Charlene Sibanda is the new Health and Wellbeing Practitioner for the Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) workforce at South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. Her job is a role funded by our Covid-19 Appeal, as a grant stage was focused on mental health support and BAME individuals and hidden communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Here, for Black History Month, Charlene explains why her job is so critical.

COVID-19 has exacerbated and given a public spotlight to the pre-existing health inequalities BAME communities have been exposed to historically. And it is these inequalities which highlight the need to focus on pioneering better support for BAME staff and communities.

In my eyes, my job is a beacon of light for all BAME colleagues across my Trust as it conveys the message “we see you, and acknowledge your differences and the needs you have within your work environment as well as your personal lives”.

It also opens a door for non-BAME colleagues to gain awareness of the difficulties that we as BAME staff face on a daily basis in and outside of work, and ultimately have an impact on our health and wellbeing. It bridges a gap and enables all staff, BAME and non-BAME, to further educate themselves about the dichotomies and intersectionalities that cause daily struggles, to create a culture of inclusivity, diversity and acceptance which allows everyone to be allies as opposed to ‘Us vs Them’. 

Research has also shown that in every realm of the workforce, BAME staff tend to occupy in large percentages the lower paid or most stressful positions of their organisations. Such as healthcare assistants and nurses/doctors, but seldom in positions of power. They have additional everyday pressures compared to their white counterparts, as many live in low socioeconomic status areas, intergenerational households and bear financial responsibilities for family members in their home countries. Consequently, all these pressures have a large impact on the overall health and wellbeing of the individual.

It is crucial to engage with BAME colleagues to increase understanding as they are among groups most at risk, so that they can be protected and have their basic needs met in the workplace. Doing so will also help address experiences of discrimination, bullying and harassment.

It is my hope that while in this role, I successfully contribute to pioneering the support offered to BAME colleagues and create a space where they feel free to voluntarily come for health and wellbeing support. I also hope that by working closely with stakeholders and directors of the Trust, more senior positions are created for BAME colleagues which allow them to be part of the decision-making which ultimately affects them at work.