Equality, diversity and social inclusion
Organisations are expected by national and international governments and bodies to have policies and practices which address equality and diversity effectively, and which place these matters at the heart of all decision making processes. For us, equality is about using national laws and policies alongside local commitments to protect human rights and to remove unfairness and discrimination.
In order to demonstrate proactive commitment to equality, we need to be able to:
- Understand the social, economic and environmental context in which it operates
- Forecast likely changes and challenges to any or all of the above
- Ensure we're equipped to continue to deliver on national and international equality aims and local policy drivers
In so doing, we're mindful of national and international policy and legislation, including the Equality Act 2010. This Act, together with the Human Rights Act 1998 and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, forms a robust framework of protection for equality, diversity, social inclusion and human rights.
We also refer to guidance for public sector organisations, found on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website, together with national research and examples of good practice in policy development and service delivery, and emerging.
Advice and support for individuals can be found on the Equality Advisory and Support Service website. This is the national helpline that sets out to advise individuals on issues relating to equality and human rights.
Equal opportunities form a core element of good policy making around communities and the places in which they live and work. This is partly in recognition that greater economic activity by all groups in society contributes to and boosts the local economy as well as aiding individual prosperity and physical and mental wellbeing. A society in which everyone feels valued, and where their skills and talents are used to the full, is a productive and resourceful society. It is also about social inclusion. A society in which everyone feels they have a part to play, and in which people respect the views of other people, is a resilient and caring society.
When we talk about society, we are talking about individuals and about the various or diverse groups who collectively make up society. This includes what we may call the vulnerable and those in need, as well as groups who happen to have something in common such as their age or their gender.
A key council role is to ensure that the right services and support are in place for the most vulnerable. This includes groupings described as having ‘protected characteristics’. When we talk about these 'protected characteristics' groupings, they are something that we look at as well as social inclusion when considering our PSED obligations.
The nine groupings are, in alphabetical order:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion and belief
- Sexual orientation
When we talk about social inclusion, the groups that we are thinking of in particular are: families and friends with caring responsibilities; people with health inequalities; veterans and serving members of the armed forces and their families; households in poverty, whether in rural locations or in our market towns; refugees and asylum seekers; rural communities; young people leaving care; and people considered to be vulnerable.
As with all of our communities of place and interest, we aim to involve people in ways in which they may want to be involved, can be encouraged to do so, and are able to do so, in order to support and sustain them as resilient communities. By interacting with all our communities and groupings within them, we also understand their needs better and include them more in our strategic thoughts and actions Our focus on developing our place- based approaches relates directly to this aim.
Considerations around social inclusion and access to services are also to the forefront of our minds as a large and sparsely populated rural county, as well as in the minds of national policymakers, as the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic have thrown such inequalities into sharp relief. These will continue to be assessed and acted upon here in Shropshire.
The factoring in of due regard for equality, diversity and social inclusion impacts enables us to plan and deliver services that are responsive to the needs of our diverse communities, with a workforce that is representative of those communities and that is sensitive to the needs of those communities. We seek to do this in partnership not only with other public sector bodies but also with the business sector and the voluntary and community sector. Where this involves organisations arranging and delivering services on our behalf, for example where we have commissioned a service, they are expected to demonstrate that equality and diversity are similarly at the core of their own strategic thoughts and actions.