STATES Members should think carefully about the tone of their comments, according to diversity and inclusion specialist Kate Wright, who has spoken following an exchange about food banks during a sitting last month.
Mrs Wright said that she had no doubt that States Members cared deeply about families which were struggling but explained that the tone they adopted sometimes came across as uncaring, a problem that she said could be exacerbated by the ease with which their views could become public.
‘Increasingly as some of our States Members use social media, they need to be careful in terms of how there are appearing to the members of their own community, who are perhaps different from them. They sometimes shoot themselves in the foot,’ said Mrs Wright, who runs her own HR consultancy and is a founder of the Diversity Network.
Following a States Assembly last month, Deputy Jeremy Maçon and Chief Minister John Le Fondré were criticised for comments they made on the subject of demand for the food banks provided by charities in the Island.
Deputy Maçon suggested, during question time, that individuals accessing food banks might be doing so due to ‘not being able to manage their finances well’. Senator Le Fondré said that that was a ‘reasonable assumption’.
Mrs Wright said that the exchange displayed a lack of understanding of the realities faced by many people in Jersey.
‘I find it deeply concerning. We rarely hear our most senior ministers speaking out on equality, diversity and inclusion-related issues. We don’t see them challenging strongly poor behaviour by their colleagues in the States Assembly; we don’t hear them often demonstrating a deep understanding of some of the very serious issues facing members of our community. And now it’s not just the lower socio-economic members of the community; middle-income earners are struggling with the cost of living, and struggling to buy or rent a property that is suitable for their family. There are huge issues.
‘One simple step that politicians can take is to educate themselves, and to consult and speak more widely with more diverse groups of people, and then apply that understanding to the way they stand up and represent people in their own constituencies and parishes. I think that’s really important,’ she said.