Creating a fairer Britain
A review of feedback and complaints to the taxi and private hire licensing service of Bristol City Council identified a number of complaints from drivers who felt that they were not being treated fairly by the Council. The majority of drivers were from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities. It became clear there was a need for better communication with BME drivers and awareness-raising among drivers about the regulatory framework governing the trade.
By carrying out a race equality impact assessment of the service, the manager was keen to identify actions that could be taken to improve service delivery, minimise the need for enforcement action and promote better relations between drivers and the council.
An analysis of the data revealed that there had been significant changes over the years in those applying for licenses: from white working class men to BME drivers, many of whom speak English as a second language.
Officers realised they needed to be pro-active in explaining the rules and regulations regarding taxi / private hire licensing, recognising that BME drivers, in particular, were less likely to have access to this information through family / trade connections. Enforcement action against drivers brought before the Public Protection Committee negatively affected the drivers’ perception of the council, yet drivers needed to understand why the breaches had occurred and what their individual responsibilities were.
The policy was revised as a result of the impact assessment to emphasise promotion and prevention. This led to the following actions:
The service now reports fewer enforcement actions and there is increased trust from drivers. If they do come before the Committee, most drivers now accept that it is on the basis of sound evidence.
Regeneration work in Hull is funded by central and local government investment but overseen by the Council. Work is planned and delivered in partnership with public and private agencies. A review of the local authority’s planning guidance was included as part of the equality impact assessment programme. This supported the Council's objective of creating an accessible city.
The Council established Hull Access Improvement Group (HAIG) a practitioners’ group of disabled people who were trained in reading planning documents and able to provide training to other disabled people. Following the revised planning guidance, the regeneration partnership undertook extensive public consultation (including with HAIG).
They then agreed to a significant change in policy: to incorporate ‘Lifetime homes’ standards into the planning requirements for the redevelopment. Concerns about resistance from developers have not materialised; they did not object to implementing these standards provided the requirement is built in at the design stage of any new project.
Responding to the duty to promote good relations among people of different groups, Fenland District Council developed a community forum drawn from its diverse population. Sub-groups were established from the forum to address specific issues: such the ‘out’, the ‘trans’, the Travellers and the learning disability forums. There is a very good working relationship among members of the community forum which was evident during their involvement in the successful 2008 multicultural festival.
An equality impact assessment of Fenland District Council’s information and communication services has resulted in key changes. The review identified a range of needs for accessible information, not only with regard to community languages – as well as Braille or Moon (a symbol-assisted language used by some visually impaired people) – but also the need to meet the needs of people with low literacy among the local population as a whole.
Actions stemming from the review included the provision of service information on CD or audio tape. This made a big difference with increased take up of, and satisfaction with, services.
Comprehensive equality monitoring in relation to service take-up, introduced at the same time, has ensured that information is gathered by geographic area and equality group. This information is used to identify gaps in service and inform service development and change. For example, consultation with users of parks and open spaces has led to the provision of basketball and netball courts. This was a specific request by members of migrant communities from Eastern Europe. Seeing games being played in the parks led to an interest in, and take-up of, these sports by other local people. This has made a significant contribution to social cohesion in the area.
A review of Fenland District Council’s complaints service revealed that a significant number of Muslim residents from one area were concerned about the refuse service. A particular issue was the collection of refuse on Fridays, the Muslim holy day. By involving local residents and staff in discussions about the service, an agreement was reached to switch the collection day in that area to Wednesdays. There have been no further complaints and residents have indicated significant improvement to their quality of life.
The same review highlighted issues regarding refuse collection on Travellers sites. There was no recycling taking place: all refuse was mixed together, and different materials were not separated into the bins provided. To resolve this, equality staff worked with the recycling team to provide relevant information to all Travellers in the area. This included leaflets with pictures of everything that can be placed within each bin, general refuse and recycling. This action has resolved all concerns and, in addition, the children are using the pictures to share this learning in their schools.
After attending an equality and diversity training session, the service manager and his team analysed the take-up of council tax and housing benefit applications according to ethnic group. This identified low numbers of applications from black and minority ethnic (BME) residents, and the Pakistani community in particular.
Actions from the review were:
A take-up campaign has closed the gap in applications from members of different communities. Regular monitoring and analysis is carried out to ensure new and emerging communities are also aware of the service.
As part of the review of Rotherham’s regeneration strategy, staff looked at the take-up of business start-up advice. This showed that women were underrepresented in using the service. As a result, staff worked with the Chamber of Commerce, the Council's regeneration team and the local strategic partnership to encourage women to develop and carry through their ideas. Innovative ‘Dragon’s Den’ type programmes have proved successful in helping local women realise their ambitions.
The fire service has not traditionally been seen as a paper-based service so it was suspected that a disproportionate number of staff were dyslexic. In order to meet the needs of these staff, Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service brought together a working group representing all aspects of the service. This included human resources, training, health and safety, IT and dyslexic fire fighters. The group works to develop advice and guidance and it will enable the fire service to:
Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service FRS recruits fire fighters once a year. The recruitment process has a number of stages and it can take up to six months. It involves a written application, psychometric tests, physical tests, a medical and an interview.
The service carried out equality monitoring across all six equality strands to identify patterns of progress through the recruitment process. Monitoring and review of these stages has enabled the service to identify barriers to progress at each stage and to explore what can be done to redress them. For example, women disproportionately fail on upper body strength, and BME recruits disproportionately fail on written tests.
As a result of this review, the service now holds ‘positive action days’ before recruitment starts. On these days, potential recruits can test their strength and use simulators to experience working at height and in confined spaces. They have a chance to see and try out some of the written work that is involved. The focus of the day is to inspire and encourage applications. Some candidates will go away determined to build up strength to apply at a later date; others will be less stressed by the required written work after having had a chance to see what is involved. Others will understand that the service is not for them. These actions are constantly under review to ensure improved diversityamongst fire fighters in the service.
As a result of involvement work with disabled residents, the London Borough of Camden identified issues with repairs contractors employed by the Council. In particular this highlighted a lack of awareness amongst contractors about the access needs of sensory impaired residents. Action was taken to address this by running training sessions for contractors who attended from 22 companies.
North Ayrshire Council developed a database of properties that had been adapted and they established a database of disabled people who were seeking adapted properties. They introduced a referral process to ensure that all new applicants are contacted about information on the property database.
Redbridge Council has established a ‘Children in Care Council’ (CiCC) to provide looked after children (children under the care of the Council) and care leavers with a voice and the opportunity to influence the care system in the borough. Children in care sit as councillors on the CiCC. A clear process has been established for the proposals made by the CiCC to be taken to the appropriate decision making in the authority. There are quarterly meetings between the CiCC and councillors with responsibility for children and young people’s issues in the borough.
“Because the (Children in Care) Council’s there everything is out in the open and things can get done.” Children in Care Councillor
The CiCC has helped shape changes to the care system designed to improve the service and increase the number of successful foster placements. For example, future recruitment of social workers will incorporate a session where shortlisted candidates meet a group of children in care as part of the interview process. The children’s views on the candidates will be fed into the selection process. In addition, the training of potential foster carers will include a presentation by the CiCC and follow up discussion between potential foster carers and members of the CiCC.
“I feel really happy about the changes that are being done, and really excited to be part of this.” Children Leaving Care Councillor
Gypsies and Travellers aren’t ‘hard to reach’ at all, they are ‘seldom reached’ groups and that’s the difference! (Welsh Assembly Government spokesperson).
In Wales, work is being done by the Welsh Assembly Government and by local authorities to increase the involvement of the Gypsy and Traveller community in the decision-making of public bodies. The work to encourage greater involvement by this community in Wales has highlighted that two significant barriers to greater involvement by this community are lack of trust and illiteracy.
Spending time with Gypsy and Traveller communities on site in a way that suited them was an effective strategy to change attitudes, increase trust and confidence and promote involvement. This approach can have the added benefit of increasing the confidence of communities to communicate effectively with officials such as those from the local authority.
At a local level, Gwynedd Council has encouraged council officers involved in working with the community to develop an awareness of the Romany, Irish and New Traveller culture, as well as an understanding of issues faced by Travelling Communities.
Because there are high levels of illiteracy, giving Gypsy and Travellers a hard copy of the strategy isn’t really going to work so we actually need to have one to one engagement with the members of the Gypsy Traveller community. (Welsh Assembly Government spokesperson)
To build capacity and overcome the barrier to involvement posed by high levels of illiteracy, a number of strategies were used. These included using the expertise of specialist and voluntary organisations to develop and deliver easy read versions of documents and speak to people about the issues. Capacity building was undertaken, for example by asking members of the community to work with their own communities to understand and discuss important issues. Steps were also taken to ensure that events were tailored to suit participants. For example, a range of single sex events and events for children and young people were held. The approach taken of national and local organisations working together can help to increase the benefits resulting, and it can save resources.
In the ‘Refugees into Libraries’ project, Leicester library services sought to involve refugees and asylum seekers in a volunteering scheme as a direct means of getting information about the needs of these communities in Leicester. This information was used to plan for and deliver library services in Leicester.
"We’re a library and information service and we have a duty to meet the needs of all sections of the community. Who better to understand these needs than people themselves?" Senior Community Librarian
The involvement process led the library service to revise their assumptions about what people wanted. They had expected that migrants and refugees would like to see more books and resources available in their own languages, but what they found following was that people actually wanted resources to help them to learn English.
The refugee volunteer group has been successful in influencing the development of new services in the library to address previously unmet needs. The volunteer group influenced development of study groups for English language practice, citizenship courses and IT skills, and stock and software choices. The library has increased membership from target communities and provides more services and products that better meet the needs of refugees and asylum seekers.
"It’s not about ticking the boxes, I hate that. It’s about the desire to actually involve those communities in the service and the way to do this isn’t just to talk to them about this, but is to actually do it." Senior Community Librarian