Equality Reference Group newsletter - May 2018

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Equality Reference Group newsletter

       May 2018

Adult's Health and Social Care, Children's Social Care, SRE in schools, Exeter Pride and Vote100

Items discussed

Adult Health and Social Care

AHSC session with ERG

On 12th April Equality Reference Group members plus Hikmat Devon were involved in a special equality challenge session with the Adult Health and Care Leadership Team.  A series of facts and questions were posed to the group, based upon service user data across protected characteristics of age, disability, race, religion/belief, sexual orientation and gender identity. Gender was also a cross-cutting theme. Everyone enjoyed the stimulating discussion and a number of recommendations were made. See our short video to find out more. 

Discussion with Head of Children's Social Care

fostering 684 children

Darryl Freeman is Head of Children's Social Care and deputy to Jo Olsson, Chief Officer for Children's Services. Children's Social Care looks after around 5,000 children and young people and employs around 800 staff. 

Devon is the third largest county in the country and its rural nature causes real challenges particularly for disabled children and their parents/carers.

Darryl explained when he joined DCC he inherited a disabled children's service which doesn't allow DCC to be flexible, so work is underway to review it. Disabled Children's Teams are based in four localities but managed centrally, and he wants to embed management into the localities so it is more integrated with local services and Early Help provision.

Darryl also explained how they are looking at their practice because some referral pathways are not clear to people. They want to reshape eligibility criteria to make it more accessible because it doesn't make sense to a lot of people at the moment. He wanted to stress that the changes are not about saving money.

DCC want to involve service users more in the assessment process as currently it feels like it's 'done to' them rather than 'done with'.  Resource allocation tends to be process driven and doesn't recognise geographic differences of families, and Darryl wants to introduce more technology such as online assessment tools. However, lots of families don't have good internet connectivity, so this can be a real challenge.

The service has a good relationship with Adult Health and Care but they recognise the need to do more work regarding transitions so that conversations start from age 14 with clearer preparation for adulthood. A lot of the improvements are being picked up under the Purposeful Systems programme in which they are 'agitating the system' and asking 'why do you do that?'

DCC have found the Direct payments system was too generous; many families couldn't spend their payment because there was nowhere to spend it, so they recognise the need to stimulate the market. There are parts of Devon where there are no providers of certain things such as short breaks.  

Our comments: 

  • We agree there is a lot of confusion in the system and suggest a small project in one area, thinking how to enable parents to work through the system. 
  • We felt more needed to be done to empower/support the family who support the child.
  • There's not enough funding to maintain the infrastructure for direct payments.
  • More could be done to raise awareness of Pinpoint - the directory of community services.
  • The local Armed Forces families support website is a good example and really adds to what Pinpoint does.
  • There are issues regarding placements for disabled children with complex needs.


  • What is the uptake from BME communities and how are their needs met?

Darryl agreed that Devon is not as diverse as other parts of the country. There is some uptake around Exeter and we have looked after Asylum Seeking Children. Foster placements consider culture, but some children are placed outside of Devon if the county can't meet their needs; May factors are taken into account, not just ethnic or religious diversity, but also if they are a single child or have siblings, for example. DCC need to recruit more foster carers and could work with ERG on this. There were a number of Muslim children who were seeking asylum and Exeter Mosque was really helpful in supporting foster carers. Tribes are also significant, so you can't assume that people from same country will be a good match.  DCC often have very little information about the child, so they need to find these things out.

  • Gender reassignment in under 18s: The Intercom Trust are swamped by young people coming forward. Is this having an effect on services? 

Darryl explained recording for LGBT+ people has improved and DCC is seeing less gender binary definitions in online forms. It was noted that recent research highlighted Devon as an 'LGBT hotspot'. It was not clear what training was being provided.

  • Is there a cut off for the age of Foster Carers?

No. DCC has a foster carer who's 80. Perception is they are too old, but everyone has to go through a rigorous process of assessment. DCC don't want to exclude people fostering in life, but people need to be aware of the challenges. If starting this as a retirement you really have to think this through. Some older carers have valuable experience and help train others. Rules with adoption are different and people are not aware.

  • What targeted recruitment for Foster Carers is taking place at Prides?  

Darryl said that there will be a Fostering stand at Totnes and north Devon Diversity Festival. DCC also had a presence in Exeter Pride and Fostering leaflets were part of the DCC Talking Zone.

  • How do you deal with FGM?

DCC have a protocol in place with agencies, incidents reported is low. 

  • How is Mental Health assessed?

It's often not diagnosed until later in adolescence. There's a reluctance to diagnose it in younger children as it is less visible. 

  •  It's a difficult juggling act as you don't want to label but also don't want to stereotype i.e. not taking a young person seriously and saying it's "just a phase"? 

We look at presenting behaviours rather than offer a diagnosis.


It was noted that the Early Help for Mental Health Service and Children's Centres sit within Education and Learning and therefore questions about these services would need to be raised with Dawn Stabb.

ERG could help shape Eligibility Criteria, Direct Payments, Resource Allocation models and approaches to digital engagement.

Sex and Relationships Education in Schools - is it inclusive?

Concerns were raised by an ERG member about SRE education taking place in some Devon schools. They had become aware of a Christian Educational group providing workshops in schools that only dealt with heterosexual relationships. We discussed that this in itself was not unlawful, but schools also needed to consider the needs of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils when delivering SRE, whatever their religious belief. Failure to do so might not only result in discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation (for example, if beliefs are conveyed in a way which is degrading or hostile this could be regarded as harassment), but it could also mean that LGB pupils do not receive appropriate information about safe and healthy relationships which could lead to unsafe, risky behaviours. 

DFE Guidance for Schools on SRE states "It is up to schools to make sure that the needs of all pupils are met in their programmes. Young people, whatever their developing sexuality, need to feel that sex and relationship education is relevant to them and sensitive to their needs." and "that teachers should be able to deal honestly and sensitively with sexual orientation, answer appropriate questions and offer support."  

Other information


Suffrage Flag welcomed to DCC

DCC has been celebrating the centenary of women gaining their first right to vote.

On 6th April, the Council welcomed the Suffrage Flag to County Hall and held a talk on its first woman County Councillor, Juanita Maxwell Phillips OBE.  

Find out more.

Further activities are being planned throughout the year including an event about democracy and women in public life on 14th December.

Exeter Pride

Pride 2018 DCC in the parade

It was Exeter Pride's 10th anniversary this year and DCC raised its rainbow flag on the Topsham Road flag pole to mark the event.   Staff and Members also walked together in the Pride parade alongside one of its back-up Gritter Lorries! 

DCC's Equality Officer hosted the Talking Zone in Exeter Library with interesting panel debates on Bivisibility and The Gender Spectrum (youth panel with X-Plore Youth Group), with Max from the Intercom Trust.

Find out more.

Getting to know....

DCC's Equality Officer was featured in this month's staff newsletter. The ERG was formed in 2002 and have supported Jo in her work.

Leadership Team visit to Exeter Mosque

Exeter Mosque

In April, DCC's Leadership Group met with Trustees at Exeter Mosque, to follow up concerns raised in a letter to the Chief Executive. 

The purpose of the meeting was to: foster good relations; develop a deeper understanding of the work of the Mosque and needs within the community; discuss some of the challenges experienced by the Mosque, openly and in confidence. It included a tour of the Mosque.

The discussion explored the work of the Mosque including: its teachings about the Muslim faith and good citizenship; its youth work; its awareness and education work including hosting school visits (from across the region) and Imams visiting local schools; community open days, some linking with Muslim Council of Great Britain initiatives; participation in public life including the Devon Faith and Belief Forum; supporting Muslims to live their lives well in Exeter and wider Devon; future ambitions. 

The Muslim community in Devon is changing and growing.  The community is diverse with a broad range of views and perspectives on their faith.  Some 42 languages are spoken by followers regularly attending the Mosque from diverse cultures, ethnicities, heritages and traditions.   

DCC's Chief Executive, Phil Norrey, encouraged everyone to talk about what it’s like living as a Muslim in Exeter/Devon.  Those who shared examples were able to cite both positive and negative examples, with racist incidents often going unreported and ‘normalised’.  

Positive examples included good provision of English language courses in Exeter, good community response to open days, seeing Exeter grow as a more open and diverse community and good experiences of raising families in the area.  Areas of concern focused on mental health support (including for people from war torn areas), lack of English language classes in wider Devon which can be a barrier to other services, experiences of racism and Islamophobia in early years, school and community environments. The meeting also explored the work of Prevent and Channel, what it means in Devon and the importance of trust and confidence.

Actions arising from the meeting include: the Imam to offer reflections prior to a meeting of full Council setting a positive tone for debate; guidance on setting up a faith school; creating links with Devon youth service Space; awareness raising fostering good community relations with elected members, Town/Parish Councils and Safer Devon Partnership; learning from settling of Syrian families in Devon; sharing dates of future open days so that they can be promoted amongst staff, members and partners; the Mosque to encourage members of its community to consider standing as candidates in local elections including the UK Youth Parliament.  A follow up meeting is planned for October.

Coming up

July's ERG meeting will look at the Library Service and involve an 'Equalitea' discussion about democracy as part of Vote100 celebrations.

Meeting dates and further information

ERG have also been invited to the Health and Wellbeing conference in June. 

Community Events around the county

Summer is here which means there are a number of festivals and events taking place across the county, which kicked off with Exeter Pride on 12th May. Here's a selection:

Exeter Respect Festival - 30th June/1st July

North Devon Diversity Festival (Barnstaple) - 30th June 

Exmouth Pride - 30th June

Tiverton will be holding its first Pride on 18th August

Bideford Pride - 1st September 

Totnes Pride - 1st September

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