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Agenda item

Equalities Annual Report 2019/20

Report of the Head of Policy and Partnerships



The Committee received a report of the Head of Policy and Partnerships attaching the Annual Equalities Report 2019/20 and the Workforce Employee Report 2019/20.




Present for this item were Councillor Terry Fox (Cabinet Member for Finance, Resources and Governance), Laurie Brennan (Head of Policy and Partnerships), Adele Robinson (Equalities and Engagement Manager) and Adeola Banjoko (Equalities and Engagement Officer).




Laurie Brennan introduced the report, indicating that it had been produced as part of the Council's statutory duties under the Equality Act, and associated public sector duties.  The report celebrated the extensive diverse nature of the city, and looked at the city’s population, specifically the protected characteristics under the Equality Act.  Mr Brennan stated that the report highlighted the inequality in the city and set out details of the city’s possible equality objectives, together with the work required to achieve such objectives.  Adele Robinson provided a brief overview of the contents of the report.




Members of the Committee raised questions, and the following responses were provided :-




·            Whilst there was reference to the work of the Race Equality Commission in the report, the majority of the Commission’s work started after the end of this reporting period of March 2020, therefore reference to the major part of this work would be included in the Annual Report 2020/21.  This would involve a huge piece of work, which would continue throughout 2021/22.




·            In terms of staff diversity and satisfaction, officers had found that disabled staff had been the least satisfied over the last few years. Over the same period, it had been identified that satisfaction levels of BAME staff had remained broadly static, but had dropped a little this year.  Officers were focusing on this area of work at the moment, particularly in the light of recent worldwide events, and this issue would be highlighted in more detail in the Annual Report 2020/21. 




·            No officers present could provide an explanation as to whether or not anyone from the Equalities and Engagement Team had been involved in the decision to remove the Access-Able Policy from the Council's Licencing Policy.  Officers would look into this and provide a response to the Committee.  There were Equality Lead Officers in each of the Council’s portfolios, who worked closely with the Equalities and Engagement Team, and when decisions regarding changes in policy were taken, an Equality Impact Assessment was produced, therefore issues such as the removal of Access Able from the Licencing Policy should have been picked up at that time.  




·            Internal Audit had reviewed the Council’s procedures regarding EIAs and, as one of the findings, they had requested that the statements should be appended to reports when published.  The Equalities and Engagement Team was currently in the process of implementing the findings of the review.  Consideration could be given to commissioning an external body, with the relevant expertise, to undertake a review of the Council’s procedures regarding EIAs.




·            It was acknowledged that the Council could undertake more work in looking at how Members could be more informed in terms of how the Council’s workforce could be better supported.  It was also acknowledged that there was a need for improved communication by the Equalities and Engagement Team on this issue, with both staff and Members, and discussions would be held with Councillor Terry Fox on how best this could be facilitated.




·            It was hoped that the Equalities and Engagement Team would be able to produce a preliminary report on trends and data regarding local communities, based on the information from the Census 2021. Whilst there was still some uncertainty, it had been indicated that the full results would be received in March 2022, although this could be delayed due to the pandemic.  The Team would aim to produce a preliminary report on the inequalities in the city which had been highlighted by the pandemic using data already collated.




·            There was a three-year agreement for grant funding for those organisations making up the Equality Partnership, which had been extended for a further period of one year due to the pandemic.  This was an open grant round during which any of the organisations could apply.  Whilst there were seven Sheffield Equality Partners which formed the Partnership, there were several, smaller representative groups and organisations beneath these lead partners, which ensured a wide range of representation of Sheffield residents.  All of the Partnerships were supported by the Team.  It was acknowledged that the participation of all the partners on the Partnership, and supported by the Council, was diverse, and that all such groups were able to put forward their views.  The Council, together with the Charity Commission, had a duty to monitor the seven organisations supporting the Partnerships, and ensure that they were all accountable, as well as to review the work they undertook.




·            The issues of online bullying were linked to the wider digital agenda, and there had been a strong focus on this issue during the pandemic, as young people had been forced to use online learning, thereby increasing the risks of online bullying.  The Council would look at data from national studies as it was not believed that such data was available at a city level at this time.




·            Work would be undertaken to look at male suicide rates as part of the overall work to assess the effects of the pandemic on wellbeing and mental health.  The Team had discussed this issue with colleagues in Human Resources, particularly with regard to how men could be better encouraged to talk about their problems.




·            The Council had a considerable amount of work to undertake in terms of looking at the diversity of its workforce, with age being one element of that work.




RESOLVED: That the Committee:-




(a)           notes the contents of the Annual Equalities Report 2019/20 and the Workforce Employee Report 2019/20 now submitted, together with the comments now made and the responses to the questions raised;




(b)           thanks (i) Councillor Terry Fox, Laurie Brennan, Adele Robinson and Adeola Banjoko for attending the meeting and responding to the questions raised, and (ii) the officers in the Equalities and Engagement Team for the excellent work undertaken in drafting the reports and for the ongoing work in connection with equalities and engagement within the Council and in the city; and




(c)           requests the Head of Policy and Partnerships to (i) look at developing an improved mechanism for keeping Members better informed and updated of the work undertaken by the Equalities and Engagement Team in terms of how the Council’s workforce was supported, and (ii) update the Committee, at the earliest possible opportunity, on Sheffield’s Census 2021 data.


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