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.
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.
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 diversity amongst fire fighters in the service.
When the London Probation Service underwent a major organisational review an expected outcome was a reduction in staff numbers through redundancy. Equality impact assessments were carried out at the proposal stage on two large groupings of staff that were likely to be affected. One of these was senior staff and one was administrative and corporate centre staff. Both assessments identified that there might be a negative impact on women and on black and older staff. Fewer jobs would be available, particularly at senior management level.
Many older staff had been in post for a number of years and had no recent experience of job applications and interview. A programme of support was made available to all staff. This focused on briefings about the assessment centre process as well as job application and interview techniques. For those who were not successful, further support was given on developing CVs and on careers advice. A review of the recruitment process for senior staff following the restructure revealed an increase in black senior managers. There was also no negative impact on women or disabled staff. A more equal balance had been achieved between women and men among administrative staff. The assessment process has given the service a deeper understanding of the workforce which will continue to be monitored regularly.
While considering its response to growing knife crime, the Met carried out an impact assessment which identified a high probable impact on black and minority ethnic communities of any action they might take. It was also aware that members of these communities were keen to see action taken. The impact assessment led to the development of an improved strategy to manage relations between officers and the community. This included:
It was particularly important to ensure those questioned felt they were being treated with respect and also that they understood the reasons for the police action.
In 2005, the Mental Health Act Commission (MHAC) looked at the gender balance of its commissioners. Whilst the overall balance was even, there was a higher proportion of men as area (better paid) commissioners and a higher number of women as local (lower paid) commissioners. The MHAC undertook an equality impact assessment of the recruitment process and as a result, changes have been made to job descriptions. This has been to encourage more women to apply for area commissioner positions.
Human resources and equality staff reviewed the job description and person specification with an eye to gender bias both in terms of language and content. This included discussing with commissioners what had attracted them to, or put them off, applying for the different roles. As a result of feedback, job descriptions and person specifications were simplified, removing content that was not essential. This was to ensure that people with the ability to fulfil the role should not be discouraged from applying because of lack of experience, and this was likely to affect women more than men.
Commissioners to the MHAC are appointed by the national Appointments Commission. Previously, all appointments had been based on open competition. In order to rectify the imbalance the MHAC gained agreement for a process of internal recruitment.
This allowed transfers between the roles, which saw several women move from being local to area commissioners. This was followed by open recruitment in late 2007 for vacancies in both roles. Monitoring shows that progress is being made with regard to gender equality.
As part of a review of its catering service, a north of England mental health trust proposed to reduce the hours of catering across all sites. Initial screening indicated that some users of learning disability and neuro-rehab services might have difficulty accessing the alternatives, which were vending machines. A full equality impact assessment was carried out, drawing in service users for their views and advice. This led to a significant change in the original proposal. Fewer catering hours would be cut and there was a firm commitment to make the vending machines fully accessible. All involved considered this to be a positive outcome.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) undertook an equality impact assessment of a proposal to invest in Play Pathfinders. The aim was to improve the play opportunities in disadvantaged areas across the country by developing inclusive, supervised play parks and by refurbishing existing sites. There will also be capital investment available for English local authorities. As the programme developed, officials carried out an extensive review of the research literature and sought the views of children, young people and their carers. This was critical in widening the understanding of policy makers.
Talking to disabled children, young people and their parents highlighted the importance of soft play areas and the provision of accessible toilets. Talking to girls confirmed that, as well as rough and tumble areas, girls also wanted quiet places. These and other findings were built into the project design and ensured the programme was inclusive and took account of different needs.
The impact assessment can be viewed at: www.media.education.gov.uk
An equality impact assessment had a major impact on the development of One Wales: Connecting the nation. This meant that for the first time the strategy ensures that the development of transport in Wales will take the needs of a diverse range of users into account. This will promote greater social inclusion through improved accessibility.
The strategy addresses how people can access physical sites, services and facilities. It also emphasizes the importance of planning, especially when developing new sites, facilities and services where accessibility should be a core consideration.
A thorough review of data and research was undertaken, and local people were involved through the development of an advisory group representing all equality strands. This identified high-level issues which will be taken forward in national and local transport plans. These include:
The strategy and the impact assessment can be viewed at: www.wales.gov.uk