Since 2001, the Equality Standard for Local Government (ESLG) has helped local authorities make real progress in mainstreaming equality. However, over time, the strengths and weaknesses of the standard have become clearer. An equality performance and improvement framework also needs to respond to new thinking on equality outcomes and the new challenges that local authorities face today
SOUTH ESSEX HOMES WERE AWARDED THE EXCELLENCE LEVEL OF THE EQUALITY FRAMEWORK IN DEC 2010
In 2007, the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA) therefore decided to run a consultation on revising the standard. They received more than 200 replies with many detailed comments. A large majority – 70 per cent – agreed with the proposals for a new Equality Framework for Local Government (EFLG) and they have incorporated many of the suggestions and ideas that were contributed.
The framework builds on and recognises the work that councils have already undertaken under the old standard, but contains many new features. At heart it aspires to be:
- proportional and relevant.
It is based on three levels of achievement; developing, achieving and excellent rather than the five levels of the old standard. This reduces the actions from 167 to 88, which authorities can implement in ways that are relevant and proportionate to their needs.
- a wider definition of equality, based on equal life chances
- a new section on ‘Knowing your communities and equality mapping’
- a focus on equality outcomes for all sections of the community, mapping and narrowing gaps
- a central role for self-assessment and peer challenge.
The new framework uses a wider definition of equality, which was originally set out in 'The Equalities Review', based on the idea of equal life chances.
“An equal society protects and promotes equal, real freedom and opportunity to live in the way people value and would choose, so that everyone can flourish.
An equal society recognises people’s different needs, situations and goals, and removes the barriers that limit what people can do and be.”
This definition is more aspirational than the formal legal definitions of equality. It is about what Local Authorities can do to create a fairer society and recognises that:
- equality is an issue for us all
- we don’t all start from the same place
- to create a fairer society we need to recognise different needs.
'The Equalities Review' also suggested that the life chances of different groups could be measured against 10 ‘domains’ or outcomes. These are very similar to the outcome approach of ‘Every Child Matters’ and are set out at the end of this section. You may find this a useful way of mapping inequalities and defining priorities.
This definition includes the groups that are protected by discrimination law. Local authorities will therefore need to continue to consider the impact of race, gender and transgender, disability, age, sexual orientation and religion and or belief may have on the life chances of members of their communities.
But it will also encourage councils to understand the relationship between these characteristics and socio-economic status and the experience of other vulnerable groups. These include looked-after children and white working class boys with poor educational attainment.
The definition of equality in the Framework is very close to the way inequality and vulnerability is defined by the Audit Commission and other inspectorates for the purposes of the CAA.
“Effective local public services target effort where improvement is most needed to tackle inequalities within and between communities. This may include focusing on the particular needs of people who are disadvantaged or discriminated against through age, disability, race, gender or transgender, religion or belief and sexual orientation. It may also include efforts to reduce child poverty or other inequalities within communities. We will consider how well local partners know and understand the nature and extent of inequality and disadvantage within their communities and how effectively they are working to reduce or eliminate discrimination.”
The five performance areas
The five areas of performance are:
- Knowing your communities and equality mapping
- Place shaping, leadership, partnership and organisational commitment
- Community engagement and satisfaction
- Responsive services and customer care
- A modern and diverse workforce.
participation and have moved far beyond simple consultation exercises, important as they can be, to find innovative ways of involving communities and neighbourhoods. However, communities of place are not always synonymous with communities of interest and it remains important to have the means to involve these communities of interest in decision making as well as service and workforce planning.
The 10 dimensions of equality
Longevity – including avoiding premature mortality.
Physical security – including freedom from violence and physical and or sexual abuse.
Health – including wellbeing and access to high-quality healthcare.
Education – including being able to be creative, to acquire skills and qualifications and having access to training and lifelong learning.
Standard of living – including being able to live with independence and security and covering: nutrition, clothing, housing, warmth, utilities, social services and transport.
Productive and valued activities – such as access to employment, a positive experience in the workplace, work-life balance, and being able to care for others.
Individual, family and social life – including self-development, having independence and equality in relationships and marriage.
Participation, influence and voice – including participation in decision making and democratic life.
Identity, expression and self-respect – including freedom of belief and religion.
Legal security – including equality and nondiscrimination before the law and equal treatment within the criminal justice system.