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What is Discrimination in Health and Social Care

January 5, 2024
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In today's society, where diversity and inclusivity are increasingly important, understanding the nuances of discrimination within health and social care, especially in the context of domiciliary care in the UK, is critical. 

This article sheds light on the intricate dynamics of discrimination in this sector, aiming to inform care recipients, care professionals, and the wider community about its implications and the strategies to combat it. 

What do we mean when we discuss ‘discrimination’? 

Before we go into discrimination and how it can appear and manifest in health and social care, and the impact it can have on care recipients, care professionals and others within the care industry, we’ll go into what we mean exactly when we refer to ‘discrimination’. 

Discrimination refers to the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, sex, disability, sexual orientation, or religion

It involves actions or attitudes that unfairly single out individuals or groups for different and typically worse treatment compared to others in similar situations. Discrimination can manifest in various forms, including but not limited to:

  • Direct Discrimination: This occurs when a person is treated less favourably than another in a similar situation because of a specific characteristic, such as gender, race, or age. An example would be refusing employment to someone specifically because of their race.
  • Indirect Discrimination: This type of discrimination happens when a seemingly neutral policy or practice disproportionately affects people with a particular characteristic. For instance, a job requirement that employees must be above a certain height could indirectly discriminate against many women and people of certain ethnicities.
  • Institutional Discrimination: This involves policies, practices, or procedures within organisations that are discriminatory. It can be harder to detect as it's often built into the fabric of institutions.
  • Harassment: This is a form of discrimination that includes unwanted behaviour linked to a person's characteristic that violates their dignity or creates an offensive environment for them.
  • Victimisation: This occurs when someone is treated badly because they have made a complaint of discrimination or have supported someone who has.

Discrimination can take place in various settings, including the workplace, educational institutions, public services, and healthcare. It is essential to address and challenge discriminatory practices to promote equality, diversity, and respect for all individuals in society.

Defining Discrimination in Health and Social Care

In domiciliary care settings, discrimination could manifest as care professionals delivering different levels of care based on personal biases or institutional policies that inadvertently marginalise certain groups. 

The Equality Act 2010 in the UK is a key legislative measure that aims to protect individuals from such unfair treatment. However, understanding discrimination goes beyond legal definitions; it's about recognising the dignity and rights of every care recipient.

Read also - Equality and Diversity in Social and Health Care

Manifestations of Discrimination in Care Settings

In the domiciliary care sector in the UK, discrimination can take various forms. It might be as overt as a care professional refusing to provide services to a certain ethnic group or as subtle as a lack of culturally sensitive care plans. For example, a care recipient with a specific dietary need based on religious or cultural practices might find these needs overlooked or misunderstood. 

It's crucial to acknowledge that such discrimination not only affects the quality of care but also the mental and emotional well-being of care recipients.

Read also - What is Person Centred Care?

Impact of Discrimination on Health and Social Care Delivery

The impact of discrimination in health and social care is far-reaching. It can lead to increased stress and anxiety among care recipients, exacerbating existing health conditions. Discrimination can also create a culture of mistrust and reluctance to seek necessary care, particularly among marginalised groups. This hesitancy can lead to a deterioration in health outcomes and widen health disparities. 

For care professionals, working in a discriminatory environment can lead to moral distress, burnout, and a reduction in the quality of care provided.

Read also - Care professional retention: 6 tips to know

Addressing and Combating Discrimination in Health and Social Care

Addressing discrimination in domiciliary care requires a multifaceted approach. This includes training care professionals in cultural competency and unconscious bias, developing inclusive policies and practices, and fostering an environment of respect and dignity for all care recipients. 

Training providers such as Florence have free training on such topics, you can check out their Equality, Diversity & LGBTQ+ training by clicking here

Engaging with the care recipients and their families, understanding their unique needs, and involving them in care planning is crucial. Moreover, establishing clear channels for reporting and addressing discrimination can empower care recipients and professionals alike.

Legislation and guidelines against discrimination in Health and Social Care

In the UK, several legislative frameworks and guidelines aim to protect individuals from discrimination in health and social care settings. The most notable is the Equality Act 2010, which provides a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all. 

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) also plays a vital role in ensuring care services meet the necessary standards of quality and safety, including aspects related to non-discrimination. Adhering to these laws and guidelines is not only a legal requirement but also a moral imperative for all involved in the provision of domiciliary care. The CQC have guidelines all health and social care services must adhere to in oprder to receive a quality rating, one of their key quality statements that contributes to this rating refers to workforce equality, diversity and inclusion. You can read more about this here.

Read also - What is Diversity in Health and Social Care

Discrimination in health and social care, particularly in domiciliary care in the UK, presents complex challenges that require a concerted effort from all stakeholders. 

By understanding its manifestations, impacts, and the ways to combat it, we can work towards a more inclusive, equitable, and compassionate care system. It is a journey that necessitates continuous learning, empathy, and commitment to the fundamental principles of equality and respect for all individuals.

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