Citizens Advice has come under fire after publishing a training document that ‘propagates racist stereotypes’.
The organisation, which offers free, confidential and impartial advice to the public, released a document that was designed to help advisers with ‘best practices’ while working with minority ethnic communities in the UK.
On one page, it listed ‘common traits’ allegedly found within BAME communities.
The bullet points included a ‘cultural focus on honour and shame’, a ‘distrust of British authorities’, an ‘intrinsically cash-centric culture’ and ‘evidence of gender bias and discrimination’.
Other ‘common traits’ were ‘low levels of literacy’, ‘intradependence: very close-knit, extended families’, ‘isolated’ communities and a society that ‘revolves around religious belief’.
The charity’s own BAME group condemned the document, which has been taken down online, for ‘actively harming’ communities.
— Fatima (@IftikharFatima) August 9, 2019
In a statement to The Guardian, they said: ‘Citizens Advice should be embarrassed about believing advisers could help these marginalised clients by using this training document as a shortcut for understanding the diverse stories of clients who are not white.
‘The contents of the document are damaging, reductive and dangerous in the current climate.’
The group, which represents minority ethnic staff in the organisation, said that the executive committee had not seen or approved the training document, which was titled ‘Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic: Financial Capability Best Practice Guide’.
Fatima Iftikhar, an organiser of #POCIMPACT, a group that supports people of colour working in the third sector, posted screenshots of the document and named it ‘horribly racist’.
Actress and activist Nicola Thorp added: ‘Appalling, racist language used by @CitizensAdvice in their training guide for working with BAME communities.
‘If this is what they’re writing down in official guidelines, I can’t imagine the depths of institutionalised racism in all operations. This needs to be addressed.’
In a statement to Metro.co.uk, Citizens Advice apologised and claimed they were investigating the incident.
They said: ‘We agree these materials are not acceptable and apologise unreservedly. We have taken them down from our website and will be investigating how this has happened.
‘Citizens Advice helps anyone, anywhere, whatever their problem. We strive to ensure our service is truly inclusive.’
They added that, as part of the investigation, they would be engaging with staff and staff-led internal network groups.
However, in a Twitter thread, Ms Iftikhar said she was ‘concerned’ by the organisation’s ‘inadequate response’.
She advised Citizens Advice to ‘ensure that this investigation is not going to be limited to reviewing this training and recognise that this indicates deep set institutional racism across your organisation that needs to be addressed.’
Ms Iftikhar added that the inquiry should be ‘transparent and open’, outline how the public can hold the organisation accountable, outline how they will seek to meaningfully engage voices of staff, volunteers and users, and ensure there is adequate support for PoC staff and volunteers.