Speak Up Month with Davina Dorival, Active Care Group’s Freedom to Speak Up Guardian

Speak Up Month with Davina Dorival, Active Care Group’s Freedom to Speak Up Guardian


For this October’s Speak Up Month, the theme focuses on Breaking Barriers and removing the barriers that can stop workers from speaking up.

Speak Up Month is an opportunity to raise awareness of Freedom to Speak Up and make it easier for people to speak up.

The National Guardian state that being afraid of what might happen or feeling that you won’t be listened to can stop people speaking up. People may be worried because of their background, their heritage or their experience. They may feel they might not be listened to because of their banding, their circumstance or their job role.

We spoke to Davina Dorival, Active Care Group’s Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, about her role, the importance of speaking up, the barriers to speaking up, and the ways in which we can break down those barriers.

Can you tell us a bit about your role as Freedom to Speak Up Guardian?

“I started my role in April 2023. My role is to raise awareness of speaking up and involves proactive and reactive elements. I host training sessions to raise awareness and communicate the message of speaking up. I visit our sites on a regular basis to make sure I am visible and so people know who to go to for support.

“I ensure the staff within Active Care Group are supported in speaking up, that barriers to speaking up are addressed, that a positive culture of speaking up is fostered, and that issues raised are used as opportunities for learning and continuous improvement.

“I support the staff throughout the speaking up process. I ensure that they are thanked for speaking up and that feedback of any actions made are provided to the person who has raised the concern.”

What is Speaking Up?

“Speaking up could be related to raising complaints or concerns about unsafe staffing levels, staffing issues, or a culture of bullying. It can also be about making suggestions on how the business, or a service can improve.”

What are some of the barriers of Speaking Up and how can we break down those barriers?

“Active Care Group have adopted the ‘Just Culture’ approach, pioneered by NHS England, to create a working environment where colleagues can feel supported and that colleagues know where to go, and who to speak to. A Just Culture is a culture of trust, listening and accountability – including speaking up. In a Just Culture we instinctively ask: ‘what was responsible’ and not ‘who was responsible’. It is important to remember this when deciding whether to speak up. It’s not about blaming people; it’s about finding out which processes may have failed.

“Just Culture is all about feeling psychologically safe to speak up. It’s important that people who speak up feel listened to and can see that action has been taken. They want to feel that someone is there to support and protect them, especially if they have a fear of detriment. If someone feels that no action has been taken with their concern that was raised, that is a barrier because they won’t want to speak up again if they feel they haven’t been supported.

“I am an independent Freedom to Speak Up Guardian within Active Care Group and this might give people more peace of mind when speaking up. I can support them and mediate the concern on their behalf. I am not involved in the investigations, so my role is to provide impartial advice.

“Another barrier could be the way someone decides to speak up. Some people might not feel comfortable coming to me directly, or going to their line manager. I have implemented posters across the services to try and address these barriers. The posters have a bar code which people can scan. It will then take them to a form to put in their details and to state when is convenient for them to be contacted. There is a way to speak up anonymously too. People can call or email Safecall to protect their identity.”

What are the benefits of Speaking Up?

“There are many benefits to speaking up including improved staff morale, staff retention, and fostering open culture where staff feel confident and psychologically safe to speak up. The overall benefit is to improve patient and resident care and safety.

“My role as an independent Freedom to Speak Up Guardian benefits the staff because they can speak to someone outside of their usual bubble and they can be supported during the process of raising a concern. I have seen positive changes in the organisation and services from people speaking up.”

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