issue 2 (August 2017)

Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.

Equality Reference Group newsletter

       August 2017

The Equality Reference Group (ERG) is an independent forum of voluntary/community sector organisations which advises and supports Devon County Council’s work on equality and diversity

Items discussed

Mental Health services

Social Care

Ruth Wells, Chief Executive of MIND in Exeter and East Devon, joined us for a discussion about the future of Mental Health services in Devon. The discussion was held with the Chief Operating Officer for Devon Partnership Trust (who deliver services for people with mental health conditions) and Senior Commissioning Manager at Devon County Council for Disabilities and Mental Health.

The service is developing a new Transformation Plan for promoting independence to stay healthy as  long as possible. Some of the issues highlighted in the discussion were:

  • the challenges of rural isolation and access to services in Devon - how they need to align work around transport.
  • high service usage from young parents.
  • high service usage in Exeter.
  • higher than average use of the ambulance service: could indicate transport barriers (about 20% of households in Devon do not have use of a car), people accessing help too late, barriers accessing mental health support via GPs.
  • enabling smaller, community based providers who do important work 'at the grass-roots' to be part of the infrastructure.The Together Programme details engagement work.
  • Black and minority ethnic people can have difficulties accessing services due to lack of transport, cultural/language barriers, deprivation/working hours, lack of GP registration (transient or asylum seekers), additional vulnerabilities such as victims of modern slavery/trafficking. 
  • older people who move to Devon as a couple and then lose their partner can experience sudden isolation - no networks of friends and family.
  • Older Lesbian and Gay couples have high levels of suicide and depression but less likely to have family contacts/support.
  •  the need for better conversations, monitoring (before and after, and for equality), sharing of information, and sharing feedback from Advocacy work.
  •  things like the way letters are worded can have a big impact on people's confidence with a service.

We asked to see the Assessment Form so that we could check it collects diversity information appropriately.

There was a clear ambition to be 'joined up' and responsive to the issues in Devon.


Developing the new strategic plan

Democracy and Transparency

The County Council is currently in the process of writing a new Strategic Plan and we were asked to comment on its initial structure and format.

We were grateful to have been consulted at the beginning of the process.

The Plan will be web-based so that it is more dynamic and  imaginative; therefore there are no plans to produce printed copies. However, we said that people would welcome the opportunity to have conversations rather than read printed material. We suggested the development of a Communications Strategy for the Strategic Plan with attendance at events and forums and not limiting engagement to social media.

We suggested some small changes to the headings (themes) but generally welcomed them and felt they covered key community/service issues. We asked if the 'keeping safe' theme also covered Hate Crime and if the 'stay healthy' theme also covered Mental Health.

We recommended cross cutting themes around connectivity (not being isolated/being able to get from A to B), sense of belonging, inclusion and equality.

Other items

  • We were consulted on equality and diversity themed case studies which will be used for Member Development (training for County Councillors) in the autumn.
  • We supported the recommendation of the Corporate Equality Officer to ensure that the Council uses gender-neutral language in its written Constitution. This includes changing the word Chairman to Chair or Chairperson.
  • We heard about a new role within the County Council which involves the appointment of a part time HR Project Manager with a learning disability to help the Council and other organisations provide better services and job opportunities for people with learning disabilities. Find out more.
  • Sign Solutions will be providing British Sign Language Interpreting and other Deaf/hard of hearing communication support for the County Council from 1st August. The new provider will be helping the Council introduce video based interpreting, extending the existing 'face to face interpreting' provision.
  • The Corporate Equality Officer reported on a successful conference with partners on the needs of Gypsies and Travellers in Devon. The event highlighted the need for more site/pitch provision to reduce the number of unauthorised encampments and improve health and wellbeing outcomes for Gypsies and Travellers.
  • The County Council's Impact Assessment form has been update to include questions about supporting people to be independent and resilient. The Corporate Equality Officer also reported 100% compliance with reporting of equality impacts to Cabinet, the committee where key decisions are made.

Other information

Membership of the Joint Engagement Forum


All members of the Equality Reference Group have been invited to join the Joint Engagement Forum for health and social care, broadening representation of older people and disabled people to also include gender, sexual orientation, religion/belief, younger people and race/culture.

We will be asking about effective Transition from Children's to Adults services and Integration with Health and Social Care at the next forum.

Coming up

Twitter footer

Our next scheduled meetings are:

  • 20th September
  • 14th November