An organisation which prides itself on offering impartial advice to the public has come under fire for producing “horribly racist” training materials.
Citizens Advice has been accused of generalising and reinforcing “terrible stereotypes” in guidance for working with black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.
Labelled as “best practice guidance”, a presentation titled “Black Asian and minority ethnic Financial Capability Best Practice Guide” included a section highlighting the alleged “barriers” that exist within these communities.
It included the following claims about BAME people:
- An intrinsically cash-centric culture.
- A society that revolves around religious belief.
- A distrust of British authorities.
- Evidence of gender bias and discrimination.
- Isolated communities.
- Low levels of literacy
- Intradependence: very close-knit, extended families.
- Early marriage and large families
- A cultural focus on honour and shame.
Citizens Advice confirmed to HuffPost UK that the training material was aimed at supervisors delivering guidance. The training material was also made available to other organisations as part of their resource library on their website. The organisation confirmed that the content had now been removed.”
Fatima Iftikhar, an organiser with #POCIMPACT, a community run by and for people of colour in the social impact sector, was made aware of the Citizens Advice training materials and was appalled, drawing attention to the content on Twitter.
The 25-year-old told HuffPost UK: “What they have done is to conflate all non-white communities into one generalised idea of what BAME communities are like and reinforced horrible stereotypes.
“I don’t know what they were trying to achieve. It has made me feel very angry and frustrated that an organisation that receives so much public funding thinks these are the barriers in BAME communities.”
Iftikhar said: “They have done this in a generalised way without showing analysis. It is right that organisations should look at barriers in certain communities and why they are not accessing their help.
“But this approach is totally wrong because it conflates a complex set of people and communities and pulls out dangerous stereotypes which they are already battling against.”
Iftikhar highlighted the Citizens Advice training materials on Twitter and it sparked outrage with many calling it “shocking”, “appalling” and “hugely offensive.”
Wow, how incredibly lazy from an organisation that’s meant to support people. Guidance like this only perpetuates harmful stereotypes. What a phenomenal example of systemic racism https://t.co/Vdn8JV0e8e— Henna Shah (@hennashah94) August 14, 2019
Appalling, racist language used by @CitizensAdvice in their training guide for working with BAME communities.— Nicola Thorp (@nicolathorp_) August 14, 2019
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. https://t.co/FBzgduhil4
Don't you just love it when the mask slips? This is not a "mistake." This is what they think of us, I know it, you know it.— Coco Khan (@cocobyname) August 14, 2019
And then they wonder why we "distrust British authorities" pffffft https://t.co/gbaGbF1NVr
Iftikhar told HuffPost UK she was so concerned about the training material that she contacted Citizens Advice asking them for “an explanation for this horribly racist training.”
“The materials look like they were part of financial capability training delivered to people who will be giving advice to vulnerable individuals approaching them.
“Initially, the director of external affairs responded to me suggesting I had misinterpreted it ‘without the wider context.’
“However, since more people became aware of it and began saying how terrible it was, I have now had a response apologising for the material and the material has now been taken down from their website.”
Thanks for flagging this Fatima. I've looked into it and while the training was developed based on external research, I can see how this slide could be misinterpreted without the broader context. We’re taking it down from the site and will review it again— Katie Martin (@KMartUK) August 14, 2019
We agree these materials are not acceptable and apologise unreservedly. We’ve taken them down from our website and will be investigating how this has happened. We help anyone, anywhere, whatever their problem. We strive to ensure our service is truly inclusive.— Citizens Advice (@CitizensAdvice) August 14, 2019
HuffPost UK spoke to Citizens Advice who confirmed they feel these training materials are “unacceptable” and say they have launched an investigation and will be engaging with staff and staff-led internal network groups.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, 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.”
Iftikhar told HuffPost UK: “I feel this is not enough and they have just removed the material from their website and want to sweep it under the carpet.
“If this training was their ‘best practice’, there is a concern that there may be institutionalised racism within this organisation.
“I know from personal experience and that of my friends and colleagues that people of colour face constant racism working in this sector.
“This issue highlights the wider problem of institutionalised racism within the charity sector and charitable organisations.”
Citizens Advice is made up of the national charity Citizens Advice; the network of independent local Citizens Advice charities across England and Wales; the Citizens Advice consumer service; and the Witness Service.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.