A statement from the Royal College of Podiatry on tackling racism and why we must do more

The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota in May shocked and angered the entire world. In the weeks following his death, Black Lives Matter protests and campaigns that rightly demanded justice developed across hundreds of cities in every state in America, internationally and in the UK.

In the preceding months, the inequalities that had long existed in society had already been laid bare, often in devastating ways, by the COVID-19 crisis. The Public Health England report published in June reiterated the disproportionate number of COVID-19 related deaths on people from BAME backgrounds. It also highlighted that people of black ethnic groups have the highest age-standardised diagnosis rates of COVID-19.

Racism, discrimination and injustice are experienced by black and minority ethnic people in this country every day. And I know that many of our BAME members experience racism as part of their daily lives. Far from settling for being a non-racist organisation, we must become an actively anti-racist organisation. We stand shoulder to shoulder with our black and ethnic minority members, staff, and the Black Lives Matter movement.

In 2018, we established the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) group. It is led by our members, each of them fiercely passionate and dedicated. With the College, they work to develop strategies and programmes of change. Dr Chris Morriss-Roberts is the current Council champion for equality and diversity and through his work and the work of the EDI, both our Council and the Executive Team at the College are responsible for ensuring it is implemented across every area of the organisation.

That group’s mission statement has been ‘to establish an organisational culture which promotes, encourages and supports inclusion, equality and diversity by creating a culture based on fairness, inclusion and mutual respect for all’. It takes on extra resonance now and I am determined that our organisation will do better to realise it.

Through our membership of the TUC, we are taking a more active part in the equality structures and initiatives that that offers us. This includes events like Show Racism the Red Card and playing an active part in their arrangements to provide more support for BAME members. Being a part of that organisation allows us a platform to speak up for our BAME members and we are committed to doing so.

But we need to do more. I was pleased to see that the NHS trade unions are to imminently issue a call to action for our BAME members to become more active in our structures. As well as supporting the BLM movement, we need to be more inclusive as an organisation and I welcome that call. We need our BAME members to become workplace reps, branch members and to join our committees and council. Our commitment to any BAME member is that we will make it easier for you to influence our work and be heard. Part of that means that we will open participation in the College to more reflect our diverse community. 

At the start of June, we released a short statement as part of the #blackouttuesday campaign across many of our channels. It was a small act of solidarity with black people within our profession and in our wider communities. But I wanted to take some time before issuing the response you are reading now, so I could reflect properly, listen, and speak with clarity about what happens next.

We need to do more to reduce the entrenched barriers to progress in podiatry. We need to start challenging unacceptable behaviours where we see them. We need to play the leading role in eradicating racism and structural inequalities across every area of our profession and contribute to the wider societal change that needs to happen.

There is a lot more we can do. Like many organisations, we have been far from perfect. Addressing our complacency is the first step. Ensuring we work hard so that every aspect of the Royal College of Podiatry reflects our membership and society is the second.

Real and drastic action has to happen to improve diversity and opportunity within the profession, including increasing diversity of those in leadership roles, monitoring demographic pass rates in podiatry education, and amplifying the voices of our BAME members so they feel heard and listened to.

We know we have a long way to go. As the leader of a professional body representing over 10,000 podiatrists, it is incumbent on me to ensure that we do better so that respect for each other is paramount and people are allowed to flourish, regardless of their ethnicity, gender, religion and sexual orientation. 

From today, I am asking all of my staff and all of our members to read this statement as a signal of our renewed commitment to tackle and stamp out racism, discrimination and inequality.

Steve Jamieson
Chief Executive
The College of Podiatry