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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 05/12/2006
A Draft Disability Equality Scheme for Waverley Borough Council



APPENDIX Q
Waverley Borough Council

CORPORATE OVERVIEW AND sCRUTINY Committee - 20TH NOVEMBER 2006

EXECUTIVE - 5TH DECEMBER 2006

Title:
A DRAFT DISABILITY EQUALITY SCHEME FOR WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL
[Wards Affected: N/A]

Summary and purpose:

This report advises of the new statutory duty, effective from December 2006, for local authorities (and other public bodies) to have in place a Disability Equality Scheme to direct the Council’s activities in ensuring that disabled people are not unfairly disadvantaged and can take an active part in the life of the Waverley community. The report was considered by the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 20th November 2006.

Environmental implications:

There are no immediate environmental implications arising from this report beyond the general implications around actions necessary, which are likely to be many and varied, to ensure that disabled people have an acceptable quality of life in Waverley.

Social / community implications:

The subject of this report is directly relevant to improving social inclusion for disabled people. It is particularly relevant to the achievement of Priority 8 (Increased accessibility and responsiveness) in the Council’s Corporate Plan.

E-Government implications:

There are no immediate e-Government implications although some of the solutions in the proposed Action Plan for implementing a Disability Equality Scheme for Waverley may involve e-technology

Resource and legal implications:

This report addresses a new statutory duty on public bodies to have in place a Disability Equality Scheme.

Resources to implement the Scheme will need to be assessed when, following a consultation period, a formal Disability Equality Scheme is adopted and implemented.

The duty applies to other public bodies in the County and it is expected that working in partnership with other such bodies will bring efficiencies. To this end, Waverley participates in the Surrey Equality Network (for public sector bodies).


Introduction

1. Waverley Borough Council has had in place, for many years, equality of opportunity policy statements in respect of employment and service delivery. It seeks, through a variety of actions, to ensure that the commitments in its policy statements are met.

2. Waverley welcomed the The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) when it was introduced and welcomes the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 (‘the Act’) which requires, amongst other things, Public Bodies, including local authorities, to produce a Disability Equality Scheme (DES).

3. The DDA sets out the circumstances in which a person is "disabled". It says a person is disabled if they have: -

a mental or physical impairment;
if this has an adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities;
the adverse effect is substantial -the adverse effect is long-term (meaning it has lasted for 12 months, or is likely to last for more than 12 months or for the rest of your life).

There are some special provisions, for example:

if the disability has badly affected a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, but doesn't any more, it will still be counted as having that effect if it is likely to do so again
if a person has a progressive condition such as HIV or multiple sclerosis or arthritis, and it will badly affect their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities in the future, it will be treated as having a bad effect now
past disabilities are covered.

The New Disability Equality Duty

4. This new duty brings disability equality into line with race equality. Public Bodies have been required, since 2001, to have in place a Race Equality Scheme. Waverley has such a Scheme.

5. However, this new Act imposes a more meaningful duty in that it is intended to drive forward positive change across the public sector and, in doing so, remove many of the barriers disabled people encounter in their daily lives and make disability equality a reality. Simply, this means it will not be acceptable just to have the Scheme in place. It needs to be based upon effective actions that will improve the quality of life for disabled people in ways that disabled people want their life to be improved.

6. The Act imposes a general duty on public authorities, when carrying out their public functions to have due regard to the need to: -

Promote equality of opportunity between disabled and other people;
Eliminate discrimination that is unlawful under the (1995) Act;
Eliminate harassment of disabled people that is related to their disabilities;
Promote positive attitudes towards disabled people;
Encourage participation by disabled people in public life; and
Take steps to take account of disabled people’s disabilities, even where that involves treating disabled people more favourably than other people.

7. In addition, Waverley Borough Council is subject to a specific duty that requires the Council to produce this Disability Equality Scheme by December 2006.

8. This Scheme has to set out actions the Council intends to take in order to meet the general duty.

A Draft Disability Equality Scheme

9. A draft Disability Equality Scheme for Waverley is attached as Annexe 1 to this report. It represents only the beginning of a continuing journey to ensure that disabled people are not unfairly discriminated against because of their disability and that they are able to participate fully in the community.

10. The commitments set out in the draft indicate that progress needs to be made quickly to ensure that the Disability Equality Scheme has impact. For that reason, it is proposed that, in the first instance, progress reports at six-monthly intervals will be submitted to the Council. The frequency of reports on progress will be considered and amended as necessary as this work progresses.

Further Equality Duty

11. The Council is also advised that a further duty will be placed upon it from 6th April 2007 when, under the Equality Act 2006, the Gender Equality Duty comes into effect. Under this Duty, all Public Bodies must demonstrate that they are promoting equality for men and women and that they are eliminating sexual discrimination and harassment.

Conclusion

12. It is important that, as a means of starting to meet this statutory new duty, the Council makes a commitment to the development of a Disability Equality Scheme and an Action plan for implementing the Scheme.

13. The proposed draft Scheme should be used as a starting point to consult with disabled people in the community with a view to developing an agreed disability equality scheme

Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee

14. The Committee considered the report on this matter and wished to commend the scheme to the Executive. It was noted that the scheme was draft at this stage, until such time as a consultation exercise had taken place with disabled people.

Recommendation

It is recommended that the Draft Disability Equality Scheme, as set out in Annexe 1 to this report, be endorsed as the starting point for the development of a formal Disability Equality Scheme to meet this new statutory requirement.


Background Papers (MD)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.

CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Richard Wood Telephone: 01483 523387

E-mail: rwood@waverley.gov.uk


Comms/o&s1/2006-07/195

ANNEXE 1

(Draft) Disability Equality Scheme for Waverley Borough Council

The Council has a long-standing commitment to equality in respect of both employment and service delivery. It has policies indicate its aim to challenge inequality and discrimination, in whatever form, including age, disability, gender, race, religious belief and sexual orientation.

This Scheme represents an update on our actions on disability, within this evolving framework. It is complementary to other statutorily required Equality Schemes. Together, these schemes recognise that ‘multiple discrimination’ is a reality for some people.

The Council believes that, within service delivery, disability equality is fundamentally about good customer care.

According to the 2001 Census, 4.67% of our residents live in medical and care establishments and 1.8% are permanently sick or disabled. The Disability Rights Commission has, at one time, estimated that one in seven of the population has a disability that is recognised by the Disability Discrimination Act.

The Council’s Corporate Plan recognises, through its priorities, the need to those in the community who may suffer unfair disadvantage and/or discrimination. Those priorities are: -

Priority One: Children & Young People
Priority Two: Older People
Priority Three: Affordable Local Housing
Priority Four: Safe, Clean Environment
Priority Five: A Shaping, Influencing Planning Service
Priority Six: Major Council Development Projects
Priority Seven: Natural and Renewable Resources
Priority Eight: Increased Accessibility and Responsiveness

More recently, the Council’s Community Strategy, developed with other public sector agencies and the public, defines Waverley’s high level objectives for the Borough.

As a start, the Community Strategy focuses on actions that can achieve significant results in three years. The Local Strategic Partnership has identified special projects within some of the main themes and is working to develop special projects for the other themes. The special projects so far are:

Improving quality of life in areas of inequality of access (Theme: Social Inclusion and Policing and Community Safety).
Tackling anti-social behaviour (Theme: Community Safety).
Helping to sustain long term benefits for the rural economy in a major rural development site (The Local Economy).

Long-term vision: in 10-15 years Waverley will be a place where:

There is affordable housing for those who need it
People can get around easily with or without a car
People live in a clean, tidy and attractive environment
People feel safe
People feel healthy (and happy)
There are things to do
People feel involved
People are able to live independently

This Disability Equality Scheme, developed as it will be, through the active engagement of disabled people in our community, will be a key be a key element in ensuring that the long-term vision is achieved. Certainly, we aim to improve the way services are delivered, and people are employed, for the benefit of all.

1.1 Taking forward disability issues within the Council

The decision making process within the Council has a number of different layers. These include: -

The Executive. The Leader of the Authority appoints and chairs this body, composed of Councillors. The Executive is where the most critical decisions are made and the direction for the Council is set. The Executive has an Equalities Champion to ensure disability issues are raised at the highest level;

Overview and Scrutiny Committees. Again composed of Councillors, these Committees hold the Executive and Officers of the Council to account. They also provide recommendations to the Executive;

• The Management Team (MT). Composed of the Directors of the Council’s departments, led by the Managing Director, MT makes operational decisions on the Council’s activities. It also provides advice to the Executive. The Director Champion for Disability ensures relevant issues are addressed at MT level;

Officer working groups. The Equality Advisory Group comprises Officers from each department of the Council. It has responsibility for developing this Scheme (as well as other equality initiatives) and for overseeing its successful implementation. The Director Champion for Disability participates in this group.

Members of the public can raise disability issues with their local Councillor, or they can contact officers of the relevant service by contacting (add telephone numbers and e-mail addresses).

Because of our ethos of continual improvement, we are very keen to hear what people think of the Council’s services. Our Complaints Procedure has been modified to track disability-related issues, ensuring the Authority can identify and root out persistent problems. Complaints (and Compliments) can be made through (add telephone numbers and e-mail addresses).

Physical access difficulties relating to our buildings can also be reported to the Council by contacting (add telephone numbers and e-mail addresses)

Mechanisms are in place to ensure concerns over disability issues from members of staff are addressed. These are: -

Dignity at Work Policy and Procedure
The Officer/Member Protocol
Whistle-blowing Policy and Procedure
The Disability Procedure
The Grievance Procedure
Health and Safety Policies and Procedures

Concerns can also be raised through Employee Consultative mechanisms, or through Trade Unions.

1.2 How we can achieve real benefits for disabled people It is clear that the success of the Authority in addressing disability inequality must be judged by outcomes not processes. For this reason, an action plan will be developed in consultation with representatives of disabled groups and individuals in the borough.

We do, though, need to know the position from which this journey begins. A number of processes and activities have already been put in place, because they are a necessary precondition for addressing inequality. As such a ‘Disability Stocktake’ has been carried out during October 2006.

The overall aim of these processes and activities and those that are developed through an Action Plan must be to ensure that disability considerations are an integral part, not merely of all the Authority’s policies but also of our delivery of services and functions. Consideration of disability must be ‘mainstreamed’ into every aspect of the Council’s activities. This is being taken forward through our approaches to: -

Leadership;
Impact assessment;
Policy development;
Planning;
Performance
Partnership working

2.1 Leadership

The Authority recognises the importance of leadership on a number of levels. The Leader of the Council, Councillor Gillian Ferguson is our Equalities Champion. This Councillor takes a close interest in the progress of these issues. Alongside this, the Councillor champions issues of disability within the Executive itself.

As part of the process of improving outcomes for disabled people, the Authority welcomes the disclosure of disability status by applicants for employment, direct employees and members of the public in situations in which this data is relevant to their interactions with the Council.

People will be most familiar with this in relation to monitoring forms when making an application for employment. However, the Council wants to extend this into the delivery of many functions and services. The purpose of this disclosure is to allow the Authority to identify trends and then use this evidence to plan for improved outcomes for disabled people.

Chief Officer David January is the current Champion for Disability at Director level. The Director ensures issues of disability are taken forward within the Management Team. The Director also works in conjunction with Equality Advisory Group - the officer group overseeing the development of this Scheme and its successful implementation.

2.2 Impact Assessment

Impact assessments are a mechanism for identifying and addressing inequality. It is our intention that all services carry out an equality impact assessment. Each department has agreed to complete equality impact assessments of all their functions by the end of March 2007.

Agreement has also been reached that existing policies will be impact assessed by June 2007. We see this as part of our customer focus.

The impact assessments will contribute to our Action Plan and will help with ensuring that the Plan delivers effective change. The impact assessments will enable the Council to recognise gaps in its performance in delivery disability equality and plan to remedy these.

2.3 Policy Development

We work to ensure that our policies complement our strategic aims (and those of our partner organisations). Our Managing Director has this overall responsibility. Specifically, we will ensure that all formal reports to the Council include a disability impact assessment of the actions proposed in the report.

2.4 Planning

All our service delivery planning looks to improve outcomes for disabled people. The Authority observes the Code of Practice issued by the Disability Rights Commission. It will consult and evaluate what can be learnt from consultation. It will learn from its on-going programme of equality impact assessments.

The Authority takes action on disability through actions set out in Section 3 of this Scheme and Departmental customer focus action.

The proposed action plan will take into account the results from the General Survey which includes questions about disability equality, from a planned disability specific survey and a proposed Focus Forum made up of representatives of disabled groups and disabled individuals. Any additional, actions that are specific to a particular department or service will be monitored by the Equality Advisory Group.

2.5 Performance

We intend to continuously improve. We believe that further increases in performance will need to recognise more explicitly the relevance of equality and disability. Consequently we will monitor what we do through customer research.

To achieve higher targets, issues of disability may have to be tackled head on. For example, more engagement with disabled people could help raise employment rates.

Suitable data collection methods can help identify weakness in performance that initially appears to be strong.

2.6 Partnership Working

In this context, it is not difficult to see the benefits of partnership working. Waverley officers regularly attend meetings of the Surrey Equality Network. The members of the network are made up of representatives from Public bodies in Surrey including the County Council, PCTs, Surrey Police, Surrey Probation Service etc. All of these bodies will have the statutory duty of developing their own Disability Equality Scheme based upon the identified needs of disabled people within the County,

The network has started to consider how the outcomes from consultation exercises can be shared to avoid duplication and avoid asking the same questions of the same consultees.

3. Developing this Scheme The Council acknowledges that a successful Scheme, must meet the needs and aspirations of disabled people, whether they have a physical or mental disability, and must be developed in consultation with disabled people.

Through the actions described in Section ‘2’ above, the Council will identify the key issues to emerge as being most relevant to disabled people.

In further determining its priorities for action, the Council will survey its own workforce (disabled and non-disabled) for views on disability issues.

It will also consider guidance issued by the Disability Rights Commission in developing this scheme.

In order for the Council to check that its proposals are in line with the views of disabled people, the draft version of this scheme will be circulated to our local organisations interested in issues of disability, placed on our website and its existence publicised in the local press.

The Council will, at the earliest opportunity, develop and begin the implementation of an Action Plan for the delivery of its Disability Equality Scheme.

The Authority will compile annual reports (six monthly in the first instance) on progress in the implementation of this Action Plan and will make these publicly available in the same way.


Comms/exec/2006-07/195