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A statement on the first anniversary of the murder of George Floyd

A statement from Professor Peter Fonagy, Chief Executive of the Anna Freud Centre, on the first anniversary of the murder of George Floyd.

“It is hard to believe that a year has passed since George Floyd was cruelly murdered on the streets of Minneapolis. His death brought with it an outpouring of emotions from anger, pain and outrage about the social injustices and inequalities that are experienced by people, not just in America, but here in the UK too. His death also reminded us of the countless other acts of racial violence and killings that have been enacted on people of colour. It left us to reflect on our own failure to own and address issues of equity, diversity and inclusion in our own organisation and, for some, in our own lives.

“Although at the Anna Freud Centre we have always been clear that discrimination is completely antithetical to our values – it is equally clear that our intent was not backed up with the necessary action needed to make this aspiration a reality. There is no question that when we examined our own organisation in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, we could only conclude that we had failed to tackle the issues that we had explicitly stated we are so opposed to.

“The last year has been difficult. We have examined our failings as an organisation. We have listened to our staff, service users, and students who have spoken out with courage about their experiences, and we have been guided by them. We have acknowledged that we fell far short of being the organisation we want to be.

“But importantly, we have taken action. We have invested in a two-year programme, working with our consultant Laurelle Brown to begin the process of change and to embed equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in our work. We have invested over 1,000 hours of scheduled staff time discussing and drawing up plans on how to address issues of race. We are reviewing all aspects of our work, from our working practices, recruitment, to how we talk about our work internally and externally. The truth of the matter is that systematic racism undermines our vision for every child to thrive and we cannot do the work we have set ourselves unless we take these steps.

“Change takes time. But I am absolutely clear that it will happen. I’m already inspired by the fact that across the Anna Freud Centre, individual teams have taken significant steps to embrace equity and inclusivity. Like all true transformations they emerge from a change in culture, not simply from executive decisions. We have seen language and style guides, discussion groups, bursaries and internships for students from minoritised groups, we have secured bids to expand our resources for schools for children and young people of colour, and developed toolkits for schools about LGBTQ+ issues. Small as they are, these are important steps and outline a direction of travel that we will not waver from, and I thank all those involved for their contribution.

“On a strategic level we are adopting the Centre-wide mission of tackling social injustice wherever we see it in our new programme, Closing the Gap. As an organisation we make an extraordinarily broad range of contributions to the wellbeing and mental health of infants, children, young people and families and, looking into the future, I would like us to be committed to focus on programmes of work which serve the cause of social justice most effectively.

“On the anniversary of a murder that we shall remember forever, we owe it to those who have suffered racism and the children and families we serve to become a more diverse organisation. We need to listen to them, learn from them and understand them if we are to meet their needs. George Floyd’s legacy must be that all organisations should recoil from complacency and be vigilant, and acknowledge their responsibility to fight racism, discrimination and promote equity. We have been complacent. We know that we can, and must, do better. Today, on the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, it is my pledge that I shall not rest until we can proudly honour his tragic death by building an organisation that truly embraces equity, diversity and inclusion at every level.”