In March 2018, concerns were raised in a televised news report in relation to historic practices within City Hearts. The report included an allegation of a homophobic comment made toward a client and the negative experiences of LGBTQ+ clients within City Hearts. At this time, the charity was closely associated with Hope City Church.
The City Hearts trustees and our CEO, who had recently been appointed, then notified the Charity Commission and commissioned an independent investigation to examine these allegations, which largely related to 2011-13, and any matters arising therefrom. The trustees were determined that City Hearts understood and learned from any historic mistakes that may have been made in the provision of care and sought to ensure that our clients and staff at the time and going forwards were fully safeguarded and supported.
The independent investigation and process was scrutinised by the Charity Commission, who closed their case in June 2019. The Commission found the investigation to be thorough. City Hearts took an approach to work ‘as if all allegations were proven’ in developing its robust and proactive response.
The investigation report stated that the experience of some LGBTQ+ clients within City Hearts during that period of time, had not been good. This is something that the trustees and our CEO deeply regret.
That anyone would feel they have experienced distress due to their sexual orientation or gender identity is something that deeply saddens us and for which we would like to make a full and heartfelt apology.
The investigation also found that, although City Hearts had equality policies in place in 2011, it failed to formulate clear leadership on homosexuality. In the absence of clear and settled practice from the top of City Hearts, individuals were left free to express their personal views to clients. City Hearts, in all likelihood therefore, delivered a variety of responses to clients who sought to discuss their sexuality. It is accepted that given the close ties between City Hearts and Hope City Church at the time, some of the charity’s leaders and staff expressed views that may have been similar to those of the former senior pastor of the church quoted in the televised report.
Although there was no stated policy, practice or approach to deliver any form of reparative therapy, and although City Hearts did not put its emphasis on a client’s sexuality but their recovery from abuse and trauma, we accept that some individuals feel that what was intended as Christian pastoral support has inadvertently caused them harm and distress in the past.
City Hearts and EDI today
The City Hearts of today is unequivocal that all acts of homophobia, transphobia and discrimination, including reparative therapy, are unethical, degrading and harmful and have no place in society or our work.
We are proud to be a charity that supports and safeguards vulnerable and exploited people, however we acknowledge that there are a number of people who may feel the organisation has historically let them down. This includes LGBTQ+ individuals who feel they have experienced hurt, pain and distress due to their experiences in City Hearts. We recognise this hurt and are truly sorry that this is so painful.
On behalf of the whole organisation, the trustees want to make clear that the historic experiences of those who are LGBTQ+ in no way reflects our current values, policies, practices and the inclusive culture we continue to develop today. We strive to foster belonging and empowerment at work and our organisation is made up of people who positively champion diversity and inclusion. We recognise, respect and value diversity, and strive in all we do to serve the interest of all our clients and staff. The lessons we have learned and the changes we have made in the wake of the investigation have transformed us into an organisation that has committed itself to establishing the clear leadership on inclusivity that was missing those years ago.
We have severed all ties with Hope City Church and have become an independent charity with no legal or financial ties to it. We do not share buildings or outsource any of our administration to Hope City Church and have our own policies, procedures and values.
In support of our commitments, we have appointed an Equality and Diversity Lead who sits at management level and works to develop our policies and approach to diversity in all forms. In addition to promoting and celebrating diversity within City Hearts, we’re committed to training and equipping staff in our expectation of what diversity looks like in practice. This includes training with regards to anti-discriminatory practice for Managers, best practice in support for LGBTQ+ clients, and mandatory annual EDI training for all staff in regards to their approach to understanding race, sexuality, trauma and the impact of intersectionality on the experiences of an individual.
We recognise we remain on a journey and are committed to learning and implementing change as we develop a fully inclusive culture for the wellbeing of our clients and staff. As part of that commitment, we have committed to becoming Stonewall accredited to ensure we learn from established best practice and are accountable in our progress.
Although we can’t undo any of the pain and hurt felt, the City Hearts Trustees and CEO offer a heartfelt apology to those LGBTQ+ clients and staff whose experiences in the past were not in keeping with the standards we expect today.
We would also like to extend an apology to all members of the LGBTQ+ community as well as to former staff and volunteers who stand as allies to the LGBTQ+ community and who found themselves in challenging situations due to the charity’s previous lack of leadership in this area. This will not happen again.
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