Equality objectives 2012/16
Equality objectives consultation summary [pdf document]
In January 2012 the Council published an analysis of local equality information. This has helped us to set equality objectives which the Council is required by law to publish. These objectives relate to groups of people at risk of disadvantage or discrimination because of their ‘protected characteristics’:
- gender re-assignment
- sexual orientation
- marriage and civil partnerships
- pregnancy and maternity
- religion or belief
The equality objectives set the direction for the Council’s work up to 2016 to tackle issues around equality. They will be reviewed annually.
Guidance published by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission says equalities objectives must be proportionate to the size of the authority and the capacity it has to deliver them. With this in mind the Council has identified four areas for improvement:
- information – improving access to information about services for everybody
- commissioning – the Council using its buying power (purchasing goods and commissioning services) to deliver fair outcomes
- community safety and crime – tackling crimes motivated by hatred or prejudice against a person because of a protected characteristic
- employment – promoting equality within the Council’s workforce
Commitment to equalities
Making Darlington a fairer place is at the heart of what the Council does. It is committed to the One Darlington principle established in the Sustainable Community Strategy*, One Darlington: Perfectly Placed. This requires us to have regard to the needs of everyone in the community, and to ensure that groups of people at risk of disadvantage and discrimination are able to access and benefit from services and facilities fairly.
We will continue to include the One Darlington principle in all decision making and activities, through equalities impact assessment and appropriate staff training. The purpose of equality impact assessment is to understand how proposed changes will affect people with protected characteristics. We will also work with partners to tackle discrimination and inequality across the community
*The Sustainable Community Strategy is the overall plan or vision for the future of Darlington up to 2021. It was prepared by Darlington Partnership to guide investment and activities across the public, private and third sectors in the Borough.
Theme 1: information
Provision of information about Council services in formats and languages that are accessible to everyone is an issue that is raised regularly at consultation events, forums and meetings.
A number of arrangements are in place to support fair access to information. The Council website incorporates the Google Translator tool, enabling the whole website to be translated into 53 languages at the click of a button. The website has been scored by the Society of Information Technology Management as being in the top 11% nationally of local authority websites, and this assessment includes accessibility.
The Council also provides document translation, and face-to-face or telephone interpretation in a wide range of languages.
The Council also works with the Talking Newspaper for the Blind, documents can be made available in large print formats, suitable for visually impaired people, and in Braille. Lip speaking, British Sign Language and finger signing for deaf/blind translators are available at major consultation events and can be provided for other meetings and events. Easy read documents are also provided for meetings with learning disabled people.
The Public Support and Information Service is a small unit that co-ordinates and provides all of these accessible information services across Adults’ and Children’s Services.
Long-term progress in making information accessible to everybody in the Borough is more likely to come from enhancing the accessibility of mainstream information and communications, rather than developing additional specialist and one-off facilities..
Objective 1: accessible information
Improve access to information about Council services for people with protected characteristics, within the Council’s Think Customer transformation programme.
By 31 March 2013 the Council will incorporate British Sign Language (BSL) video translation into pages of its website, and engage with BSL users to set priorities for a programme of further pages in future years.
The short-term objective of incorporating BSL translation into the Council website will open up access to information for a significant group of people in Darlington. The incorporation of BSL translation into five web pages in the first year will be followed by an ongoing programme based on priorities set by the deaf community.
Equalities impact assessment will be an integral part of the Think Customer transformation programme, which will transform the way the Council connects with people using its services, and the wider community.
There will be a number of different components within the programme and some of them have yet to be approved for development. Main principles will include a better understanding of the needs and interests of individual customers across all the Council’s activities, simplifying the points of access to Council services, and simplifying and standardising the content and layout of information on the Council website.
The website will have fewer pages and users will be able to carry out most transactions with the Council through the web. We will increase use of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, as ways of listening to, discussing and influencing, and broadcasting messages to the community. We will use Plain English in all written communications.
The web content strategy is programmed to take place over the next one to three years. The programme will improve access to information and services for people with protected characteristics. Changes will be subject to equality impact assessment.
Theme 2: the Council as a Commissioning Organisation
Darlington Borough Council is increasingly becoming a commissioning organisation. Every year the Council procures goods, works and services from external providers. This affects every area of the Council and impacts across all sections of our community.
The Equality Act 2010 requires local authorities to use their resources to promote equality. It is important that equality compliance is embedded into the supply chain and that those contractors and service providers working on our behalf fully comply with equality legislation. To build upon the existing Darlington Compact Code for Equalities, the Council will also make use of The North East Procurement Organisation’s (NEPO) Equality Charter for North East Suppliers (The Charter)
It is important that the Council not only sets appropriate equalities objectives and targets in its contracts, but also monitors them to ensure that these objectives and targets are achieved. This work will be developed in conjunction with a Single Equality Scheme later in 2012.
Objective 2: improve compliance with the equality requirements of our tender specifications and contracts.
By ensuring that 25% of our suppliers are signed up to the NEPO Charter by 31 March 2013 rising to 100% by 31 March 2016.
Theme 3: community safety and crime
Sustainable Community Strategy (SCS) outcome(s): Our communities are safe and free of crime
We need to encourage the reporting of hate crime, reduce the occurrence of hate crime, and ensure victims receive fair treatment and outcomes.
Hate crime is defined in the national plan to tackle hate crime, ‘Challenge it, Report it, Stop it’ (March 2012), as “any criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice based on a personal characteristic”, such as the victim’s race, disability, gender or sexual orientation.”
Defining, identifying and tackling hate crime is especially important. Fear of repeat victimisation is likely to be more intense than for victims of other forms of crime.
Objective 3: hate crime
Improve understanding and awareness of hate crime in Darlington, increase reporting of hate crime, and ensure that agencies provide appropriate support to victims; in 2012/13 this will include:
- developing a Darlington profile of hate crime
- holding a workshop with representatives of protected characteristics groups to develop our understanding of local hate crime issues
- developing an action plan focused on improving the identification and reporting of hate crime.
We know that hate crime occurs in Darlington, but we do not understand its full extent across all the groups of people that might be victims. The national plan highlights groups of people where under-reporting is likely to be a serious issue. These include:
- new migrants, including asylum and refugee communities
- Gypsy, Irish Traveller and Roma communities
- transgender victims
- disabled victims
These and other groups in Darlington are likely to be victims, but we need to know more about numbers, types and locations of offences across all protected characteristics. Durham Police has produced a profile of hate crime in County Durham and Darlington and will prepare a new profile focused specifically on issues in Darlington.
A multi-agency ‘Vulnerability Group’ has been set up in Darlington and this will provide a forum for leading and co-ordinating research, planning and carrying out anti-hate crime programmes. The police have set up a hate crime group, led by a Sergeant based at Police Headquarters and with PCSOs responsible for hate crime in each of the divisions, including one in Darlington.
The Vulnerability Group will stage a workshop during summer 2012 on hate crime involving people from across the protected characteristics. This will explore issues and experiences and lead to the development of an action plan, setting targets for all organisations with a role in tackling hate crime in the Borough. One of the main things the workshop will address is the need for an agreed local definition of hate crime that everyone is happy to work with. This is essential in raising people’s awareness of hate crime, enabling people to understand when they have been victims of hate crime and to increase reporting.
The action plan will focus raising awareness and understanding and increasing reporting. This is essential if hate crime is to be tackled and reduced. Future action plans will focus on reduction of hate crime.
The action plan will include measures to make it as easy as possible to report hate crimes. At present there are three local hate crime reporting centres, at Darlington Association on Disability, Gay Advice Darlington and Durham, and Darlington College. We will consider whether further centres are needed.
Increasing reporting is also dependent on ensuring that victims are treated appropriately by the police, public services and other agencies, like Victim Support. Measures will be introduced to improve support where necessary.
Theme 4: the Council as an Employer
The Council is one of the largest employers in Darlington, with a workforce of 2,444 people (as at the mid-point of the 2011/12 financial year). This figure excludes staff in community schools, which are subject to separate arrangements under the Equality Act 2010.
The Council monitors the composition of the workforce by age, disability, race and gender and current data is set out in our Equalities Analysis, published on the Council website in January 2012. This also refers to the position on other protected characteristics, namely gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity and marriage and civil partnerships.
The current climate of redundancies and redeployment makes it difficult to address workforce composition issues through recruitment in the short-to-medium term. However, Equality and Human Rights Commission guidance suggests that organisations may wish to gather evidence of any ‘occupational segregation’ amongst members of the workforce with protected characteristics. We feel that we can continue to make positive progress in this area via the Council’s equal pay audit.
This will help the Council to identify and address as appropriate any pay and grading issues that demonstrate inequality on the grounds of any of the protected characteristics identified in the Equality Act 2010.
Objective 4: Undertake an Equal Pay Audit
The Council will continue to apply and develop the Single Status Agreement and other equality in employment arrangements by undertaking an equal pay audit by March 2013 and address all identified equal pay concerns by March 2016. The key milestones are:
- 2012/13 - undertake 2012 Equal Pay Audit and develop action plan by March 2013
- 2013/14 - implement year 1 actions in 2012 Equal Pay Audit Action Plan by March 2014
- 2014/15 - implement year 2 actions in 2012 Equal Pay Audit Action Plan and undertake 2014 Equal Pay Audit and develop action plan by March 2015
- 2015/16 - implement year 3 actions in 2012 Equal Pay Audit Action Plan / Year 1 actions in 2014 Equal Pay Audit and Action Plan by March 2016.
The Council has also identified further areas in terms of the workforce which we will continue to develop as part of our routine work.