Opinions

We need a fairer and more equal society

Written by: Rob Murray, Scotland Manager, Changing Faces Scotland

Published: 21/06/2017

Rob shares the findings from Changing Faces' recent research with people who live with a visible difference.

He also reflects on the steps we can all take to help create a more inclusive society, which treats those who look different equally and with respect.

On the 26th of May, Changing Faces along with campaigners from the length and breadth of Scotland came together to have their voice heard for Face Equality. This was the first Face Equality day in the UK and saw politicians (including the party leaders), organisations, individuals and celebrities show their support for creating a fairer and more equal society for those who have a visible difference.

You might be reading this and thinking why bother?… In truth, if we didn’t discrimination would continue and be pushed into the dark hidden allies of society.

On Face Equality day, we published ‘Disfigurement in the UK’. This is a ground-breaking report on the experiences of people who live with a visible difference.

We found one in six of respondents have had their condition or appearance mentioned at a job interview and, of these instances, in 82.6 per cent of cases it was the interviewer who mentioned it. This is a truly shocking statistic. In the 21st Century we have people who are experiencing work place discrimination based on their appearance… this cannot continue. Therefore we are calling on Scottish businesses and organisations to run proper equality training sessions for staff.

If that wasn’t upsetting enough we found that half of school children who have a disfigurement experience discrimination because of it. So in an environment where we are supposed to encourage growth and development we have young people being bullied because they look ‘different’. Given this we have called on the Scottish Government to ensure that health services such as Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are available at the time of need. Investment must be given to help reduce waiting times so children and young people in great need are not waiting 18 weeks or more for an appointment.

As well as this we need to ensure that our teachers feel empowered to challenge appearance related bullying in our schools and support pupils with a visible difference.

Within the NHS, we found 77 per cent of people experienced an NHS employee making an assumption about them based on their appearance, and 67 per cent had experienced an NHS employee making an assumption about their emotional health. Again at the heart of a system which is there to help people we are finding that in some cases the help is just not there. We must ensure the Scottish Government, Police Scotland, NHS Scotland, Education Scotland and all public bodies are leading by example when it comes to supporting and not discriminating against those with a visible difference. This can be achieved by ensuring staff are appropriately trained, promotional material includes those with a visible difference and helping to ensure hate crimes are dealt with sensitively.

Lastly, we released the most up-to-date Implicit Attitudes Test results. The last time we conducted this in 2008 we found that 92 per cent of adults in the UK attach less positive attributes and characteristics to people who have a disfigurement. In 2017 this is now 66 per cent. So whilst we have seen a reduction, we still have the majority holding less positive views about those who have a visible difference.

Given everything you have read I am calling on everyone in Scotland to do three simple things:
a) Take the implicit attitudes test to see how you rank. Feel free to tweet the results using #FaceEquality
b) Read ‘Disfigurement in the UK’ and reflect on how you or your organisation can help #FaceEquality
c) Join the campaign for #FaceEquality today. By doing so work with us to ensure we create a society which treats those who look different equally and with respect.
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