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The profession will move forward if raise our own awareness and address inequalities, say two newly elected CSP Council members

Ishmael Beckford and Leanne Antoine
Ishmael Beckford is director at Vita Health Group Leanne Antoine is clinical lead and director of Distinct Physiotherapy

There is no doubt that our profession is taking steps towards being more diverse, representative, and inclusive but we must not forget that we are still very much in the infancy of this change.

Many have outlined that ‘listening’ is the key to impactful action that addresses racism head-on and achieves long-lasting, meaningful outcomes.

Whilst we agree, it is also about picking away at the narratives that society has ingrained within us, whether that is through our upbringing, social media, television and/or advertising. 

Black people are underrepresented in the physiotherapy profession. We make up 6.5 per cent of the NHS workforce, over three per cent of the UK population, but only 1.77 per cent of the CSP membership.

Those who do join our profession continue to face barriers that negatively impact the quality of their experience, their career progression opportunities, and their health and wellbeing. 

When you picture a leader, do you picture a Black woman or a Black man? If not, why not? 

As the first Black man to be elected as a CSP council member I am proud and recognise its significance. 

However, this has taken far too long to achieve, particularly when we consider that we are in 2021 and have recently celebrated the CSP’s centenary. 

As a Black female physiotherapist about to embark on this part of my career journey I am very conscious that I am, and will continue to be, a role model to Black female physiotherapists.

Trust me when I say that I want the good work I do to positively affect as many people as humanly possible. 

We both know that our achievements are not enough to deliver the change we truly want but it is a very healthy start.

We have been involved in many conversations with physiotherapy colleagues who have struggled to understand that racism, the nuance of anti-Black racism and cultural bias exists within our profession.

Some of you have become our friends and allies, starting ta journey with us that you never quite knew so many of us were on. We hope that more members embark on similar journeys to ensure that in years to come the diversity seen within the new CSP Council membership is normal. 

We are at a critical point in our profession, where we must start acknowledging that the society we live in needs us to be increasingly respectful of each other. It needs us to challenge discrimination and it needs us to address inequality at every opportunity.

We, as a collective, must become more aware of our own behaviours and practices and how they impact the experience and opportunities of others; particularly, marginalised and under-represented groups. How else does our profession move forward as our world evolves?  

This is Black History Month. 

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