To consider the 2019/20 position statement for Equalities
The Cabinet member for Communities introduced the report, presenting the Equality and Diversity Annual Position Statement 2020. The Councillor requested that members consider the contents of the report and make comments, prior to its publication.
The author of the report, Community Engagement and Policy Development Officer was introduced to the Committee and presented the contents of the Annual Statement.
The Equality Act 2010, section 149, imposed a duty on public sector organisations, to have due regard to:
· Eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation
· Advance opportunities for people who shared protected characteristics and those who didn’t.
· Foster good relations between those who shared a protected characteristic and those that didn’t.
These were known as the three aims of the Equality Duty.
In addition, there were two more specific duties placed on public sector organisations, which were to:
· Publish information to show compliance with the Equality Duty, at least annually; and
· Set and publish equality objectives, at least every four years.
The publication was to provide information which showed due regard had been given to the three aims of the Equality Duty and included demographic information, broken down by protected characteristic, of the district and SKDC’s workforce.
The Annual Position Statement, which was found at Appendix A of the report, included the latest Equality Objectives which covered the period 2020 – 2024. An action plan had been developed which would ensure that the Authority delivered the required outcomes. All services areas were required to feed in and help deliver those objectives.
Whilst producing the Annual Statement members and officers were able to identify areas of underrepresentation in the Authority’s workforce. The Statement would help improve awareness of equality responsibilities and further embed those within the workforce.
Members highlighted an additional word within the Statement and asked if the references to the different religions could appear in a more consistent format.
The Committee queried why there was such a high percentage of officers who had not provided information relating to their protected characteristics as part of equality and diversity monitoring. Members were concerned that perhaps they were not provided the opportunity to give that information. The Community Engagement and Policy Development Officer advised that the level of information an individual gave in relation to their sexuality, religion etc. was provided on a voluntary basis and there was no obligation to divulge it. All officers were asked as part of equality and diversity monitoring, however the data showed that there was a high number who did not wish to share that information.
Members asked if there was to be further opportunity to undertake further equality and diversity training, as they felt what was received in the past had been beneficial. It was also felt that this type of training should be mandatory for all elected members. It was advised that there was no mechanism to mandate members to undergo equality and diversity training. Members Services created the training schedule and the relevant officers would be able to advise when further training was planned.
It was discussed that the constitution was currently being reviewed and members asked if the review could also look at the wording for Equality and Diversity Training and its requirements for members to undertake it. It was appreciated that whilst it was not an area that could be mandated, specific wording could perhaps be used to stress its importance.
That the Cabinet Member for Communities ask the Constitution Committee to consider as part of its work in reviewing the Constitution the wording around the requirement for members to undertake Equality and Diversity Training.
There were concerns that the data used to form the Statement, in relation to the population was based on the 2011 Census. It was felt that the information was out of date and that the makeup of the population within South Kesteven may have changed quite considerably in that time. It was unfortunate and frustrating that the information available was largely based on Mid-Year Population Estimates provided by the Office for National Statistic and based on the 2011 Census, however that was what was available to compile the data for the Statement and its use was standard practise. Data would not be comprehensively updated until after the next Census in 2021 and some information would not be available until 2-3 years after it had taken place.
The Chairman asked if there were any officer groups within the council that supported those groups within the Equality Act 2010, that had one or more protected characteristics. There were no groups at that time, however it would be beneficial for officers to have the opportunity to join a group that supported those with protected characteristics. A single group, rather than one per characteristic would be beneficial, as all individuals were protected under at least five of the nine characteristics represented in the Act.
Members were in support of the Annual Statement and requested that comments made as part of the discussion be captured, prior to its publication.