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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 16 December, 2013

 

Report of the Leader

 

Public Sector Equality Duty and Welsh Specific Equality Duties

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To provide an overview of the council's progress against the public sector equality duty and Welsh specific equality duties.

 Recommendations

1.         That the Cabinet notes progress and areas for action.

2.         That the Council participates in the "End Racism this Generation" campaign.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1 - 2   So that Cabinet are aware of issues of particular interest currently in order to assist in raising public and staff awareness of the needs of protected groups - one of our equality objectives.

Background

2.         The Council has received a letter from Kate Bennett, National Director for the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Wales (Appendix A).  This report provides an update on the matters raised (Appendix B).

Relevant Issues and Options

3.         The letter raises the following issues.

4.         Compliance with Equality Legislation:  The council has a Strategic Equality Plan with agreed equality objectives, which include objectives on hate crime and domestic abuse. A brief overview of progress with equality objectives, together with a response to the key points raised in the EHRC's letter, can be found in Appendix B.

5.         The Council has published its first annual equality monitoring report for the year 2011/12 in compliance with the specific duties.  This report included data on staff and service use, information on equality work we had done in that period and how we set about preparing to develop our equality objectives.  The next report is due for the year 2012/13. This second report will need to comment on progress against our equality objectives.

6.         The Managing Director, Head of Performance and Development and Corporate Equality Officer met with Kate Bennett, National Director of the EHRC in Wales on 13 November.  The Director welcomed the opportunity to hear how the Council is meeting its obligations under the public sector equality duty and progressing with its equality objectives.  The meeting provided an opportunity to discuss the equality impact assessments of budget cuts and to hear that the EHRC is keen to promote the sharing of good practice across Wales through its monitoring.

7.         2012/13 - Focus on Equality Impact Assessments: Last year, the EHRC chose equality impact assessments as the topic to monitor in local authorities.  In particular, it wanted to establish what difference assessments made to decisions and policies and what was changed as a result of the information gathered during the equality impact assessment process. 

8.         Following this review, our own internal audit service undertook a review of the equality impact assessment process.  Its report noted that the duties say decision makers must be aware of their responsibilities under equality law and know the equality impact of decisions.  The report recommended a number of actions to improve the process.  These included:

·           having procedures in place to ensure equality impact assessments are carried out at the beginning of a new project or policy;

·           giving consideration to adjusting the Council’s Cabinet report format to include a section relating to the equality impact assessments;

·           requiring those responsible for policy development to receive training on the importance of assessments, how to assess effectively and how to monitor new projects or policies to meet the requirements of equality legislation and guidance.

·           escalation to an appropriate managerial level if a policy or project being agreed by Cabinet has not been assessed for its equalities impact;

·           publishing all equality impact assessments on the website.

9.         The equality impact process is particularly important during challenging economic times.  The process helps to ensure that budget decisions are made fairly and resources used where they are most needed. It also helps to protect against the worst outcomes being faced by groups who may already face substantial disadvantages.  It is important to consider the cumulative impact of decisions across different services on different groups of people, particularly in relation to budget cuts.

10.      We are working with the Welsh Local Government Association to develop a manageable, school specific approach to equality impact assessments.

11.      2013/14 - Focus on Domestic Abuse and Hate Crime:  For 2013/14, the focus will be on progress made between 2012 and 2014 on equality objectives relating to domestic abuse and hate crime.  These areas have been selected as most authorities have equality objectives relating to these areas and they most closely match the priorities of the Welsh Government.

12.      Our performance in respect of delivering beneficial outcomes under the hate crime and domestic abuse equality objectives will be included in the EHRC report to Welsh Ministers. 

13.      Hate Crime:  The equality objective of the Council is to increase the use of the hate crime helpline and complaints system to report harassment and discrimination of people with people with protected characteristics. 

14.      With the assistance of the Community Cohesion Officer, there has been a review of the existing process for managing reports of hate crimes and incidents.  It is likely that we will shortly agree a new protocol that will make reporting easier.  Posters will be distributed to promote the helpline.  We have also launched a programme of hate crime training that is being delivered by Safer Wales and is free to our staff.  This training is aimed at front line staff and will be attended by staff from C1V and Housing.

15.      Domestic Abuse:  The equality objective of the Council is to increase awareness and confidence in the use of domestic abuse support services.  There is also a priority within the Community Strategy to reduce the impact of domestic abuse on victims, families, and the wider community, and to ensure that help and support is available.

16.      The Council does not provide this service itself.  The Council's contribution is to raise awareness of the services that exist.  Atal-y-Fro is the only provider in the Vale of Glamorgan.  It continues other types of support as follows: use of a bus that helps the service reach the Western Vale; information about the service on our website; awareness raising campaigns; emergency communal accommodation; benefits advice; and 3 high dependency housing units.

17.      The 'Ending Violence against Women' Bill includes a focus on the workplace.  It is anticipated that this will become law in June 2014.  The Director of Atal-y-Fro advises that its work already meets the requirements outlined in the Bill. 

18.      The Council has introduced a Domestic Abuse Staff Policy.  This gives guidance to managers on how to support someone experiencing domestic violence.  It tells employees what help is available to them as well as explaining that their situation will be handled seriously, in confidence, and with compassion.

19.      Raising Awareness: The Council has an objective to raise awareness of the needs of protected groups amongst staff and the public.  A campaign has recently been brought to our attention that would help us raise awareness of the needs of people from ethnic minorities.

20.      The council's Elected Member Equality Champion has been asked to participate in "End Racism this Generation" - a campaign led by the Runnymede Trust and supported by Race Council Cymru.  This is in the context of a recent survey undertaken by Race Equality Cymru which revealed that dealing with racism is still very much part of the day to day experience of people from ethnic minorities.  The campaign wants individuals and organisations to make a commitment to tackling racial equality.  This involves publicising the commitment on a website designed for this purpose.  A number of resources will be available to assist with the campaign.  There will also be a number of events, including one in Cardiff on 7 April 2014.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

21.      This report is intended to provide an update on the Council's progress with equality issues, particularly those being monitored more closely by the EHRC.  There are no resource implications arising directly from this report. 

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

22.      The equality duty contributes to the sustainable development principle of ensuring a strong, healthy and just society.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

23.      The Equality Act 2010 created a new public sector duty, replacing the race, disability and gender equality duties. The duty came into force in April 2011. The duty covers age, disability, gender, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation. Under the general duty, public sector organisations must have due regard to the need to:

·           eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation;

·           advance equality of opportunity between different groups;

·           foster good relations between different groups.

24.      The duty to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination also covers marriage and civil partnership.

25.      The Equality Act gives Welsh Ministers the power to impose specific duties through regulations. The specific duties are legal requirements designed to help public bodies meet the general duty. These were published in April 2011. 

26.      The Equality and Human Rights Commission published guidance on the public sector equality duty for Wales on 8 June 2011.  It will perform a regulatory role in ensuring that listed bodies comply with the duty. 

27.      The equality objectives, Strategic Equality Plan and other relevant policies are intended to assist the Council in complying with equality legislation and guidance.  

Crime and Disorder Implications

28.      Good equality practice assists in promoting community cohesion by furthering the diverse needs of employees and local people and creating equal opportunity.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

29.      Our progress towards meeting the public sector equality duty will continue to be monitored by the EHRC.  Information on our progress will be included in its reports and in the equality report of Welsh Ministers.

Corporate/Service Objectives

30.      It is a corporate priority, included in the draft Corporate Plan 2013 - 2017, to work with partners to promote good governance and ensure a coordinated approach to delivering the shared vision for the future of the Vale.  This policy supports each of the three associated improvement objectives:

·           to tackle those issues that matter most to local people, with customer focus at the heart of the council’s service delivery;

·           to provide leadership in representing and promoting the interests of the local community and engage effectively with citizens and stakeholders;

·           to promote through partnership working greater cooperation with other organisations that deliver services in the Vale, thereby improving the quality of life of its citizens.

31.      It is a corporate priority to manage the council’s workforce, money, information and assets efficiently, effectively and securely.  This guidance supports the associated improvement objectives:

·           to provide effective corporate management and to improve the use of resources in meeting our strategic objectives;

·           to manage, support and develop our employees to enable them to deliver and maintain the council’s services to the highest possible standard;

·           to make best use of our assets and to procure good, sustainable services and facilities.

Policy Framework and Budget

32.      This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

33.      Not applicable.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

34.      Corporate Resources.

Background Papers

Equality and Human Rights Commission Guidance - The essential guide to the public sector equality duty: An overview for listed public authorities in Wales

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council's Strategic Equality Plan

 

Contact Officer

Nicola Hinton, Corporate Equalities Officer

 

Officers Consulted

Huw Isaac - Head of Performance and Development

Bev Noon - Operational Manager - Corporate Policy and Communications

 

Responsible Officer:

Sian Davies, Managing Director

 

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