The framework helps local councils to meet their obligations under the Equality Act 2010 including the Public Sector Equality Duties (PSED)
The Equality Framework for Local Government (EFLG) comprises five performance areas:
- Knowing your communities
- Leadership, partnership and organisational commitment
- Involving your communities
- Responsive services and customer care
- A skilled and committed workforce.
In addition, it has three levels of achievement, namely:
The Equality Act 2010 challenges organisations to know how age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion/belief, sex, and sexual orientation describe the experiences of local communities, both individually and collectively. Thinking about the relationship between these ‘protected characteristics' explains the difficulties and opportunities arising from the diversity of local areas. They are a reminder that the consequences of difference on effective service delivery cannot be avoided either for the provider or the user.
Organisations are expected to use this understanding to demonstrate ‘due regard' to the Public Sector Equality Duty to:
- eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the act
- advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not
- foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.
The purpose of the Equality Framework for Local Government (EFLG) remains to help organisations, in discussion with local partners including local people, review and improve their performance for people with characteristics protected by the Equality Act 2010. By using the EFLG organisations can also be helped to deliver on the public sector equality duty (PSED). Organisations using the guidance for self-assessment are likely to reference other locally appropriate characteristics evidenced as suffering inequality (then those mentioned in the PSED). The EFLG continues to encourage local adaptation with a focus on local issues and problems, and prompts learning from, and the spreading of, good practice.
The five performance areas of the Equality Framework for Local Government
1. Knowing your communities
Local authorities aim to base their policies, procedures and other actions on sound evidence and research around the needs of their communities. This principle should also apply to their work to promote equality and diversity. That is why the EFLG begins with the section on ‘Knowing your communities'.
Good equality analysis enables authorities to understand the differences in outcomes and opportunities experienced by people in different communities in key areas of life such as health, education, community safety, housing quality, access to work and so on. Equality analysis is about identifying where the outcomes and opportunities gaps are for different communities, including those sharing the protected characteristics.
This means making use of national as well as local data and public sector bodies sharing evidence with each other where possible. Measuring the gaps in outcomes and opportunities should be the basis of identifying local priorities and providing the evidence base both for decisions about service policy and delivery and for monitoring the effects of these decisions on local communities. This will mean understanding the relationship between these characteristics and socio-economic status and the experience of other vulnerable groups like looked-after children and white working class boys with poor educational attainment. Other factors, for example literacy and numeracy skills, can also affect someone's life chances.
Unless equality-related data is collected and analysed, there is a danger that local authorities will base their work on assumptions or stereotypes rather than hard facts. In addition, with the development of the ‘personalisation' agenda over the past few years, the delivery of services has become more tailored to addressing an individual's specific needs in ways which are that are pertinent to her or his circumstances. A ‘one-size-fits-all' approach is no longer enough.
‘Knowing your communities' includes three elements within the framework. These are:
Analysing and using information
Sharing information between partners.
2. Leadership, partnership and organisational commitment
We know that strategic leadership – both political and managerial – is key to establishing a strong vision for equality and improving equality outcomes. Local councillors in particular have a central role to play in ensuring that equality issues are integral to the local authority's performance and strategic aims, and that there is a strong vision and public commitment to equality across public services.
The framework also emphasises the importance of working in partnership with local partners in health, police, fire and rescue services, and the voluntary and community sector. Strategic partnerships will often be the natural vehicle for such partnerships. Narrowing equality gaps and improving the life chances of different groups will require a pooling of evidence, resources and action planning.
For areas with district and county councils, working together on equalities will often be the necessary and most efficient way of addressing local inequalities.
Vision and partnership needs to be backed up by organisational commitment. The equality framework looks for evidence of this in terms of resource allocation, compliance with public duties, democratic engagement, scrutiny, service planning and procurement.
‘Leadership, partnership and organisational commitment' within the framework comprises seven main elements:
Local vision and priorities
Monitoring and scrutiny
Commissioning and procuring services
Fostering good relations.
3. Involving your communities
Increasingly, local authorities are using a wide range of methods to involve residents in developing their policies and evaluating their effectiveness. These include focus groups, service panels, emails and social media. Whatever the means of engaging people, however, the important thing is that care is taken to ensure the views of a wide cross-section of people who live and work in an area are obtained. This means finding ways to facilitate the participation of all local people, including the vulnerable and marginalised, through working effectively across agencies and with partners.
‘Community engagement and satisfaction' comprises three main elements within the framework:
Participation in public life.
4. Responsive services and customer care
Public services must meet the needs of a diverse range of local communities and individuals. The social and economic make-up of places varies greatly, and is dynamic over time. Providers therefore need to have a strong understanding of their local area in order to target resources to where they will be most effective, for example in meeting the needs of vulnerable people or communities and delivering good equality outcomes. Excellent service providers are proactive, rather than reactive, and are able to consider interrelated and long-term outcomes.
Users of a local authority's services should be treated with dignity and respect. Human rights considerations lie at the heart of such treatment, and the framework includes a section which relates to a knowledge and understanding of human rights.
‘Responsive services and customer care' within the framework comprises five main elements:
Equality analysis/ impact assessment
Integration into business planning and delivery
Service level procurement
5. A skilled and committed workforce
As part of their work to promote equality and diversity, local authorities need to ensure that they reflect these aspirations in their role as an employer as well as in their role as a service provider. This means that not only should all their human resources (HR) policies and procedures reflect good practice in equality and diversity, but also that anyone who applies to the organisation or who works for it feels confident that they are treated fairly.
‘A modern and diverse workforce' comprises 10 main elements within the framework:
Equality analysis/impact assessment
Promoting an inclusive working environment
Harassment and bullying
Learning and development.