Equality Reference Group Newsletter - November 2020

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Equality Reference Group newsletter

Coronavirus, Black Lives Matter, and Quality and Improvement in Adult Care and Health

November 2020

It probably goes without saying that this year has been very different and highly challenging. I'm sure you have all been very busy and it's also why you haven't heard from us for a while!

The pandemic has highlighted a number of social inequalities that make people more vulnerable to Covid-19 itself or to the consequences of lockdowns and infection control. Never before has equality and diversity been reported on so much and in the midst of it all, in June, a voice cried "I can't breathe", escalating a public call to end systemic racism.

In this month's edition we will look back at items discussed in our July and October online meetings and also hear from the County Council on its response to Black Lives Matter.

Items discussed

How DCC has responded to the pandemic - from an equality perspective

Coronavirus Updates

Equality Impact Assessment helped inform the Council's response to the pandemic and the Covid-19 Pandemic Incident Management Impact and Risks Assessment reviews the risks of the coronavirus on protected characteristic groups and impacts of actions, legislation and guidance nationally and locally.

Separate assessments were also carried out for Waste Recycling Centre restrictions and PPE Impact Assessment.

During the summer months, the Council moved to a Local Outbreak Management phase and a new impact assessment for the Local Outbreak Management Plan was published.

The Equality Reference Group, through the Adult Care and Health Joint Engagement Forum, has been providing community insight on the impacts of the pandemic through regular surveys. This information, along with many sources of data, is also being used to inform Recovery and Future Resilience planning.

What's become very clear over the past few months is the importance of data and information, which includes people's diversity profiles, to help inform strategies.

Communication in community languages and alternative formats has also been important to help people adjust to new rules and advice about what they should and shouldn't do to keep themselves, their families and the wider community safe. The County Council has created a webpage of information in alternative formats including British Sign Language, Easy Read and community (foreign) languages.

DCC represented in webinar by the Equality and Human Rights Commission

The DCC Equality Officer was invited as a panel member for a webinar by the Equality and Human Rights Commission on ensuring your coronavirus response is inclusive of all. If you missed it, you can watch a recording of the webinar on You Tube.

Community tensions on the rise

At our October meeting, the Intercom Trust reported on an increase in calls to their helpline regarding community tensions and neighbourhood disputes of a LGBT-phobic nature. Harassment of disabled people was also on the rise - particularly in relation to face covering exemptions. Police hate crime data also suggests an increase since lockdown was lifted.

As a result, the issue of community tensions is being taken to Team Devon - Local Outbreak Engagement Board in November by VCSE representative and member of the Equality Reference Group (disability representative), Diana Crump. 

LGBT - lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans 

How does DCC monitor and promote quality for diversity groups in the care market?

Our October meeting explored how equality was monitored and promoted with care providers. We heard from officers from Commissioning and the Quality and Improvement Team.

Quality checks take place as part of a contract with care providers. Checks will look for things like links with community services and community activities for service users to access. There are different types of living options available to people - care homes, extra care living, supported living and shared accommodation. The living arrangements have to be accessible to all, but providers can offer a specialist/tailored environment to meet demand (for example, a care home run by a religious organisation). It's important for there to be diversity of provision across the market.

The Intercom Trust said that people are often not forthcoming about their sexual orientation in a care home environment and we were reminded of the LGBT Care Homes Toolkit that will help care providers ensure their services are LGBT-inclusive. It was agreed that providers could be regularly reminded of the Toolkit through forums.

It was also suggested that members of the Equality Reference Group could use social media to raise awareness of toolkits and guidance with the care sector using #proudtocare.

The importance of diversity data of service users and staff for monitoring was also discussed. This can be done for DCC commissioned services, but not for self-placements (which make up around 60% of care placements).

Proud to CareOther information

Black Lives Matter

The Lead Member for Equality, Councillor Barry Parsons, and Corporate Equality Officer, Jo Hooper, initially responded to death of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests with an article for the DCC staff newsletter in June. The article focusses on how the movement is relevant to Devon and what support is available to ensure racial equality and anti-racist approaches.

Here is an update from Barry and Jo:

There are a number of people in Devon who are involved in the Black Lives Matter movement, protesting peacefully and asking what the Council is doing to address systemic racism. The Council has a duty to serve the needs of all of its residents and this includes Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people. Devon is not as ethnically diverse as other parts of the UK which means that the voices of ethnic minority groups can get lost, we therefore recognise the importance of carefully ensuring that the needs of BAME people are not overlooked when considering the needs of "all" residents.

We feel that whilst all lives do matter, the statement 'All Lives Matter' in response to 'Black Lives Matter' disregards racial inequalities and aims to push back Black people's voices and needs to a place of invisibility.

We also recognise that concerns have since been raised about the American organisation Black Lives Matter and wish to focus on Black Lives Matter as a statement rather than affiliation with any particular organisation. Black Lives Matter means “stop treating Black lives as worthless”.

In September, two Notices of Motion were taken to Cabinet for consideration and were approved buy Full Council in October. In summary, the spirit of the Notices of Motion were endorsed and the following actions approved:

That Council

  • Support current and planned activities which help: to enable everyone in Devon to participate in, and contribute to its society, economy, and communities; remove barriers; and tackle prejudice and inequalities.
  • Request a peer challenge, based on the LGA Local Government Equality Framework.
  • Encourage all mechanisms that would increase of the diversity of Councillors.
  • Support all members to continue to actively engage with all residents of Devon including BAME people and organisations.
  • Provides advice and support to schools on how they can support students understanding of BAME experiences, their history and contributions.
  • Notes that Members’ Locality Budget Fund can be used to support the diverse needs of all local communities.
  • Support Members to continue to find and take opportunities to promote and celebrate the role and work in Devon by BAME people past and present.
  • Note that the street names etc are the responsibility of District Councils, however, should the County Council be involved in any such processes, the LGA guidance will be followed: https://local.gov.uk/topics/community-safety/statues
  • Remind Schools, Settings, DCC Babcock LDP of the Equality Act 2010, Public Equality Duties and how they can heighten awareness arising from the Black Lives Matter movement as an opportunity to review and publish their objective(s) in respect of racial equality and inclusion.
  • Write to the Secretary of State for Education urging him to encourage schools to: capture the voice of children and young people and their responses to the Black Lives Matter movement; ensure that the school environment and curriculum allows all students to see themselves reflected and included; reflect on how they challenge historic and persisting racist ideas and to how they celebrate diversity.

Read the minutes for the full Notice of Motion. 

DCC has also supported a reprinting of Todd Gray’s book Devon and the Slave Trade, with a Foreword by the Leader of the Council, Councillor John Hart. Marking the bicentenary of the 1807 Slavery Trade Act which prohibited slavery in the British Empire, at its meeting on 19 July 2007, Devon County Council formally acknowledged Devon's involvement in the slave trade and agreed to support a number of activities including the first publication of the book. Copies are available from stevensbooks.co.uk. 

Sadly, despite the Slave Trade Act and work of the abolition movement, slavery still exists, only in a different form. This year, 2020, the Council also published its Modern Slavery Statement setting out how it will take steps to eradicate it from society and supply chains.

Taking time to explore our past can help us better understand our humanity and our journeys. As part of Black History Month, Jo has teamed up with Devon Development Education to run a series of online discussions as well as promote activities by other organisations during the month. 'Start the Week' is an online discussion taking place Monday evenings during October. Topics include: Devon's multi-cultural history, the Windrush Generations, Is there still a place for Black History Month, and Black Futures - a discussion about taking action and campaigning for change. Where possible, the sessions will be recorded and posted to the website at a later date. Further details: https://www.devon.gov.uk/equality/communities/race/bhm

Inspired by the work of Stacey Johnson (Associate Professor in the School of Health Sciences University of Nottingham) the Council is piloting a cultural competency Mentoring project called Let's Explore Race. This is where BAME members of staff mentor senior members of staff (usually mentoring is the other way round).

Cultural competency (or capability) mentoring focusses on enhancing the mentee’s skills and knowledge around racial diversity, culture and racism. It draws on the lived experience of BAME people – who become the mentors. Mentors will be fully supported throughout the programme. Anticipated benefits include:

  • Mentees developing empathy and a greater awareness of self.
  • Increased knowledge and understanding of: ethnic diversity, culture, racism, inclusion, discrimination, inequalities, bias and ‘privilege’.
  • Increased understanding of the ways in which behaviours, beliefs, policies and practices impact upon BAME people.
  • Increased confidence and skills, including language, to challenge beliefs and behaviours with peers.
  • Disruption to traditional ways of working that have excluded race/cultural aspects.
  • Breaking down hierarchies: encouraging a culture where people feel able to take the initiative and speak to those with positional power in ways that are transformational.
  • Improved retention of our talented staff from under-represented groups and breaking down barriers for progression.

Staff are also being asked to update their diversity data so that more accurate workforce diversity monitoring can take place. Once the Council has adequate, up to date data it will be able to monitor for areas with low recruitment or promotion levels of BAME people and take action as appropriate. To complement the mandatory Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Essentials e-learning course, staff will be provided with an Advance Equality, Diversity and Inclusion e-learning course which would include, amongst many other topics, Understanding Race Bias.

Like many organisations, in response to the early indications of increased risk of severe illness or death within BAME communities and particularly Black men, the Council quickly adjusted its Staff Risk Assessment for Covid-19 to include BAME as a category and asked all managers to have a discussion about health and safety concerns with BAME staff.

Together for Devon is a partnership of health and social care organisations working together with local communities across Devon, Plymouth and Torbay to improve people’s health, wellbeing and care. Together Devon have commissioned a project to understand the experiences for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities and staff across Devon and the County Council is taking part.

At a national level, there are known inequalities of risks and outcomes between different ethnic groups, including in the wider social determinants of health, and this was seen starkly in the current coronavirus pandemic. Recent work of the Devon Ethical Reference Group highlighted worrying perceptions of health and care services amongst BAME communities in Devon and called for a further investigation into the disparities in outcomes and experience for BAME communities. It is anticipated that this project, being led by the Devon STP, will give us a richer understanding than we currently have of the current perceptions, experiences, access, participation and outcomes among BAME communities and staff.

And finally, at the recent Equality Reference Group meeting the acronym 'BAME' was also discussed because there have been some calls to stop using it. Whilst we understand that there is some dislike of labels and that the acronym BAME can sometimes be used without recognising the diversity of people that sit within that category, our current position is that we feel that confidence in speaking about race is really important, and if we were to start telling people (particularly older generations) they can no longer use this term, this will push the debate further back to the bottom of the pile but equally, terms need to be decided on by the community they describe. Ongoing discussions on equality and diversity terminology will be held at Equality Reference Group - which includes representation of Plymouth and Devon Racial Equality Council, as well as with staff.

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