Race Equality Week is 1st to the 7th of February 2021. Here are some client stories which demonstrate how POhWER supports people from a diverse range of ethnic communities to uphold their rights.

Aamil’s Story

Aamil lives at a neurological rehabilitation unit and is unable to communicate verbally, or physically.

Zane, the POhWER advocate who regularly visits the unit, used non-instructed advocacy techniques to learn more about Aamil.

Zane noticed that staff constantly played Smooth FM as a form of stimulus for Aamil. Zane asked the unit staff if they played any other music for Aamil or if they ever put films on for him to watch. The staff said that they did not know what genre of music or films Aamil would prefer and did not want to assume as this would be unfair to him.

Zane pointed out to staff that there is a certificate on the wall of Aamil’s room stating that he had previously completed a course in film directing, which would indicate that he was a fan of watching films.

Staff told Zane that Aamil’s family and friends had informed them that Arabic was Aamil’s first language and English his second. The staff said that as Aamil could not communicate verbally it was impossible for them to tell if he spoke English fluently enough to understand information that they told him.

Zane told staff that just because Aamil is unable to show his understanding it does not mean that he does not understand.

Zane asked if there was an interpretation service they could use and the staff said that there wasn’t but that the patient in the next room spoke Arabic and could verbally communicate.

Zane asked if it was possible for staff to speak to this second patient and ask him if he might translate some information into Arabic for Aamil. Zane also suggested that the staff ask the second patient for recommendations for Arabic films or music that both he and Aamil might enjoy.

The staff agreed to look into this.

Advocacy was able to help support Aamil with a potential language barrier and for the cultural needs of both Aamil and his fellow Arabic speaking patient to be met.

Aamil was being discriminated against because of his disability, his carers made the assumption that as he could not express his preferences and what language he preferred that he did not understand. By supporting the care home to find ways of providing Aamil with access to resources in his own language Zane has upheld Aamil’s rights to freedom of expression and protection from discrimination under the Human Rights Act 1998.

Aamil’s right to peaceful enjoyment of property (Human Rights Act 1998) was also affected by the actions of the care home staff as they made a decision about what activities Aamil had access to without taking into consideration how he might like to spend his time.

Farida’s Story

Louisa, a POhWER advocate, checked in on Farida during a drop in at the care home where she lives. Farida asked Louisa to support her to complete the annual resident’s survey. Louisa read each question to Farida and then listened carefully to her answers. Louisa made sure to repeat Farida’s words back to her to check that she was understanding her answers.

Louisa and Farida also had a general conversation about how Farida’s current placement was going and if she felt she had everything she needed. Farida was able to fully participate in the conversation, but sometimes needed support to find the right words to articulate what she was trying to say.

Farida told Louisa that she would like to have more culturally specific meals to eat and that this would make her feel more at home. Louisa asked Farida about the current meal options that she was being offered and Farida told Louisa about the things that she likes and dislikes to eat and drink. Farida said that she would really like to be able to eat some of her favourite cultural dishes again.

Farida has swallowing needs so Louisa discussed this with her and Farida advised that she would be open to trying the cultural meals in a pureed or soft diet form if this was recommended by her therapy team.

Farida said that she didn’t feel confident enough to raise this issue with the care home staff as she also struggles with cognition, memory and language without support to understand the conversation and “find the right words”. Farida agreed that Louisa should speak with the ward manager or kitchen team on her behalf to see if it would be possible to prepare culturally specific meals on site or order them in and make them appropriate for her swallowing needs.

Louisa met with the ward manager to discuss Farida’s request. The ward manager agreed to discuss this further with the catering team.
A couple of weeks later, the ward manager called Louisa to let her know that the catering team had now procured external support to prepare meals for Farida and are now looking into working with her to adapt the food to her needs and taste.

Farida thanked Louisa for taking the time to listen and understand her request and to support her with raising it further. Farida is looking forward to trying the first of her new meals this week.

Farida’s preferences had not been taken into account when her meals were prepared for her. Although not mentioned as her main motivation behind wanting certain dishes, religious or specific beliefs such as Rastafarianism or veganism could have been one of the many reasons she preferred those certain meals. By ensuring that Farida’s wishes and choices were heard by the care home staff Louisa has supported Farida to uphold her right to freedom of expression and freedom of thought, belief and religion under the Human Rights Act 1998.

Hamza’s Story

Hamza lives in London and was concerned about his daughter who had been experiencing issues with her mental health over the last few months and had been sectioned in an adolescent ward under the clinical supervision of staff. Hamza contacted POhWER and was allocated an advocate – Ben.

Hamza told Ben that he had many concerns about the way in which he was being given information about his child while she was in hospital as he felt he was not being treated like a parent but rather an outsider. Hamza said that he is not used to these types of systems as this is not part of his culture. He felt that his daughter needed professional help but is not familiar with the mental health system.

Ben gave Hamza information to support him to request meetings with his child’s clinical team to discuss her treatment plan, the support in place for her and when she might be discharged.

Hamza also discussed some of his personal issues with Ben including his marriage breakdown. Ben asked if Hamza needed any support and Hamza told Ben that in his culture men are seen as weak if they cannot keep their families together, he stated that his daughter had brought shame on his family by acting out.

Ben found Hamza some information about his daughter’s mental health condition and used it to explain to Hamza the causes of mental health breakdowns. Ben also gave Hamza some examples of Islamic mental health services that are able to provide information to the Asian community in order to better inform them about mental health conditions and support services.

Hamza was so pleased that Ben had provided him with this information and said that it helped him to really understand where things went wrong. Hamza spoke to his daughter about her condition and the information helped him better understand how he could help her.
Hamza contacted Ben again to request his help to find Islamic adult services specifically for men, as well as, family counselling and support services that could support him to rebuild his family.

Although Hamza was not able to remedy the relationship with his wife, he has been able to have honest and open conversations with his daughter about mental health and has sought counselling for himself.

Hamza was unable to express how he felt about his daughter’s treatment and the information that he was being provided with. This was an infringement of his right to freedom of expression (Human Rights Act 1998). The Mental Health Professionals may have indirectly discriminated against Hamza by assuming he had prior knowledge of the Mental Health System when he did not due to his culture and beliefs as part of his faith. By providing Hamza with information and signposting him to services that were aimed specifically at people of Islamic faith, Ben upheld his right to freedom of thought, belief and religion and freedom from discrimination under the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010.