Networks and Support Groups
We are very proud of our networks and support groups, which play a vital role in creating a culture of engagement and supporting our commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive organisation. They also help us to meet our strategic objective of engaging with underserved communities, providing strong platforms for raising issues with senior leaders and influencing policy development. Enhancing working life by supporting physical and mental health and wellbeing, they provide safe spaces to socialise, network, discuss experiences, offer peer support and share resources and tips. Members actively plan awareness raising events, arrange guest speakers and co-ordinate training activities for the whole charity.
Race Equity Network (REN)
The REN supports the organisation to improve the experiences of colleagues at every stage of their journey with Versus Arthritis and amplifies the voice of colleagues of colour and other racialized colleagues to ensure they are celebrated within the charity. It was formed to create a safe and inclusive space where individuals can share experiences and work together to identify and remove any barriers to equality within the organisation. It ensures that any actions taken by the network, and the organisation as a whole, are informed by the lived experience of the Versus Arthritis community, together with allies and experts.
I joined the REN network because it creates a supportive environment and brings people together. I also wanted to meet and collaborate with people from different cultures and backgrounds.
The REN, I believe, plays a key role in encouraging and supporting all employees to bring their whole self to work.
Disability Inclusion Network
The Disability Inclusion Network provides a safe space for members who have, or are caring for someone with, a disability or long-term health condition – including physical health, mental health and neurodivergence. Championing disability inclusion, the network actively monitors this aspect of the charity’s performance in relation to recruitment and retention, providing guidance and support and ensuring that Versus Arthritis is an exemplar employer in terms of initiatives such as ‘Access to Work’ and ‘Disability Confident’.
Training and events organised by the network raise awareness of equity in relation to disability/long-term health conditions, both internally and externally, and the network influences the charity’s Board and senior leadership team via the Diversity and Inclusion Action Group. Members also offer peer support to colleagues within Versus Arthritis.
I joined the Disability Inclusion Network to share and use my variety of experiences and insight as a disabled person with auto immune conditions, my Rheumatoid Arthritis is my most active condition. I have personally benefited from research into biological treatments that the charity took a research lead on over 20 years ago and that has been life changing for me. I really wanted to give something back to an organisation that I have followed and supported for many years, even before joining as an employee.
My condition is still very new to me and I have only just started considering myself to have a disability. I wanted to join the Disability Inclusion Network to give me the confidence in navigating the world of disability and access requirements. Joining the network has reduced my feelings of isolation and I no longer feel alone. I feel like I am in a group of people who understand what it’s like to have a disability or long-term condition in the workplace.
The LGBTQ+ network was formed to bring together LGBTQ+ staff members to network, socialise and assist in highlighting any relevant issues across the charity. A launch lunch to promote the role of the network and highlight LGBTQ+ history was attended by over 80 members of staff and has been followed by many social events and activities planned by members, including a talk from Lady Phyll (Founder of UK Black Pride).
I feel it is important that LGBTQ+ staff are able to be their authentic selves in the workplace and I joined the network to ensure that we have equitable representation and fun also.
The Women’s Network provides a safe space for sharing experiences and ideas and supporting one another. It raises awareness of issues affecting women and promotes health initiatives which help women across the organisation to feel supported and reassured that their wellbeing is important. By providing a means of raising work-related issues collectively, the network assists the charity in identifying and removing any barriers to improve the recruitment, development and retention of female staff. Engagement with the organisation at awareness events has been consistently good, with the last International Women’s Day event attracting over 70 colleagues.
As well as pushing forward the agenda for our health needs, the Women’s Network is also a network to share ideas and support each other. It is a safe space to get guidance from our peers and reflect on any obstacles we are currently facing.
We are working closely with Jo’s Trust for Cervical Cancer guidance and Endometriosis UK to promote a better understanding of women’s health issues throughout the Versus Arthritis.
In addition to discussing health matters, we have had excellent and very powerful speakers join us for International Women’s Day which included talks on both domestic violence and sexual harassment.
Menopause Support Group
The Menopause Support Group meets every month, providing a safe space for sharing experiences and tips to support women going through the menopause. It works to raise awareness throughout the charity by organising events and Menopause Awareness Training. It also provides practical solutions to enable women experiencing menopausal symptoms to feel supported at work through initiatives such as the introduction of Menopause Essential Kits - bags available in all female office toilets containing items such as spare tights, deodorant sprays and sanity products.
I joined the Menopause Group because nobody talks much about it and I had no idea how life changes at this stage until I found myself in the thick of it!
For every employee, the need to feel you are in a safe space is one of the fundamentals for being able to function well at work. This group adds to that culture of safety that enables us to thrive and be the best version of ourselves.
It's reassuring to feel that our challenges are understood by the organisation as being a normal stage in life, and that support and sensitivity is needed as we navigate these changes. The group enables us to support each other as we go through this change.
The Men's Network provides male employees, volunteers and people with lived experience of arthritis with a safe space for discussing a range of topics and issues, including mental and physical health and wellbeing. Membership is open to all men, including trans men and non-binary people. The network members plan their own events and also promote recognised annual events such as International Men’s Day, Suicide Awareness Day and Movember.
In addition, the Men’s Network works collaboratively with the organisation to change the culture of engagement with male staff, volunteers and service users.
Inclusion Champions are employees from across the charity who have volunteered to actively progress our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy goals in their work. Their role is to:
- Actively encourage conversations about diversity and question the way we do things.
- Put forward suggestions to further progress diversity and inclusion across Versus Arthritis.
- Promote, celebrate and raise awareness of diversity and inclusion within their team.
- Role model inclusive behaviour.
- Keep colleagues up-to-date with our diversity and inclusion news and events.
- Continuously learn about diversity and inclusion topics.
The Employee Forum brings an independent voice to a range of Versus Arthritis issues, to ensure effective two-way communication between the senior leadership team and the wider organisation. Working in partnership, any concerns are shared and managed together, in addition to recognising and celebrating both collective and individual successes. Employees across the charity can raise any issues with members that affect their working lives and be confident that they will be discussed with senior management to develop solutions together. It also provides a space for senior leaders to discuss and informally consult with employees on the review of policies and processes, and any proposed changes that will affect them.