In 1950, a psychologist called Gordon Allport proposed the ‘Contact Hypothesis,’ one of the most influential scientific frameworks in the field of prejudice reduction. Over the years, various forms of the theory have developed but the consensus remains the same: contact between different groups, under calm and non-judgmental environments, can promote tolerance and acceptance between the groups, and thereby reduce prejudiced views.
This is relevant in the work that Sandwell Support Services do, as they work alongside colleagues and support customers from diverse backgrounds including age, sexuality, gender, ethnicity, and nationality. So, an understanding of different cultural backgrounds is vital to create a positive and productive work environment and to support their service users as best as we can.
At Sandwell Services, a recent reflection of how they support their customers to develop life skills, maintain independence, and integrate into the community, led them to implement interventions based on the Contact Hypothesis. This is not to say that the customers and staff at Sandwell Services hold prejudiced views — but that that meeting other people, talking to them and understanding their background will promote life skills that service users can take with them when they move on from the service. For example, having the confidence to approach people from different backgrounds and participate in healthy conversations. Not only will this reduce views based on misinformation, but it will promote a sense of belonging in the communities that they live in.
In July this year, Senior Support Worker, Haseenah Bibi arranged a session at the local Masjid in Smethwick where the staff and customers had the opportunity to visit the Mosque and speak to worshippers, trustees and Imaam about Islam. The session was conducted in a calm and non-judgemental manner so that staff and customers felt comfortable in asking any questions they had. Customers and staff enjoyed the session, and the team plans to arrange another visit soon, as the Mosque was undergoing renovation and they had limited time during the visit.
Earlier this month, the team arranged a visit to Smethwick Guru Nanak Gurdwara to participate in Diwali celebrations. They started the celebrations by having samosas and spring rolls at Charlotte Gardens and then making their way to Smethwick Guru Nanak Gurdwara to light candles, witness praying and have Langar (community kitchen in the Gurdwara which offers free meals). It is hoped that events such as these will promote more inclusive environments where there is a factual understanding of people from different backgrounds, and not views based on negative stereotypes and misinformation.