Policy document

Equality, diversity and inclusion 2022-2025

Published 1 March 2023

Public Sector equality duty

Rights and responsibilities

As a public authority the Council has responsibilities and a duty to fulfil for both its residents and staff. This was introduced in the Equality Act 2010 which replaced previous anti-discrimination laws with a single Act; simplifying the law, removing inconsistencies, making it easier to understand and comply with. It also strengthened the laws to help tackle inequality and discrimination.

The Equality Duty applies to public bodies which includes the Council and other organisations carrying out public functions.

It supports good decision-making by ensuring public bodies consider how different people will be affected, helping them to deliver policies and services that are efficient, effective and accessible to all by meeting different types of people’s needs.

The duty applies to nine ‘protected characteristics’: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex and sexual orientation.

Duty

What the Council must do to fulfil this duty is:

  • Publish information to show compliance with the Equality Duty, at least annually.

The information published must show due regard to:

  • Eliminating unlawful discrimination harassment and victimisation  and any other conduct prohibited by the Act
  • Advancing equality of opportunity between people who share   protected characteristics and people who do not share it
  • Fostering good relations between people who share a protected  characteristic and people who do not share it
  • Set and publish equality objectives, at least every four years.

These should be specific and measurable.

By publishing relevant equality information to demonstrate transparent decision-making processes the Council becomes accountable to its service users. This in turns provides the public with the information they need to hold it to account, should they need to, for its performance on equality.

Armed Forces Act 2021

All councils have voluntarily signed the Armed Forces Covenant. The further enshrinement of the Covenant into law is an opportunity to build upon work councils are already leading to help serving personnel, reservists, veterans, and their families to have the same equality of access to public services as their civilian neighbours. This includes the areas of focus in the Act – housing, education and healthcare. Councils play a key role in the provision or commissioning of these services with partners and joining-up support around the needs of an individual and their family.

Our Armed Forces Community is included in our consideration of equalities impacts as part of decision-making.

Policy statement

Maidstone is the County Town of Kent, a historic market town with a rich and diverse history. It is constantly changing and evolving. What remains important as Maidstone changes and grows is that residents have a sense of belonging and community in order to prosper.

As a council we want to know our residents, we want to ensure that we are meeting their needs by offering opportunity and access to services through a conscious awareness and understanding of equality and diversity issues.

Our commitment to achieving this is outlined in the standards and actions set out in this document. These apply to staff, councillors and to those who deliver services on our behalf.

Maidstone Borough Council’s Strategic Plan 2019-2045 sets the Council’s strategic vision for the borough of Maidstone. It outlines the council’s priorities and informs on its values. Equalities are firmly ingrained in the council’s values.  This document helps determine not only the decisions made by the officers and elected members but it also advocates our approach to day to day business and conduct, and the way we treat our customers and each other.

Services

Everything we do impacts on our customers, both internal and external. We will listen to and understand their needs, then take action to
provide the right services in a positive and professional manner.

Teamwork

Working together to achieve our objectives and goals in a way that that utilises talent and creativity of everyone in our organisation.

Responsibly

We work in an environment that encourages us to take ownership for our actions. Making the right choices and decisions that lead to a satisfactory
outcome for all.

Integrity

We have the courage to act on our convictions to build trust and honesty We work with our partners and customers to create a feeling of openness and transparency in everything we do.

Value

Taking care and weighing up our options, aiming to get the maximum effect for every penny of public money we spend.

Equality

Valuing our differences and understanding how they can contribute to a better working environment and services that are fair and easy to access

We will deliver on our commitment to equalities by setting an organisational standard through clear objectives for each of the three important roles and responsibilities we have as a council:

  • Role 1: As a Community Leader: We will engage with residents in an open and meaningful way.
  • Role 2: As a Service Provider: We will ensure our services are inclusive, accessible and support residents and customers.
  • Role 3: As an employer: To have a workforce that feels valued and respected.

Objectives and action plan

As a community leader

Objective - To lead by example, to ensure every individual resident is connected and supported.

Commitments

Actions

Responsibility

Timeframe

We will work closely with our partners (Voluntary and Community Sector, Anchor Institutions, Parishes and Church and Faith groups) to:

  • Identify opportunities for joined up working and improving our ability to share information to support and engage our wider communities
  • Increase volunteering opportunities and participation, funding and support
  • Create join up with Housing Associations to deliver hardship payments as part of the Xantura project
  • Implement no wrong door (local campaign to signpost to services) – increasing access to services
  • Provide access to digital training and support at Trinity House.

Housing/Revenues and Benefits

All teams (led by Inclusion board)

Housing

Communities, Policy and Engagement team

April 2023

March 2023

Review January 2023

We will undertake a review of consultation and engagement activities to ensure that they maximise resident participation and are representative of Maidstone’s demographic.

Increase response rates from underrepresented groups though us of Let’s Talk Maidstone (the Council’s public engagement platform)

Communities, Policy and Engagement team

Review January 2023

We will support and promote diversity and inclusion in the borough through our communications and events – with a focus on our seldom-heard communities.

Expand internal Equality Diversity and Inclusion Group to provide internal direction and challenge

Create Diversity Calendar -  Annual calendar of events to celebrate diversity and promote inclusion in Maidstone

Communities, Policy and Engagement team

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Officer Group

January 2023

March 2023

We will support our serving and veteran communities through our commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant and responsibilities under the Armed Forces Act 2021 with guidance provided to staff across all services.

Provide guidance to enable all staff to support Armed Forces Community

Policy, Communities and Engagement team

March 2023

Connections to other plans

As an employer

Objective - To lead a diverse and inclusive workforce that is reflective of the borough of Maidstone where residents and colleagues feel safe, confident, and empowered to challenge and bring about change.

Commitments

Actions

Responsibility

Timescale

We will train our staff so that they are skilled in inclusive practice, to work with communities who are less able, or willing, to participate in life in their local neighbourhoods.

We will provide training and support to staff so they can recognise and manage unacceptable behaviours

Provide Staff training in Cultural Competencies

Introduce Equalities Champions (including elected member and senior leadership)

Deliver the Culture change project

Human Resources

Policy Communities and Engagement team

Human Resources

Review January 2023

April 2023

Ongoing

We will create a strong, internal sense of community within the organisation.

Introduce Annual staff EDI survey to identify need and benchmark progress

Policy, Communities and Engagement team

January 2023

We will look after the mental health of our staff and recognise when this offer needs to change

Provide training and support for Mental Health Champions

Human Resources

Ongoing

Connections to other plans

As a service provider

Objective - To deliver inclusive services in accordance with Council’s values.

Commitments

Actions

Responsibility

Timescale

We will use specific and meaningful language when referring to diverse communities

Adopt of LGA Inclusive Language Guide

Policy, Communities and Engagement team

April 2023

We will support access to services and support through ICT process, communication and join up with partners

Proactively use ‘neutral spaces’ to increase access to support and services for residents

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Officer Group

All Services

Review January 2023

We will take an evidence-based approach to leading recovery in Maidstone including a specific work stream on communities.

Identify emerging needs from Census data

Data Analytics team

December 2023 (ongoing release)

We will review the Equalities Impact Assessment processes.

Include ‘Poverty’ as a local protected characteristic with the EqIA process

Policy, Communities and Engagement team

January 2023

We will review and identify our policies where we consider equalities impacts and identify how we can improve outcomes through revisions to policy.

Include Armed Forces Act 2021 in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy

Prioritise existing Policies by review date and implement process of review for equalities.

Policy, Communities and Engagement team

Policy, Communities and Engagement team

December 2022

Review February 2023

Connections to other plans