A developing response to the public conversation about race and human rights

Sandra Schembri, Nordoff Robbins Chief Executive, writes:

For some across the UK who work in Music Therapy there is a belief that as an organisation, Nordoff Robbins has been silent in the public conversation about race and human rights. I wanted to share a little as to the conversations we are having about race, power and privilege.


So far this conversation has been internal for us at Nordoff Robbins. Why? I needed to listen, I needed to hear the lived experience of people within the music therapy profession and our organisation and beyond. As Chief Executive I am still listening and will continue to do so. Our approach is all about social justice and human rights.

There remains a challenging truth here. Music therapy in the UK is a predominantly white profession, the charity Nordoff Robbins is predominately white. So why this disparity?

We should acknowledge that it is a disparity present across the charity sector. June 2020’s ACEVO and Voice4Change report ‘Home Truths’ highlights that, “The sector is not alone in the relatively negative position of BAME people within it. This situation is a feature of wider society. However, the issue seems especially problematic in the charity sector because it is expressly built on commitments to justice and equality.” 

Similarly, as Charity So White point out, the issue is “about the systems and structures that reinforce racism in our sector and society. Too many discussions on race talk about if racism exists in organisations. It is not a question about if, it is a question about how.

Yes, as individuals within the organisation we can and do say we are anti-racist, but what about the structure we are working within? There is a systemic racism problem within the charity sector and within our charity we have work to do to understand how our structure is supporting the status quo.

This is a conversation we are continuing with the British Association of Music Therapy and I know others across the UK music therapy community have committed to working together on this. I have committed to work with them and to use our Nordoff Robbins resources collectively to make the necessary changes.

I want to share an action plan to which we at Nordoff Robbins can be held publicly accountable, but we are not there yet.

If you work within the charity sector and read this thinking, “no Sandra there isn’t a problem with us and structural racism” I will happily suggest the ACEVO  & Voice for Change report mentioned above again for you to take a read over a cup of tea.

I will be acting on the recommendations of the report and I know that colleagues within the organisation will be holding me personally accountable on progress – something I thank them for.