Equality, diversity and inclusion strategy 2024 to 2027


On this page:

A message from Richard Kramer

Our CEO Richard Kramer

Welcome to our Equality Diversity and Inclusion Strategy (EDI) for 2024 to 2027. This refreshed strategy remains aspirational and is closely aligned to our core organisational objectives.

Back in 2021, we introduced our first EDI Strategy and shared our roadmap for how we view inclusivity at Sense. With the steps we have taken over the last few years, we are in a stronger position to have a deeper level of understanding of EDI within our organisation.

This strategy underpins our collective approach to Sense becoming an employer of choice. It represents who we are.

In 2024, Sense celebrates its 70th anniversary. As an organisation we have always aspired to be a charity with deep-rooted connections with the diverse communities we support.

EDI must, therefore, be at the heart of how we recruit, develop and retain our people. Our aim is to improve equality, diversity and inclusion across the organisation and to lead the way, influencing change across the charity sector.

We have made great strides over the past few years, but we still have a long way to go on our journey – and we all have a role to play. I ask you all to understand the value of being an ally.

As CEO, I have the privilege of leading this organisation forward and you can find out more about what we’re doing and how you can get involved by engaging with our employee networks.

My thanks go to all of you who have helped develop this work, notably our strategy working group, EDI Board and Employee Forum.

Richard Kramer, Chief Executive

An introduction to the Sense EDI Strategy for 2024 to 2027

Building on our strengths, together

This strategy reflects the dedication and collaborative spirit of our people. A working group who represent the diverse voices within Sense co-created this plan, building upon the successes of our previous strategy.

Our renewed focus: Empowering people and leaders

This refreshed strategy outlines our objectives for our continued focus on equality, diversity, inclusion and equity:

  • Three people made out of paint marks holding hands

    Objective 1: Maximise opportunities to attract, develop, support and retain diverse representation across all levels of our organisation.
    We will remove any barriers to opportunity in all aspects of recruitment and selection, committing to sustaining fair and equitable processes.

  • Two people high fiving made out of purple brush marks.

    Objective 2: Embed an inclusive culture.
    We will embed an inclusive culture that celebrates diversity and fosters a sense of belonging for all employees. We will continue to cultivate a thriving and innovative environment.

  • Diversity icon made out of green brush mark circles.

    Objective 3: Promote the importance of practicing and supporting disability inclusion.
    Building a more inclusive and equitable world will take all of us. Our commitment to disability inclusion aims to inspire others to take action.

Treminology note – We consider “our people” to include all employees, relief workers and volunteers. Our workforce refers to our employees and relief workers.

Our vision at Sense

Sense’s strategic direction continues to be underpinned by our vision, mission and values. Our chief societal aim is to ensure that everyone can take part in life.

Our vision is a world where no one, no matter how complex their disabilities, is left out, isolated, or unable to fulfil their potential.

Our mission is to remove barriers to communication so that everyone has the opportunity to live their life to the full.

We are committed to four strategic outcomes to help us move a step closer to achieving our vision.

We will focus on the following areas for the people we support:

  • Children and families get the best possible start.
  • Adults are supported to live and learn at every stage of their lives.
  • Individuals are less lonely and more connected with their communities.
  • Society has increased awareness of the impact of our work and is inspired to take action.

Defining equality, diversity, inclusion and equity at Sense

Our commitment is to foster a culture where every individual feels valued, respected and empowered to reach their full potential. To achieve this, it’s essential we understand and articulate how the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion are applied within our organisation.

While we recognise and comply with the relevant legislation, we will strive beyond this to ensure that our practice in EDI is embedded in everything we do.

  • Paintbrush marks of three connected people

    Equality
    We believe everyone should have the same opportunities to succeed. This means helping our people to overcome challenges, enabling everyone to thrive and strengthening our communities.

  • Four people in a group with a heart in the centre made from orange brush strokes.

    Diversity
    Diversity is more than a list of protected characteristics. It’s our people and the people we support who reflect the vibrancy and richness of the communities we’re part of.

  • Three people in a row with a heart made from purple brush strokes.

    Inclusion
    Sense champions a culture where everyone feels welcomed, valued and respected regardless of background, beliefs, abilities or lived experience. We believe all identities should be celebrated and recognised and that all our people should feel empowered to express themselves.

    Our commitment to accessibility is at the heart of everything we do, Sense exists to remove barriers that prevent people reaching their full potential.

  • Two people talking one with a speech bubble made from orange brush strokes

    Equity
    We advocate equity within our organisation with an active and ongoing effort to remove the obstacles that hold some back, ensuring everyone has equal access to the support and resources they need to thrive.

Our achievements on our journey so far

People and groups

  • We appointed a new Head of Inclusion and Wellbeing to lead our strategic activity along with recruiting a Wellbeing Lead.
  • We developed and implemented a wellbeing action plan to support financial, physical and mental wellbeing.
  • We reviewed our EDI Board and introduced a Terms of Reference to direct our focus. We increased our employee diversity networks to provide peer-to-peer support and raise awareness across our organisation.
  • We increased the number of Asian, Black and ethnic minorities within our organisation to 25%.

Policies and statements of intent

We have delivered a number of initiatives to support the diversity of our people including:

  • An Equality Impact Assessment process for inclusive policy development and decision making.
  • Menopause support guidance.
  • Assisted conception support guidance.
  • A zero-tolerance policy towards any physical, verbal or online work-related violence and/or abuse towards anyone involved with our work.
  • Non-binary and Transgender Inclusion Policy.

Management information and monitoring

  • We improved our data collection and analysis in relation to our people.
  • The percentage of our workforce who declared a protected characteristic increased to 74%.
  • In our Employee Engagement Survey, we asked how our organisation was performing on inclusion and wellbeing. Our score was a promising 75%.

Learning

  • Our Executive and Leadership teams participated in inclusive leadership development.
  • We increased the promotion of awareness and inclusion days, as well as a diverse range of religious celebrations, across the organisation.
  • We developed ‘Toolbox Talks’ to encourage managers to facilitate open conversations with their teams and share lived experiences, linked to a variety of awareness days.
  • We created a platform for people with lived experience to tell insightful stories and inspire commitment to our EDI strategy.

Celebrating diversity with people we support

We recognise that celebrating diversity enriches the experiences of those we support, our people and the wider community. We will continue to do this with:

  • Cultural celebrations and awareness: Incorporating celebrations of various cultural and religious holidays into our services, fostering understanding and a sense of belonging.
  • Person-centred support: Emphasising personalised approaches that respect individual preferences, backgrounds and identities, providing a culturally sensitive and inclusive experience.
  • Community partnerships: Collaborating with communities who represent diverse groups to tailor services more effectively and co-create outreach events that celebrate diversity.
  • Outward visibility: Showcasing how we embrace diversity in the workplace and the people we support from varied backgrounds to inspire others and attract a range of new people to our services.

By actively celebrating diversity, we reinforce our commitment to inclusion, create more welcoming environments, and strengthen our overall connection to our communities.

Embedding EDI in our practices

Our values as an organisation guide all that we do, and our commitment to EDI ensures people we support are treated fairly and with respect. Central to our provision of high-quality care for the people we support and their families, is the guidance of this EDI strategy.

Our success in meeting our strategic outcomes is reliant on the implementation of effective prioritisation of equality, diversity, inclusion and equity. It is only by embedding these principles within in our work that we will truly be able to ensure that no one is left out of life.

Steps on our EDI journey

  • Step 1 – Get the basics right
    Ensuring that EDI exists at the level required by the Equalities Act 2010.

  • A number 2 with a purple background

    Step 2 – Build awareness
    EDI are recognised as important elements to our overall success and initiatives implemented to improve EDI at Sense.

  • A number 3 with an orange background

    Step 3 – Increase understanding and application
    Our leadership and management recognise and accept the benefits of diversity. They implement EDI strategies throughout the workplace to create an inclusive environment.

  • A number 4 with a purple background

    Step 4 – Integrating our strategy
    EDI is completely integrated into the organisation, with leadership and management committed to creating an environment that supports EDI and encourages positive, inclusive behaviours.

  • A number 5 with an orange background

    Step 5 – Sustained results
    EDI is centre to how we operate at Sense. It is the norm of our day-to-day activities and an essential element of our culture. EDI now forms part of our business strategy and impacts on our business success, with role models being visible at all levels of the organisation.

Or responsibilities

All our people play a vital part in ensuring we promote an inclusive culture through supporting equality, diversity, and inclusion within all our practices and interactions. A number of groups and individuals have additional responsibilities:

  • Cultural celebrations and awareness: Incorporating celebrations of various cultural and religious holidays into our services, fostering understanding and a sense of belonging.
  • Person-centred support: Emphasising personalised approaches that respect individual preferences, backgrounds and identities, providing a culturally sensitive and inclusive experience.
  • Community partnerships: Collaborating with communities who represent diverse groups to tailor services more effectively and co-create outreach events that celebrate diversity.
  • Outward visibility: Showcasing how we embrace diversity in the workplace and the people we support from varied backgrounds to inspire others and attract a range of new people to our services.

By actively celebrating diversity, we reinforce our commitment to inclusion, create more welcoming environments, and strengthen our overall connection to our communities.

Employee diversity networks

Being part of any of our employee diversity networks means people can connect with colleagues who have similar characteristics, interests and experiences. These are spaces for people to share ideas, voice opinions and create a sense of belonging. We recognise that building allyship and acknowledging employees with intersectional identities is also important when creating a more inclusive environment.

Our employee diversity networks support the development of our inclusive culture through advising on policies and procedures; challenging barriers and introducing initiatives to overcome them; and raising awareness and understanding through celebrating key dates in the diversity calendar.

LGBTQ+ Network

The LGBTQ+ Network has helped to remove barriers with LGBTQ+ exclusionary language and support the intersection of other identities within the LGBTQ+ community. The network also coordinates events throughout the year for our people to be involved in, such as the Birmingham Pride parade.

Disability Employee Network

The Disability Employee Network is dedicated to promoting and celebrating disability. Network members highlight any barriers they face and raise suggestions for improvement, such as the recent refurbishment of the Sense Touchbase Pears kitchen, making it more accessible.

Ethnic Diversity Network

The Ethnic Diversity Network is passionate about raising awareness and championing diversity within Sense and our wider communities. Network members are key advocates for positive change and regularly promote important awareness dates such as Black History Month and Race Equality Week.

Wellbeing Network

The Wellbeing Network has been instrumental in the launch of our wellbeing action plan and promotion of the Headspace app for the wellbeing of our employees. They promote awareness of many areas of wellbeing including suicide prevention, stress awareness and financial wellbeing.

How we will achieve our objectives.

Objective 1: Maximise opportunities to attract, develop, support and retain diverse representation across all levels of our organisation

We will create fair and equitable recruitment and selection processes, removing any barriers to opportunity. Our people will reflect the communities we are part of and the people we support. Our recruitment strategy, development and retention methods will be inclusive and accessible for all candidates.

Theme 1: Continue to build inclusive recruitment practices and internal processes that support the representation of diversity across all levels

  • Regularly track diversity metrics across different levels of our organisation, identifying areas for improvement.
  • Use of inclusive recruitment practices to attract more diverse candidates with focused recruitment campaigns.
  • Advertise in channels viewed by diverse demographics.
  • Partner with organisations supporting underrepresented groups.
  • Work with hiring managers and interview panels to recognise and manage the impact of unconscious bias and the importance of accessibility during the recruitment process.
  • Develop standardised interview processes that focus on job criteria, mitigating bias in candidate evaluation.
  • Develop interview panels which provide a mix of backgrounds and experiences.
  • Use of technologies and facilities to support accessibility in recruitment processes.
  • Develop an apprenticeship offering to introduce more diversity at entry levels, nurturing future talent.
  • Outreach recruitment at job fairs and other events hosted by organisations supportive of diverse communities, including disability advocacy groups.
  • Implement a formal mentoring programme, including reverse mentoring, focusing on our areas of underrepresentation to understand the challenges and nurture talent.
  • Develop succession planning and talent management to identify and improves our talent pipeline.
  • Use of exit interview feedback and data to analyse reasons for leaving within underrepresented groups.
  • Effectively measure and monitor our recruitment metrics and strive to improve upon these.

Theme 2: Elevating our commitment by pursuing accreditation in diversity and inclusion

  • Submit an application to be a Disability Confident Leader in order to enhance our approach and commitment externally.
  • Independently evaluate our equality, diversity and inclusion commitments, initiatives and measurements.

Objective 2: Embed an inclusive culture.

We will embed an inclusive culture that celebrates diversity that creates a sense of belonging for all employees. Continue to cultivate a thriving and innovative environment.

This objective focuses on initiatives that dismantle barriers, promote equal opportunities and encourage open communication regardless of background, identity or experience. We will develop a culture that promotes wellbeing and provides support to enable all our people to achieve their potential.

Theme 1: Support managers to create inclusive and engaged teams

  • Provide mandatory training to help managers identify and address their own unconscious biases, fostering greater fairness in decision-making processes.
  • Offer tailored programmes that equip managers with the skills required to lead diverse teams, create psychologically safe spaces and facilitate inclusive conversations.
  • Encourage discussions and dialogue about EDI as part of team meetings and briefings

Theme 2: Support of employee diversity networks

  • Encourage network group activities and events through provision of resources and support.
  • Continued recognition of diversity through raising awareness and understanding of the experiences of marginalised groups.
  • Encourage our leaders to actively participate in network group activities, demonstrating commitment to inclusivity from the top.
  • Actively utilise our cultural calendar to commemorate special observances and heritage months and promote engagement.
  • Identify opportunities to develop additional networks to support our people.

Theme 3: Promote physical, financial and mental wellbeing

  • Develop strategies and initiatives that support our people with their physical, financial and mental wellbeing.
  • Train designated employees in mental health first aid to provide immediate support to those experiencing mental health difficulties.
  • Development of support network and tools to aid development of Mental Health First Aiders.
  • Offer wellbeing workshops on topics such as mindfulness, meditation techniques and practical stress management.
  • Continue to develop internal campaigns featuring resources, educational content and stories from our people to reduce stigma around mental health challenges.

Theme 4: Psychological safety

  • Develop effective communication techniques that build trust, encourage open dialogue and reduce defensiveness.
  • Encourage a culture where different viewpoints and ideas are actively sought and valued.
  • Create an environment where people feel comfortable to take risks, collaborate, innovate and share mistakes without fear of judgement.

Theme 5: Equality, diversity and inclusion training

  • Provide mandatory EDI training and education to all employees.
  • Ensure mandatory completion by line managers of training on unconscious bias.
  • Develop EDI training offer with new modules and courses.
  • Maintain completion rates for EDI training to 90%.
  • Broaden and deepen understanding of diverse cultures through promotion of awareness events.
  • Integrate diversity and inclusion principles into leadership development programmes, equipping managers to foster inclusive teams.
  • Offer opportunities for targeted discussions (open meetings, roundtables and small group discussions) on issues related to diversity and inclusion. Topics will include unconscious bias and disability inclusion.

Theme 6: Prioritise accessibility to enhance equity

  • Ensure our people, regardless of ability, have equal access to appropriate information, resources and opportunities. This includes making our physical spaces, digital tools and communication practices inclusive for everyone.

Theme 7: Integrate and embed diversity and inclusion as part of our policies, practices and decision making

  • Embed the Equality Impact Assessment process (EIA) to support the development of policies and procedures.
  • Expand on the use of the EIA process to support decision making across the organisation.

Objective 3: Promote the importance of practicing and supporting disability inclusion.

Building a more inclusive and equitable world will take all of us. Our commitment to disability inclusion aims to inspire others to create more inclusive workplaces and empower people to challenge poor practice and discrimination both internally and externally.

Theme 1: Championing a welcoming and supportive environment for all our people and the people we support

  • Integrate disability inclusion principles into our daily interactions.
  • Ensuring we have the relevant policies and procedures in place to provide support where required.
  • Mandatory completion of Disability Awareness modules for our workforce.
  • Undertake Disability Confident Leadership accreditation.
  • Review and improve our volunteering opportunities to encourage and welcome disabled volunteers.
  • Establish clear and accessible channels for employees to disclose disabilities and request adjustments.
  • Increase numbers of our workforce who develop British Sign Language (BSL) capability.
  • Leaders actively champion disability inclusion through their actions and communication.

Theme 2: Acknowledging and celebrating our differences

  • Recognise intersectionality between disability and other protected characteristics.
  • Develop and share lived experiences stories to raise awareness.
  • Provide development for managers and leaders on best practices for managing a diverse workforce, including disability inclusion strategies.
  • Inspire others to create more inclusive workplaces and challenge poor practice and discrimination facing disabled people, both internally and externally.

Theme 3: Empowering and equipping our people to be able to participate

  • Develop mandatory manager training on disability and accessibility.
  • Sharing knowledge, expertise and best practice more widely internally through workshops or talks.
  • Ensure our internal meetings, processes and documents meet our accessible communications guidelines.
  • Continue to develop accessibility principles for workspaces when reviewing and refitting our properties; conduct accessibility audits to identify and eliminate barriers.
  • Ensure our website, internal applications and online documents are Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) compliant.
  • Define and streamline our internal processes around Access to Work to support disabled employees.
  • Develop process and procedures to support disability funding through Access to Work.

How we will measure success

Our commitment to equality requires concrete actions and measurable outcomes. We will track our progress and ensure that our commitments and initiatives are making a difference to our people.

Key Performance Indicators – We have developed a number of internal Key Performance Indicators that are linked to our strategic objectives. These measures help us monitor our progress and are regularly reported to our EDI Board, Executive team and Board of Trustees.

Data – We will use our employee diversity data to measure our progress on increased recruitment, retention and employee development of those from under-represented groups. We will compare our data to external sources to evidence how reflective we are of the communities we serve.

We will continue to report back on our disability, gender and ethnic minority pay gaps.

Employee feedback – Our employee engagement surveys contain inclusion and wellbeing indicators which help us better understand our employees’ experiences and will allow us to measure our progress.

External standards – We will gain accreditations in EDI recognised industry standards which will help us lead the way in the charity sector.

Let’s make it happen!

A smartly dressed man with a closely shaven head smiles.

This EDI Strategy isn’t just a document, it’s our roadmap outlining how we move forwards to achieve our EDI objectives and strengthen our connection to our societal goals. By working together and focusing on what matters most, we know we can turn these plans into reality and achieve our aspiration to become a truly inclusive workplace.

As Richard outlined at the beginning of this strategy, it’s crucial that all of us understand the significance of this work; through supporting each other and allyship, we can make sure Sense is a place where everyone feels welcome.

As Head of Inclusion and Wellbeing, I want to thank everyone involved in the working group that supported the development of this strategy. Your dedication and passion for continuing our focus on creating an equitable culture are a testament to the spirit of our organisation.

It’s up to each of us to commit to driving change, to embrace inclusivity, to challenge, to celebrate diversity and to collaborate. Together, we can make sure we remove barriers and create a world where no one is left out of life.

Benjamin Anim, Head of Inclusion and Wellbeing