How we got here and the Public Sector Equality Duty
Development of the Strategic Equality Plan 2020-2024
During 2019-2020, we revised our Strategic Equality Plan taking into account various national and local research findings; latest data available to the Council and issues raised by local equality groups during meetings of our Equality and Community Cohesion Group (consisting of senior officers of the Council, the police, representatives of local equality groups, organisations and communities).
Local research was carried out with members of our Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities, people with experiences of low income, disabled people, members of the Gypsy and Traveller community and our local communities in general. A number of common threads were identified throughout the process, including hate crime/incidents, poverty and barriers when accessing services, which were consequently incorporated into the equality objectives.
We were just weeks away from presenting the Strategic Equality Plan and our revised equality objectives to Cabinet and its subsequent publication in April 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and we entered the first period of lockdown. All executive reporting arrangements were disrupted and we mobilised an emergency response to the developing national emergency. This had a massive impact on the delivery of our services. Some of our services closed down to assist in reducing the spread of the disease, whilst other services changed so that critical services could operate safely. In addition, new services were established to support our communities through the crisis.
In light of the national situation at the end of March 2020, the Equality and Humans Rights Commission suspended statutory deadlines for publishing Strategic Equality Plans and equality objectives until October 2020.
However, while lockdown delayed the publication of the Strategic Equality Plan it also provided an opportunity to reconsider the appropriateness of our equality objectives, and the proposed actions, in light of the unfolding impact of coronavirus on members of our most vulnerable communities, especially on those from our Black and minority ethnic communities.
At an early stage in the outbreak, we recognised that the Strategic Equality Plan and equality objectives would need to be reviewed to address the impact the pandemic was having on our local communities. It became increasingly apparent as weeks went on that while all communities were being affected, Black and minority ethnic communities were being affected disproportionally; in matters of health, as key workers, with the severe effects on employment as well as accessible education for children and young people.
The horrific killing of George Floyd on 25 May 2020, along with other events in our recent history, as well as the devastating impact the pandemic has had on Black and minority ethnic communities has brought into sharp focus the deep seated negative attitudes and behaviours that remain towards people from these communities. As a consequence, it was recognised that the equality objectives and actions would need to be reviewed to ensure the impact of these events on our local communities were addressed.
In his address to Council in July 2020, the Leader gave a commitment to initiate a fresh look at how we work with our Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities in Neath Port Talbot to achieve equality, equity and social cohesion and to bring about societal change to demonstrate that Black Lives Matter.
This accentuated the need to further review our equality objectives and actions particularly in light of evidence provided to UK and national government committees. As well as, research findings on the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak, the reported concerns of members of Black and minority ethnic communities in direct response to the Black Lives Matter movement and evidence used in the initial development of our equality objectives.
The Equality and Community Cohesion Group, instrumental in the initial development of the equality objectives, again played a crucial role in the assessment and collectively we were satisfied that our equality objectives were an accurate reflection of those areas that cause concern, distress and anguish for many. The equality objectives were published in the Strategic Equality Plan 2020-2024 in October 2020.
However, the actions required further review and alternative actions to better meet the objectives. These were developed with the involvement of our workforce and of our communities, most notably our Black and minority ethnic communities, this has been invaluable in helping identify actions that not only help address the impacts of COVID-19 but also the wider inequalities faced by these communities. The revised actions were published in January 2021.
We continue to work with our various communities to explore and better understand people’s lived experiences and to translate these into relevant actions to help us meet our equality objectives going forward.
BAME or BME?
Following events in summer 2020 there appeared to be a marked transition to the use of BAME across government departments, media and academia. While no doubt this was well intentioned to provide a more encompassing collective terminology for communities, it led to the over use and misuse of the term which caused a backlash from various individuals and minority ethnic communities.
We along with many other public bodies adopted this terminology but tried to be mindful of its intended use – an acronym minority ethnic communities rather than used as a word/community in its own right. The NPT BME Community Association were also sceptical about the use of the acronym and informed us that they would prefer the use of BME and ethnic minority. BAME is considered controversial because people are using it as a word as opposed to an acronym e.g. ‘BAME woman,’ ‘BAME solicitor,’ ‘BAME children… BAME would be ok to use if each word was written out, but people do not often do this. Over time... (there is a)…fear it will become a meaningless buzzword, thus creating an additional barrier to engagement as some people may want to distance themselves from this word’.
Consequently, going forward we will return to using BME (Black and minority ethnic) or minority ethnic communities or use the individual names of the minority ethnic community in our documentation.
Street names and monuments in Neath Port Talbot
In light of, and in response to the BLM movement and the numerous anti-racism activities held following the killing of George Floyd in May 2020, the Leader of the Council in his statement to Council in July 2020 recognised that ‘there remain deep seated attitudes and behaviours towards people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities which simply cannot continue’ and took ‘this opportunity today to initiate a fresh look at how we work with our Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities in Neath Port Talbot to achieve equality, equity and social cohesion’. As part of this call for action, a local survey was undertaken to identify street names and monuments in Neath Port Talbot that had connections with the slave trade.
At the same time the First Minister announced plans ‘to re-examine the way some of our public monuments and buildings are valued and consider what they say about us, our society today and our shared history… to undertake an audit of Wales’ historic monuments and statues, and the names of streets and public buildings, and identify those sites and names that are associated with the history of black communities in Wales, and in particular the slave trade’ …Informed by the outcome of this work, we will move to a second phase to determine how we can move forward together and address the concerns it highlights… (and) to determine how we can move forward together and address the concerns it highlights.
We will address the findings of the audits as part of the implementation of the Council’s responsibilities for a more holistic approach to both historic as well as future commemorative practices as identified in the final version of the Welsh Government’s Race Equality Action Plan, which is anticipated in autumn 2021.
Race Equality Action Plan (REAP)
The BME Community Association (the Association) carried out community engagement, funded by Welsh Government to help inform their Race Equality Action Plan (public consultation on the draft action plan closed on 15 July 2021).
The Association worked in partnership with our Community Safety Team and Vulnerable Learner’s Service to produce two surveys, one aimed at adults, the other at young people. The aim of this engagement was to gain insight into the lived experiences of BME people in Neath Port Talbot, focusing on housing, community cohesion, education and employment. Both surveys produced similar results in relation to the local community, safety and social inclusion, with respondents agreeing that more needed to be done in relation to social integration and community events.
Engagement identified that in relation to education and achieving potential, local schools and educational settings were successful in ensuring that all pupils are treated fairly, however, more could be done to promote culture and diversity at school.
In terms of the workplace, half the respondents felt that people from BME communities do not receive as many opportunities to progress in the workplace and that there fewer opportunities for them to work in the public sector.
These findings were too late to be considered as part of the revision of the actions, but were submitted to Welsh Government for consideration in the development of the REAP and will be considered as part of our ongoing review of the relevance and appropriateness of the actions to meet our equality objectives.
Our response during the pandemic
Some of the key work is highlighted below, which includes data from the first lockdown up to 31 March 2021
NPT Safe & Well Service
- Our NPT Safe & Well Service supported 2600+ residents
- 698 volunteers registered
- Over 6000 welfare calls to residents
- 450+ food parcels delivered weekly
- 400+ weekly prescriptions delivered
- £47m Covid grants paid out to local businesses
- 2242 business enquiries assisted resulting in advice, information or financial support
- NPT Buy Local - 26587 visitors to webpage, 290 businesses listed
- 88 charity/sports clubs received £10k each in grant support
- Provided £45m Business Rates grant relief and £8.9m High Street Business Rates relief
- 9500 Chromebooks and 300 laptops provided to pupils and 940 laptops for teachers
- Delivered road safety training via TEAMS to over 5000 pupils
- 5213 pupils are claiming free school meals and £3.9 million in payments since first lockdown (up to 31st March 2021)
- 8 hubs provided daily support to up to 250 children
- 45000 face masks provided to pupils in September 2020
NPT Staff Support
- First council in England and Wales to introduce a "safe leave" policy for victims of domestic abuse working for the council who can take up to five days of paid "safe leave" to access support
- Over 700 laptops provided to staff enabling homeworking
- 85 online employee training courses delivered to 3809 attendees
- 800 NPT staff offered to step into different roles to help with Covid-19
- 470 jobs created/safeguarded as a result of financial support by the council
- £19.4m Council Tax support to 17389 households
- 113,888 Covid-19 webpage views
- Permanent accommodation secured for 258 homeless individuals or households
- Accessible cycle routes increased by 6.6km (during 2019/20 and 2020/21)
- Homecare staff - 200+ Covid trained and 10,700+ monthly visits to service users
- 50 playgrounds were made Covid safe
Working with Partners
- Project managed construction of 340-bed field hospital at Llandarcy
- Margam Orangery used as a mass vaccination centre
- NPT Test, Trace and Protect Service contacted 31,079 people (up to 31st March 2021)
BAME Coronavirus Vaccination Forum – tell me more campaign
A Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) COVID Communications Campaign Group was established to dispel the myths, give reassurances and present the facts, to ensure that everyone can make an informed decision about the vaccinations and to encourage take up. Leading figures from our local BME communities are members of the group and play a key role in delivering these messages.
We are supporting this campaign and some of our staff from our minority ethnic communities lent their support by providing short, written testimonials, photos and/or short video clips about the vaccination for use on the web, social media and other communications platforms.
The Tell Me More campaign continues.
One of our mobile libraries, which had come to the end of its working life, was donated to Swansea Bay University Health Board to be transformed into a mobile vaccination centre.
Within weeks, bookshelves, a wooden reception desk and carpet were stripped out and replaced with clinical white walls, a sink, vastly improved lighting, a vaccination fridge; secure storage cupboards for on the move, easy clean flooring and curtains to divide it into cubicles.
A wheelchair lift was retained to maintain easy access and a wireless internet connection installed so patient details can be entered straight onto the immunisation database.
The Immbulance, deployed on 25 February 2021 and believed to be the first of its kind in Wales, has been designed to reach people living in more remote communities and people from vulnerable groups who are unable to travel to vaccination centres or GP surgeries, either because of poor transport links or mobility issues.
The Time to Change Campaign
The Council signed up to the Time to Change Wales Campaign’s Employer Pledge in September 2019, which provides a framework for employers to work within to support employees with their mental health. This is a workforce priority, as mental health related absence accounts for the highest number of days lost to sickness absence.
Progress against the action plan is reported on a regular basis to the council’s Equality and Community Cohesion Group and the Personnel Committee.
A number of events have taken place to raise awareness of mental health and signposting to advice, guidance and support, and in 2021 the Council recruited a network of Champions from its workforce, to help in the mission to reduce the stigma associated with mental ill health and encourage our employees to talk about their mental wellbeing.
Equalities in Employment
Equalities in Employment information for the period 2020-2021 will be reported to the Equality and Community Cohesion Group and published towards the latter part of 2021-2022.
The data will be for the 12-month period 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021, or where appropriate, a snapshot of the workforce on 31 March 2021.
Our gender pay gap report, published in June 2021, set out the difference between the average pay of the men and women who work in the Council in 2020. The pay data has been taken from the Council’s workforce at:
31 March 2019, 3,784 employees which represents 1,277 (33.75%) males and 2,507 (66.25%) females
31 March 2020, 3,630 employees which represents 1,290 (35.5%) males and 2,340 (64.5%) females
The pay data excludes casual employees and all schools’ employees.
The median gender pay gap (excluding schools) in 2019 was 3.93% while in 2020 our median gender pay gap has reduced to 3.44 %.
The median gender pay gap, including and excluding schools, is below the UK national average median gender pay gap of 15.5% in 2020.