In response to the previous duty to promote good relations between people from different racial groups, Tower Hamlets Council has been undertaking work to tackle inequality and discrimination in the borough for many years. This provided a strong basis to develop further work to tackle high profile incidents of homophobia and Islamophobia in the borough which threatened to damage relations between communities.
In response to several incidents that took place between 2008 and 2009 the Council used the incoming public sector equality duty to build an effective partnership of public and community sector organisations to act together to challenge those who promoted hate and division between different parts of the local community. These partners include the police, local schools, faith communities and lesbian, gay and bisexual community groups.
In 2010 the council funded a conference on Faith Communities and Homophobia in the borough. The event was organised by a steering group of faith leaders from Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and Muslim communities and supported by Rainbow Hamlets, the borough’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender forum, as well as the borough’s No Place for Hate Forum. The event was open to all but considerable outreach work was undertaken to ensure representation from a wide range of faith communities. There was a specific focus on the role of educators and dedicated workshops were run for teaching staff.
In 2010 Sheffield City Council introduced a Single Equality Scheme to cover the period from 2010 to 2013. In anticipation of the introduction of the public sector equality duty, the scheme was extended to cover all protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010, including sexual orientation.
This enabled the council to introduce specific targets around improving outcomes for lesbian, gay and bisexual people, including an objective to reduce year on year homophobic bullying in schools. Once the duty came into force this provided a helpful impetus to introduce a range of activities to try and meet this target, since the council would for the first time be held accountable for its performance in this area.
During anti-bullying week in November 2011 the council launched an LGBT Schools Charter to enable Sheffield schools to self-assess their performance on addressing homophobic and transphobic bullying and on meeting the needs of their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. The charter encourages schools to take practical steps such as introducing a clear policy on homophobic bullying, recording incidents of homophobic bullying and providing relevant training to staff. The council distributed guidance to schools on how to meet the criteria of the charter.
The council also distributed a toolkit to schools on how to meet the public sector equality duty. This includes practical examples of how to meet the duty in relation to each of the protected characteristics, such as role modelling lesbian, gay and bisexual people in the curriculum and discussing different kinds of families including those with same-sex parents.
In November 2011, in response to the newly introduced public sector equality duty, Bury Council simplified its process for analysing the impact of its services, policies and practices on equality. The council replaced its existing equality and cohesion impact assessments with a new equality analysis process.
This process is mainstreamed throughout the council and requires managers to consider at an early stage of development whether each new service or policy is relevant to the general duty and what its impact will be on different protected groups, including lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
The equality analysis conducted for the council’s review of its library services identified a positive impact on lesbian, gay and bisexual people due to the service’s collection of lesbian, gay, bisexual books.
When the public sector equality duty was first announced, Brighton & Hove City Council set up a steering group with representatives from a number of schools in the area to produce a range of resources to help schools comply with the duty. This included a model equality policy, information on setting equality objectives and a toolkit for assessing the impact of practices and procedures on different protected groups.
The council also ran a number of workshops with schools about how to ensure compliance, featuring case studies about schools that were already taking action that would demonstrate compliance with the duty, such as tackling homophobic bullying.
Following the introduction of the duty, the council began to monitor schools’ compliance with it. This has identified a number of examples of good practice. These include a primary school that has set an equality objective to involve under-represented groups more in all school groups and activities – to be evidenced by, amongst other things, increased participation of lesbian, gay and bisexual parents in the school governing body, in the PTA and as volunteers on parent trips. Other primary schools have set objectives to promote positive images that reflect the diversity of the school and community in assemblies, books, publications and learning materials.
Where the council has identified that schools are performing poorly in relation to the duty, they have held one-to-one meetings with school staff to better explain the purpose of the duty and to outline that by better knowing their school community, schools will be better placed to meet pupils’ needs. This has given the council additional leverage to promote work to tackle homophobic bullying in schools.