Presentation is attached.
The Committee received the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion report, which was presented by an Officer in brief. It was noted that:
· The Council had launched a 3-strand approach to race equality in order for inequality in life outcomes to be addressed, for the services and role as an employer to be reviewed.
· An independent race adviser was commissioned to conduct an internal review of the Council’s role as an employer. A staff survey was also conducted to which circa 700 staff took part.
· Recommendations had centred around recruitment and retention, for the organisation’s culture to be changed through training and development and for safe spaces to be created for dialogue.
· It was essential to address issues around race inequality with staff which were based on mutual trust, openness, and honesty.
· The next stage would involve the creation of the corporate race action plan for the race review.
· It was explained that the race action plan included a six-step process including focus groups, data analysis, establish priorities, a directorate EDI Vision to be created, measures to be defined and for these to be reviewed and evaluated.
· Implementation of the action plan would be aimed to begin for November 2021.
The Director of HR and OD added that what could be seen in the race action plan overlapped well with planned improvements to the HR service, ensuring that there would be a good staff development offer for staff and for career support and development to be implemented for all staff.
The Cabinet Member for equalities and public health added that this review was very much welcomed and that the coaching, mentoring and leadership programmes to be implemented would be positive benefit for staff.
The Chair thanked officers and opened the floor to questions from the Committee which were discussed and answered by the officers present, which highlighted the following:
· Raised if there were planned processes for other protected characteristics as it would be vital for all protected characteristics to be included. It was explained by the Director of HR and OD that there was a need to focus on race because there had been a need to prioritise a response to Black Lives Matter. However, it was noted that the race action plan was being used to test initiatives that would be part of an overall approach to equalities, diversity, and inclusion which could be applied to other issues of underrepresentation.
· It was emphasised by a Committee Member that it would be useful to know how the Council would be creating an environment where those with disabilities could come forward. The Director of HR and OD explained that part of the disability confident campaign had outlined how the council aimed to be disability welcoming which formed part of the Council’s employer branding.
In addition, there was the new staff network called DAWN (Disability and Well-being Network) which was launched late in early 2021, this had allowed for a safe place for staff to raise and be consulted around the disability agenda and had been promoted through staff Yammer groups as well as staff briefings.
· It was raised by a Committee Member that though officers mentioned equality and fairness there was no mention of when an employee might want to approach someone who was independent of the Council. The Director of HR and OD highlighted that the council’s commissioning of Patrick Vernon as an independent adviser had proved to be a success with staff approaching him through the formal focus groups and through direct contact in order for experiences to be directly shared.
The Director of HR and OD also added that an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team had been set up which had given staff a channel to raise equality issues with confidence. In addition, Dignity at Work champions would be introduced who would be able to support fellow staff.
· A Committee member then followed up by asking what the current retention is of staff was, which the Director of HR and OD answered formal complaints were low and that they had started to record the outcomes of cases which would in future give a better understanding on staff retention in this context.
· An explanation on what had been done to address issues that surrounded management culture had been requested, to which an officer noted that the focus groups that were undertaken during May and June of 2021 consulted staff on what changes they would like made and from that it was found that there should be more consistency within the appraisal system, with a focus group with managers had also been arranged for September 2021.
· With a shift toward remote and hybrid working it was queried if there would be a risk that those with protected characteristics would go unseen. The Director of HROD reassured members that this format of working had been considered in the race action plan.
· Asked when the recommendation for a similar review with residents, community organisations, faith groups and businesses would be undertaken, an officer informed the Committee that some work had already begun around education and with the Council’s charity sector partners for youth services to be delivered. The homelessness service was being looked into, particularly to consider any biases within our housing system.
· When it came to how successful the focus groups had been gathering data it was explained by an officer that the attendance was well received and noted that a wide range of staff joined the focus groups which had allowed individuals to share experiences with those who they may not otherwise speak to within the organisation.
· In order to see if improvements had been made a Member of the Committee asked if there was data available on how many managers within the Council were hired externally vs internally as well as the demographics of the management staff. It was noted that this data could give insight into how well the council was doing in terms of internal career progression for staff at Harrow. The Chief Executive pointed out that the Council was very conscious of the diversity within the directorate of Harrow Council.
· The Chair asked if there were any barriers faced by the race action plan, an officer explained that it was important to gain as much engagement from managers as possible. However, the officer also noted that there was confidence that once discussions had begun at director level, they should see management engagement improve.
The Chief Exec added that the biggest challenged had been have the capacity for this race action plan to be implemented during a pandemic to a standard that Harrow Council would be happy with.
· They also asked the Cabinet member for equalities and public health what they had done to communicate the race action plan to other Cabinet members and others when it came to the implementation of the report. To which the Cabinet Member mentioned that this information would be passed on, to have transparency and for these voices to be heard.
RESOLVED: That the report be noted.