Posted tagged ‘equalities’

Asking the right questions

September 8, 2011


My council is on Equality Impact Assessment alert.

For those who are not aware an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) is a process by which a local authority, or other public body, assesses the impact of any change in service delivery on the different parts of our community. Often, the local authority will have a template and ask members of staff to think seriously about the impact of each decision on equality based on race, gender, age, socio-economic status, religion, disability and many others.

I believe that the assessments were once statutory but now they are primarily used to help local authorities demonstrate that they have considered the full range of equalities impacts of their actions rather than completed as a result of Government diktat.

And let us not forget that if the equalities issues are not considered a local authority could find itself facing a judicial review.

With the amount of changes taking place at the moment (a 20% reduction in budget will do that to you) and the importance of the EIAs there probably aren’t that many staff who haven’t been asked to join in and contribute to at least one EIA.

One of the major challenges when producing an EIA is to find data that enables you to accurately breakdown who uses your service. This data is crucial to ensuring that the service meets the needs of the whole community. Whilst the completion of the EIA is designed to make you challenge your own assumptions, good quality data smacks you in the face and makes you adapt.

There are a variety of ways to collect this data but one of the key ways is to collect the data through council questionnaires. Everyone reading this has probably completed the equalities section of a survey at one stage or another. Although the questions are fairly simple they usually take up a side of A4 and can be as lengthy as the rest of the survey/questionnaire.

Despite seeming a little lengthy the information is crucial when local authorities are trying to ensure that they don’t break the law and do provide a comprehensive service for the whole community.

All this goes to explain why I was slightly surprised by Eric Pickles’ latest Local Government outburst on Friday.


The collapse of the corporate centre

August 15, 2011

Something not to throw away!

‘Never throw away your old drain-pipes’

My university lecturer was not talking about guttering but about the fashionable uber-skinny jean which had been in and out of fashion many times in his lecturing career. His argument was that if you follow local government you should be prepared to see ideas, structures and policies come in and out of fashion.

Never has a wiser word been said and as goes drainpipe trousers so goes the corporate centre within local authorities.

During the early 2000s the inspection and performance management regimes of the Labour Government were in full swing and the Audit Commission was constantly driving local authorities to improve their ‘corporate capacity’. The rationale for this was that councils were showing weak leadership from the Chief Executive down; decisions weren’t joined up and policy decisions weren’t being made from a structures evidence base.

What followed was a substantial investment in policy and performance teams. Allied to this was a renewed focus on engaging the public so added to this new central function was an investment in community engagement expertise and communications teams. On top of this was a new focus on working in partnership with local providers and a commitment to meet the Government’s equalities agenda so these teams were added to the corporate centre along with the recently amended committee teams now embarking on the new world of scrutiny.

Councils were asked to focus on centralising certain functions and teams like procurement, business improvement and project management were added to the centre; often grouped together with the others in a Chief Execs department or a deputy chief deputy chief execs team in some bigger authorities.

A little reason I feel lucky

October 4, 2010

Ism’s are horrible thing.  Racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia (not grammatically an ism, but which is at least in the spirit of things) and geekism are all things which should be removed from society and consigned to the cached web pages of history.

Recently a colleague and I heard of an incident where a local councillor had the fact that he was both of Jewish decent and gay were used against him in an election.  This is of course despicable; regardless of which parties were involved these things should never be used in a derogatory fashion or be used to attack someone.

However, it also got us chatting about the Council we work for and homophobia and other ism’s in the workplace.  This is an area which is often discussed and frowned upon, but nevertheless is seen by many to be difficult to eradicate. (more…)