Northumberland Single Equality Forum

 

Prior to its launch, the Northumberland Single Equality Forum invited views on how to take the forum forward for the benefit of residents from across all different groups in Northumberland (see launch invitation).  The following information was provided for the event:

Purpose

A Single Equalities Forum for Northumberland will provide a mechanism for supporting:

  1. the development of new, emerging and existing VCS equality groups and organisations in the county
  2.  improvement in equality related practice of all VCS groups and organisations

Context

Northumberland has a diverse population which reflects to a greater or lesser extent the diverse nature of society in 2012. Within the population there are individuals, groups, organisations and communities who are part of the so-termed minority groups.

Support for VCS ‘minority’, specifically BME groups, was identified by Northumberland County Council in the commissioning of VCS Support Services as an area for priority and focus.  The development of a Single Equality Forum was identified within the c4c bid and its development will provide a mechanism for identifying and meeting the needs of these individuals, groups/ organisations and communities.

Northumberland Voluntary and Community Sector groups/organisations working in the identified equality strands, which cover the protected characteristics of age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation, have particular support requirements.  Some strands have recognised networks; however this is not the case for all.

Whilst regional structures exist, there is currently no county-based support structure for groups working with and for equality issues across Northumberland.

The Equality Act 2010 replaces the existing anti discrimination laws with a single Act.  Please see reference information at the end of this page.

 Aim

To improve the quality of practice of VCS groups and organisations working with, and for, individuals, groups/organisations and communities in identified equality strands in Northumberland.

 Objectives

  • To support the development of new, emerging and existing networks for each, equality strand, as appropriate.
  • To encourage the development of peer support for/within minority groups.
  • To enable the views of minority individuals, groups/organisations and communities to inform policy and influence services through establishing communication with statutory partners across Northumberland, both regionally and nationally.
  • To provide advice, support and capacity building services around equality for the VCS.

Activity

  • Establish the current position in relation to equality work across Northumberland.
  • Identify the needs of emerging and existing groups/organizations’/networks.
  • Establish a framework for peer support.
  • Facilitate dialogue between minority groups/organizations’ and statutory partners.
  • Facilitate the delivery of development opportunities for the VCS in relation to equality; training, mentoring, sharing of good practice.

The Single Equalities Forum will provide:

  • equality specific groups with a point of reference where both common and specific matters of relevance for equality related matters can be explored and actions identified to build stronger practice and peer support.
  • a conduit for the sharing and development of good practice across the wider VCS.
  • a platform for engagement across the sector and with statutory partners.
  • a forum for developing a strong collective voice in relation to equality issues in order to influence and lead policy developments locally, regionally and nationally.

 Proposed Model

To see the proposed Single Equality Forum model, please click here.

It is envisaged that the forum will be a single point of contact for all partners across Northumberland working across the equality strands. The forum will aim to build capacity of VCS organisations around equality legislation through training, mentoring, and sharing of good practice. The single equality forum will have representation from each of the equality strands to build physical capacity led by a single equalities lead. The forum would provide a collective voice to influence policy development and offer guidance to statutory partners.

The relationships between the different levels and groups of organisations would be open partnerships and built in a positive manner. It is expected the framework will act as a two-way conduit between the voluntary and community sector to feed enquiries into and for statutory organisations to provide responses and consult with user groups facilitated by the single equality lead and forum. Relationships are a framework of best practice. Terms of reference will be developed by the groups within the framework.

Pending the outcome of early dialogue and consultation , it is envisaged that the proposed model will be developed by:

  • working collaboratively with existing specific networks across Northumberland .
  • taking a proactive approach to supporting the establishment of new user led groups working in specific equality strands through brokering peer support.
  • utilising existing skill, experience and understanding.

 Resources

c4c will provide resource for some dedicated capacity to undertake the development and support of the Single Equalities Forum.

The Single Equality Forum will have a dedicated space on C4C website and provide information which will be a recognised point for the VCS and partners.

Reference Information

Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 replaces the existing anti discrimination laws with a single Act. It simplifies the law removing inconsistencies and making it easier for people to understand and comply with it. It also strengthens the law in important ways to help tackle discrimination and equality.  The legislation also places a duty on public sector organisations to take due regard of equality groups and put in place equality duty.

The Equality Duty is a duty on public bodies and others carrying out public functions. It ensures that public bodies consider the needs of all individuals in their day to day work – in shaping policy in delivering services and in relation to their own employees.

The Equality Duty has three aims. It requires public bodies to have due regard to the need to:

  • Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct prohibited by the Act.
  • Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it.
  • Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it.

Having ‘due regard’ means consciously thinking about the three aims of the Equality Duty as part of the process of decision-making. This means that consideration of equality issues must influence the decisions reached by public bodies, such as how they develop, evaluate and review policy, how they design, deliver and evaluate services and how they commission and procure from others.

Therefore it is necessary for public sector bodies to have meaningful engagement with groups and individuals within the protected characteristics – age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.