Equality Reference Group newsletter (Issue 5, March 2018)

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Equality Reference Group newsletter

       March 2018

Economy and employment, creating a culture where "It's OK to say it's not OK" to harassment/discrimination, and a new staff diversity reference group

Items discussed

For our February meeting, we invited officers from the Economy Team and Human Resources to discuss employment and skills within DCC as well as Devon as a whole. It was an informative and interesting discussion.

Devon Economy

Key information:

  • Devon's economy is performing well overall.
  • 89% of businesses in Devon are micro (employ less than 10 employees).
  • Health and social care is the second largest employer after retail. Devon is more service based than industrial.
  • 59% of the population are of working age and the employment rate is currently high at 80.8%. Those who do not face a barrier to work are probably in work.
  • We have an ageing workforce and population. The proportion of over 65s in employment doubled between 2001 and 2016. There is a massive challenge in relation to the post 50 year group because we need them to work longer to retain their skills. For example, Babcock will be looking for 5,000 workers to plug gaps in retirements coming up and 35% of our GPS are due to retire by the mid 2020’s.
  • 50% of disabled people in Devon are in work. 20% of benefit claimants are disabled, which is in line with population data. 
  • We are seeing wage growth for the first time.
  • The gender pay gap remains a challenge at £525 - £434, in line with the national average. Much of this is down to women being predominantly in part time work, or working in sectors where pay has traditionally been less competitive.
  • There has been a growth in apprenticeships over the past five years, though the last year has seen some slowing of numbers due to the change over to the new levy system.
  • Numbers of young people Not in Education, Employment or Training have dropped and levelled. We currently have roughly a third the level of NEETs as the nationally average, though there is always more to do.
  • Skills do not match the developing economy.
  • Brexit is starting to effect the labour market in some sectors, with some studies showing potential for impacts around agriculture, care and tourism. There is not a lot of spare capacity in the labour market. 
  • Care leavers, young people with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) and those in deprived areas are groups experiencing barriers accessing jobs and training.
  • Business case for investing in groups experiencing barriers: 5m extra for economy.

 What DCC is doing:

  • The Heart of the South West (HotSW) Productivity Strategy now includes more about groups experiencing barriers, to close the gap.
  • Investment in skills and learning across further education network.
  • European Social Fund programme supporting skills development, apprenticeship support, support for NEETs and people experiencing multiple barriers.
  • A number of small interventions making a big difference such as the Community Impact Support Scheme (building capacity of the voluntary sector to support hardest to reach groups), RISE (working with those with a history of substance abuse or homelessness), Devon Recovery Learning (tailored learning support for people with a mental health condition) and Magna Vitae (using an alternative CV for people with gaps in their employment history, focussing on things they can do).
  • Emerging initiatives, like the Career Learning Pilot in Northern Devon and other locations around the HotSW, will provide additional support around mentoring, childcare and travel to test approaches. Partners keen to focus on finding additional solutions.

    More about the work of the Economy Team is available here:  https://new.devon.gov.uk/navigation/economy-and-enterprise

     Comments from the Equality Reference Group: 

    • Need to address employment needs of young people (under 25s) otherwise they will reappear in the system later with multiple issues, and there is often no funding for older workers.
    • Young people who are having a difficult experience at school are ready to learn and take steps into work.
    • Different funding streams means that skills development work is fragmented.
    • The Young Women's Trust have achieved positive results from their mentoring programme.
    • Mentoring is beneficial. It's also needed for older people who have lost confidence.
    • A lot of older people have caring responsibilities because their parents are living longer or they may be providing childcare support as a grandparent - this will be challenging if also wanting them to work beyond preferred retirement age.
    • High levels of unemployment amongst Trans people. A lot of people undergoing gender reassignment want a change of job even though they can stay with their employer, they seek a fresh start living in their true gender. Still have challenges of gender stereotyping in most of our sectors. (DCC welcome some ideas on how to address this).
    • Women returners: skills set drops and confidence is lost if their employment needs are not being met and they become disengaged. More flexibility around transport and childcare is needed.
    • Question why the peer support programme by the DWP is not going to continue; government rhetoric is different to the reality for disabled people. They don’t seem to be listening; the funding doesn't seem to be following. (DCC have also challenged a lack of plan). Because pilots were not successful in other areas, DWP are not supporting the Plymouth project. The DWP are very old fashioned in their thinking and need to be more joined up in terms of their programmes and working with the DfE.
    • Funding for one year doesn't help people on Level 3 courses as these run for two years - if you can't secure the second year of funding you let down a lot of people; you have people just about ready for work and the programme is pulled. (DCC suggest giving examples of where it's not working to the Local Economic Partnership and politicians).
    • Regarding the reduction of disabled people on benefits - we're worried access to benefits is getting harder, and people not getting what they're entitled to. The digital platform is a barrier to some.
    • Devon Rape Crisis have reported that rape victims applying for PIP have been told they don't have PTSD. Mental health issues are not being recognised. 
    • People are exhausted; they're not claiming because they have been bullied.
    • All we're doing is losing the person in terms of life chances and production by depriving them further; and we don't have enough labour/skills - it's not sustainable.

    Employment initiatives in DCC

    Increasing employment opportunities for disabled people in Devon

    • Increasing the numbers of disabled people, particularly those with learning disabilities and autism into employment is a key component in DCC’s  Transformation Programme. This ambition is based on what people have told us will help them to achieve as much independence as possible throughout their life.
    • To achieve this ambition initiatives are underway across the organisation to drive culture change and raise aspirations for disabled people and their families, increase opportunities for individual’s to develop skills particularly when transitioning into adulthood and developing routes into employment for people who have not had a job.
    • Devon County Council, NHS partners and DWP are launching a focused employment campaign this year targeting employers to direct them to clear advice and guidance on employing disabled people. 
    • To be successful the campaign needs examples of what's working in terms of developing meaningful employment opportunities for disabled people and would like people to send their case studies to  sophie.holmes@devon.gov.uk.

     DCC Workforce initiatives

    DCC wants to be an exemplar for other employers in Devon - it wants to use its size to help make a difference and reflect the community it serves. DCC needs a committed and engaged workforce to ensure it meets its purpose and having a diverse workforce will help achieve this. It wants to access 'untapped talent', to sustain recruitment and retention and continue to ensure legal compliance. To support this, a number of activities are currently taking place or are planned:

    • DCC is developing an employability programme to support Care Leavers and running some pilots for Learning Disability Internships, which are also aimed at improving employability and access to apprenticeships and other opportunities.
    • DCC has an Engagement Officer focused on  improving services and employment for disabled people.
    • The Young Person's Project is currently getting views of young people inside and outside of DCC, to inform future work on the employment of young people within the Council. 46% of young people leave their job in the Council after 2 years and this is one of the areas to be addressed
    • DCC has recently reviewed and updated its Acceptable Behaviour Policy and will be promoting it through posters and a video. It has also reviewed its guide to managers on gender reassignment, is a Disability Confident Employer, Mindful Employer and member of Employers for Carers. DCC also has an active and well regarded LGBT+ staff network and LGBT Pledge for staff.
    • Employment monitoring data currently includes a lot of gaps and DCC are looking forward to introducing a new HR system in the next eight months. The system will have a 'self service' option so they will be able to encourage people to complete their diversity profile. 

    Comments from Equality Reference Group:

    • What is being done to support Black and Minority Ethnic people? Some people we work with have great skills but end up in low skilled work. (DCC discussed overseas recruitment to plug gaps in children's social care and how it is supporting BME social workers).
    • The hassle of reorganising access to work and added challenges of adjusting to a new role means that disabled people often get stuck in a role and don't go for promotion; this holds people back and more needs to be done to help people move on.
    • Apprenticeships are available to people of any age, so there are opportunities to broaden these to a range of protected characteristic groups, including Trans people who we discussed earlier.
    • What is being done to support Deaf people who use sign language?
    • If you get it right for groups, you get a lot back; it's a worthy investment. A lot of preparatory work is needed and volunteering offers the ideal opportunity. However there needs to be more support and funding in volunteering so that organisations can make reasonable adjustments for disabled people, and this will help make people ready for work. Currently Access to Work is not available for volunteers.

    Gender Pay Gap

    DCC has prepared its Gender Pay Gap report to meet the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties and Public Authorities) Regulations 2017. The deadline for publishing the first reports is 31 March 2018. The report only deals with the gender pay gap (the difference between average earnings of men and women) and is not a measure of equal pay.

    The Government say: a gap exists for a number of complex and overlapping reasons including that "a higher proportion of women choose occupations that offer less financial reward, many high paying sectors are disproportionately made up of male workers, a much higher proportion of women work part time and part time workers earn less than their full time counterparts and women are still less likely to progress up the career ladder into high paying roles". 

    Part time is significant factor in DCC - the Council has a high number of part timers because it is a supportive, flexible employer - this should be seen as a great thing. So DCC also looked at the full time gap to identify at differences at various levels in the organisation.

    DCC is looking beyond the data and linking this to its workforce planning, developing better career pathways particularly for roles that don't offer natural progression opportunities (these are also where the women are).

    The full report will be published by the end of March.

    Comments from Equality Reference Group:

    • Psychological/emotional skills are not valued highly (nationally) - this could explain why women who are predominantly in caring roles are paid less.
    • Would like to challenge the Government's view about women "choosing" roles that offer less pay. It's not that they actively choose low pay, it's often about necessity - caring roles are often part time and can work around their own caring duties and suit skills they have developed. The issue is how these jobs are valued in society and the economy as a whole.
    • The lessons we learn about gender should translate across other protected characteristics.

    Other information

    It's OK to say it's not OK


    In our December edition we talked about the updated Acceptable Behaviour policy which has been reviewed in light of sexual harassment cases worldwide. DCC has now developed a short video to raise awareness of the policy and create a culture where it's 'OK to say it's not OK' to incidents of harassment/discrimination, however small. A poster version of the video is also available.

    Other news

    Staff Diversity Reference Group

    DCC already has an LGBT staff network, in addition to this it has set up a Staff Diversity Reference Group to consult with people with other protected characteristics such as disability, gender identity and ethnicity.

    Further support for unaccompanied asylum seeking children

    Devon County Council has successfully applied for funding to support unaccompanied children, often fleeing conflict in their native country, who arrive seeking asylum in the UK.

    The nearly £200,000 from the Government will help the Council recruit and train foster carers, and to appoint volunteers to help children settle into their communities.  Read more.

    Supporting carers in the workplace

    DCC have invited staff to take advantage of its partnership with Employers for Carers, a dedicated service provided by Carers UK for carers and their employers. They offer essential high-quality guidance to both employers and employees, with the aim of helping carers to carry on working.

    Coming up

    Equality Reference Group meetings

    Democracy and Transparency

    March will be dedicated to a review of Adult Social Care and Health services, including a workshop with the leadership team.

    Other ERG meetings:

    24th April (children's social care)

    3rd July (TBC)

    6th September (TBC)

    6th November (economy and employment update)

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