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EQUALITY, INCLUSION AND DIVERSITY This paper updates and supersedes the chapter on Equalities in the Best Value guide to Planning. 1.Key messages 1.1 Managing equality, inclusion and diversity is an issue for all authorities
and should permeate every aspect of a Best value review of Planning services.
1.2 Access to the Planning service should be socially inclusive customers
and potential customers should not be disadvantaged through factors such as geographical remoteness, relative household income, access to ICT or lack of communication skills
1.3 Providing an equitable service is not about providing the same service to
everyone it is about varying the service to meet different needs. It is also about ensuring that everyone has access to the same level, quality and degree of service.
1.4 Understanding the diverse needs of local communities and equipping staff
to deal confidently with this diversity is the key to managing equality, inclusion and diversity for best value in planning
1.5 Planning services must embrace equality, inclusion and diversity,
including human rights, in both service delivery and in its work force to ensure that Best value is delivered
1.6 The challenges of the Equality, inclusion and diversity agenda may be
seen as: raising awareness; leadership; engagement with all groups in the community; organizational capacity and management capability, delivering equal opportunities and effectively monitoring and evaluating action.
2. Introduction 2.1 This chapter aims to offer assistance and signposts for service managers to consider equality, inclusion and diversity in relation to planning services and to understand the subject areas. 2.2 It will draw on the wealth of guidance published by the Audit Commission, the Local Government Association and others and, where possible, from best practice in local authorities (though mostly from services other than planning). 2.3 The chapter will cover best practice in employment but the focus will be much more on users and recipients of a Planning service and how to improve their experience of the service and to incorporate their needs into service delivery.
2.4 It will not repeat advice contained in published guidance produced on, for example, access for disabled people or safer streets in the assessment of planning applications. 2.5 There is a lot of reference in this chapter to engagement or community involvement. For further information on mechanisms for involvement particularly how to engage with hard to reach groups you should turn to the chapter on engagement. 3. An overview plus some definitions 3.1 There is a tendency to think of equality, inclusion and diversity either as synonymous or, conversely, as separate issues to be pursued independently. That would be wrong. They are all interlinked but there are subtle differences. Fuller definitions follow. But in essence equality is about power relationships within society in which it is possible to distinguish between haves and have nots; inclusion or exclusion as it is alternatively labelled is about reviving a sense of community in areas where groups within the community are (or are perceived to be) poorly connected with mainstream society; and diversity is simply about difference. Planners, like others working in the public sector, should help promote equality and inclusion whilst at the same time valuing and managing diversity in recognition of the differences that exist between individuals and groups. Action is needed when those differences lead to discrimination or where individuals or groups are disadvantaged. At its most basic level this action - which is supported by a growing body of powerful legislation involves ensuring that that all individuals and groups, including those in the most marginalized communities have equal access to those things which make up a citizens basic social entitlement housing, education, transport, training etc. But it also means making visible and giving voice to the needs of marginalized communities and ensuring that individuals and groups within those communities contribute to policy and decision making affecting them rather than remaining passively dependent on others. 3.2 According to the Audit Commission there is a single thread that links equality, inclusion and diversity and that is the notion of fairness. It is this that underpins the development of policies and practices that tackle inequalities; it means that all staff should be treated fairly and the needs of all users should be taken into account and that no group should be discriminated against (Audit Commission 2002(a)). The Commission sees managing the wider agenda as about taking on board best practice in employment, within a service, and in service delivery in the following ways
Addressing inequalities Recognising and valuing differences Promoting a skilled and diverse workforce Meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse population, and Acting in accordance with legislation.
3.3 Inequality and social exclusion occurs when people suffer from a combination of inter-related problems such as unemployment, poor skills, low
incomes, poor housing, high crime, desolate environments, bad health and family breakdown or any other force or factor that excludes them from the resources, services and opportunities enjoyed by those in the political, economic and social mainstream of society. Its a dynamic phenomena rather than a static one in that individuals or groups suffer at different times and in different locations depending on a combination of circumstances beyond their control. Dealing with social exclusion effectively requires joined up solutions. 3.4 Warrington Borough Councils view of a socially inclusive community, for example, is that it is one in which no individual, family group or area is so excluded as to be unable to participate in the economic, social, political and cultural life of the community (Audit Commission (2002(b)). 3.5 Groups at particular risk include young unemployed people, lone parents, long term unemployed, people from ethnic minority groups, people with disabilities,older people, the chronically sick, travellers and asylum seekers. To be socially inclusive a service such as Planning should not disadvantage any individual or group due to their personal circumstances such as geographical location or access to the internet, race or language. 3.6 Diversity is a recognition that society is made up of many different social groups with cross cutting bases for identity e.g. gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, property ownership, class and lifestyle. Diversity brings with it a curious mixture of behaviours and outcomes the likelihood of conflict of interests on the one hand but also the potential for tolerance and a culture of compromise and negotiation on the other hand. 3.7 The Audit Commission has recently distilled four key messages from the current debate on Diversity
The diversity agenda is not about treating everybody in the same way but about recognising and valuing differences, as noted above, as well as recognising and accounting for inequalities and disadvantage;
There is a strong business case for action on diversity founded on the need to find the biggest pool of potential employees possible from which to recruit, retain and motivate the best talent, the need for a diverse workforce to deliver services effectively to a diverse community and the need to work within the law;
There is no real consensus about what diversity looks like. There is a need for a shared definition of diversity to enable services, like planning, to set out a clear vision of where they want to be. Without this clear understanding of outcomes there is little likelihood of putting together an effective strategy to achieve them;
Action on equality and diversity must be managed effectively (Audit Commission (2002(a))
3.8 Hard to reach groups is a widely recognised term that is used to describe those groups or communities who experience social exclusion and are generally perceived by agencies as being difficult to engage.
3.9 Discrimination means treating people in similar situations differently, or those in different situations in the same way, without proper justification. 3.10 Community cohesion is also linked to equality, inclusion and diversity. A broad working definition jointly agreed by the Home office, the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) explains community cohesion as a state of well being that affects the harmony and stability of a given geographical community. It incorporates, but goes beyond, the concept of equality and social inclusion. It lies at the heart of what makes a strong and safe community. 3.11 A cohesive community is one where there is a common vision and a strong sense of belonging for all; where diversity is positively valued and celebrated; which is rooted in social quality of life chances in housing, employment and education; and where strong and positive relationships are being developed between people from different backgrounds and different places. 3.12 The key themes that seem to be emerging from community cohesion initiatives are: the importance of recognising the uniqueness of localities; getting high level awareness and commitment from political leaders and senior officers; the complexity of making sense of a broad agenda; and the requirement for on going community involvement and consensus building. 4. The Law 4.1 Legislation the relevant Acts and Regulations are set out in appendix 1 - is designed to ensure that people have equal opportunities although there are some limited exceptions under which it is acceptable to treat people differently because they have a particu