Mohamed Jogi, programme manager for the diversity and inclusion team at NHS Employers, shares his reflections following attendance at a pastoral symposium organised by JSA Associates and the Asian Fire Service Association (AFSA).
For the last eighteen months I have been working on a piece of work addressing healthcare chaplaincy for the NHS workforce and also those who access health services.
As part of this project, I had the opportunity to help shape the agenda of a pastoral symposium which was the first of its kind, bringing together 120 delegates from across the fire, police, NHS, prison and education sector. Job roles included managers, chaplains and academics with experience in addressing pastoral, religious and spiritual support from across many faiths.
On the morning of the symposium, I heard on the radio that Britain was becoming a society where the influence of religion was declining, according to the latest survey on British Social Attitudes. I hoped we would get the opportunity to discuss this and I wasn’t disappointed.
Top 10 learning points
- Chaplains are everywhere, operating in every conceivable sector, religious base and increasingly non-religious ones.
- Chaplains support staff and community members experiencing personal and occupational challenges, but they are also increasingly shaping policy and practice from staff health and wellbeing to service delivery models.
- The term chaplaincy still appears to have a strong religious connotation, closely associated with Christianity.
- With the constantly growing number of people that identify as non-religious and/or from minority faiths or beliefs – there is an increasing chance that more people could be excluded from accessing the service because of the religious connotation.
- The importance of addressing pastoral, religious and spiritual support through the intersection of other protected characteristics such as age, ethnicity, disability and gender is crucial.
- Religious identity is fluid and the level of practice may change depending on factors such as age and lived experience.
- Staff may find a tension between their religious beliefs and their job role, but with support from the organisation and line managers this could be resolved.
- Taking a whole person-centred approach is encouraged and not solely focused on religious identity.
- Staff do not need to know everything about someone's religious, pastoral or spiritual background, just a willingness to be curious and ask.
- It’s vital that organisations use the lived experience of those from diverse backgrounds to help shape practice.
What stood out?
The discussions during the conference made me realise the need to question the narratives that we have all built up over the years around spirituality, religion, belief and people with no belief in God or equivalent.
My biggest takeaway
The importance of promoting religious literacy, dialogue and going beyond what we know about religion, faith and no faith. Crucially what does this all mean within the context of equality, diversity, cohesion within the workplace. By doing so we are likely to identify possible tensions which we can address constructively.
As policy makers and practitioners, we all need to understand better the lived experience of staff and the public and use these experiences as part of the individual’s employment or care experience to help shape not only policy, but also long-term practice.
We should continue to encourage dialogue and recognise that more needs to be done to get to the place where we have strong pastoral, religious and spiritual support for all.
For more information and to access resources to help you manage issues relating to pastoral, spiritual and religious support visit chaplaincy and the NHS staff experience