recommendations. The QA Panel’s letter also highlighted some aspects which the Panel thought need to be looked at again including lack of equality and diversity.

“Equality and diversity has not been sufficiently considered in the report, other than a brief mention in [one paragraph],” the letter noted, “and the Panel suggested the special adviser to the review panel [of the DHR] could have assisted with this element of the review.” In fact, it may be argued that most of the services were not accessible to the victim, nor were they designed to cater the needs of people with similar ethnic back ground and experience such as refugee groups.

In addition, the report stated there were few lessons for agencies to learn from their limited involvement with the victim’s family. These lessons include the importance of using independent advisors when dealing with and investigating very serious issues that relate to ethnic minority groups.

On the one hand, the report stated, “The Specialist Advise on Somali issues informed the [Homicide Review] Panel that Somali families would not normally discuss private matters outside the family or clan.” On the other hand, it found the attitude of the victim was contrary to the advisor’s statement. “It is of note that whilst [the victim] was open about [problems] she had suffered in Ethiopia,” the authors of the report wrote.

In the light of the recent Hollywood and Westminister sex scandals, we can understand the difficulties faced by young women when they are dealing with matters related to sexual harassment and abuse, which can compromise their identity and that of their families if they speak about it openly. And Somali young females are not any different.

However, there is a pressing need to put in place appropriate procedure to identify the right expertise, independent advisers when seeking advice on not only Somali issues, but also to understand and tackle misconceptions. The adviser(s) should not be necessarily a person of Somali ethnic, but should be someone that has the required professional knowledge and experience and, more importantly, there should be a declaration of conflict of interest. In other words, someone that is not a Bristol Council employee – even if they are the most qualified person locally.

The report also drew special attention to the lack of rigorous follow up monitoring procedure for vulnerable teenage mothers. It said, “After early intensive support was provided to the [victim], who was identified as vulnerable, few checks were made to monitor if she was still vulnerable or needed support from Bristol City Council Housing Services. There was no contact made for over nine months when BCC where then informed of her death.”

Further, the report acknowledged the importance of the ongoing work to tackle abuse on women and made a number of recommendations to tackle violent against women, supporting vulnerable tenants and safeguarding issues, but it did not consider the need to address mental health and related issues within immigrant communities in Bristol. There is a wealth of evidence that suggests mental health should be top of the agenda for agencies working with these communities, particularly recently arrived refugees who have experienced war, displacement, destruction and lost loved ones, and also been through traumatic journeys.

Nevertheless, it seems the local authority and their partner agencies only come and briefly engage the local Somali community when there is a major incident, but they ignore them when finding solutions such as carrying this Domestic Homicide Review.

Equally, the Somali community leaders and activists should make sure that they do not ‘outsource their responsibilities’ and wait others to dictate for them, but they should take steps to strengthen the voice of the community.

Moreover, regarding equality and diversity, we should understand that there is a clear dichotomy between what politicians promise during election times or regurgitate publicly after they are elected and what they deliver.

One could, therefore, argue that Bristol’s commitment to equality and diversity is nothing but a lip service.

Please visit the following link to read the full report:

You can reach the author: @AbdiOBoobe

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