ARCHIVE: Introduction to the race equality scheme
Our previous Equalities Schemes set the standard for how people can expect to be treated. They provided a framework for the processes of monitoring, consulting, engaging and reviewing all our policies, procedures and practices, whether they relate to the corporate or local level across seven strands of diversity (Age, Disability, Gender (including Gender identity), Race, Religious Belief or Faith, Sexual Orientation and working patterns ).
This Race Equality Scheme (RES) sets out what is specifically required of Defra as a public authority and contains arrangements we already have in place and will build on, as well as new activity.
Implementing the Scheme is part of our drive to transform our organisation into one which is equality-focused. To do so requires effort and commitment on the part of everyone at Defra. We will make major changes if required. What we seek to demonstrate to all our stakeholders is measurable improvement in the quality of all that we do. Focusing on what people tell us we do well and not so well, delivering what they want, these are the key outcomes for our Scheme. Everyone must be able to see that the difference we speak of goes beyond just publishing policies – the difference will be in the outcome. This Scheme lets our staff know what their role will be in one clear message.
We will build upon the progress made through our Race Equality Scheme (2003) and Joint Equality Scheme (2006) and use the experience gained in their production to meet new duties. By developing an inclusive and comprehensive Scheme we will review our services in a consistent way, whilst recognising the complexity of the communities we serve and work alongside.
In our equalities work as a whole we will show an equally high level of commitment to all seven strands of diversity, not lessening any emphasis on achieving Race Equality, but not creating any hierarchy of difference. We acknowledge that individuals do not fit into one category of difference but may, in fact, belong to a number of strands and potentially experience multiple discrimination.
Why this Approach?
There are legal and strategic reasons driving the production of this Scheme. The Race Relations (Amendment) Act provides a specific remit for listed public bodies to have in place a Race Equality Scheme which sets out its arrangements for meeting a general duty to promote race equality and a set of specific duties which underpin the general duty. It also requires each to develop an action plan to drive forward improvement.
To fulfil our role of helping people live within their environmental means, it is essential that we have the fullest engagement with Britain’s diverse communities. Without this our work on climate change, sustainability and the natural environment would be seriously undermined. In particular, we need the support of all stakeholders, be they from rural or urban communities or employees or potential employees. We need individuals, families, communities and organisations to work in long-term partnerships with us. We need to harness the positive aspects of difference to make our work more effective.
We engage with people and win their support through the way we value and deal with them as individuals. We recognise that through our actions and behaviours we have the opportunity to make significant improvements to the quality of our activities delivered to the communities we serve.
Overall, 7.4% of our staff comes from ethnic minority communities, a figure which is broadly in line with the proportion of the economically active ethnic minority population in the UK, which is 7.9%. The comparable figure for the Civil Service as a whole is 8.8%. About 3% of Defra’s ethnic minority staff have self declared as Asian and another 4% are declared as Black. The remainder of staff describe themselves as having Mixed ethnicity or having an ‘Other’ ethnicity.
We hope to raise our profile to become an employer of choice We will do this by offering fair and open selection and promotion processes, opportunities for everyone to realise their potential and also by implementing transparent, equitable and supportive conflict resolution procedures, because we value our people. We will also consult with recognised trades unions to ensure transparency and fairness in our procedures.
There are clear legal responsibilities and obligations that we have to meet.
Discrimination is identified in law as taking one or more of four forms: that is, it can be direct or indirect, or involve victimisation or harassment. The Race Relations Act 1976 outlawed racial discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services and in employment. It also provided legal remedies for discrimination.
The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 requires listed bodies to move on to a proactive footing. They must now positively promote race equality to help avoid race discrimination occurring in the first place. This means we must do more now than we ever have. Legislation sets out the general duty to promote race equality and a set of specific duties to underpin it. These include the development of a Race Equality Scheme to demonstrate how each listed body will comply with its general and specific duties. The duties require us to have due regard for the:
The general duty says that the body must have 'due regard' to the need to:
- eliminate unlawful racial discrimination; and
- promote equality of opportunity and good relations between people of different racial groups.
‘Due regard’ means that within all our activities we give due weight to promoting equality in proportion to its relevance. Specific duties concern how public authorities are going to translate the general duties into tangible and recognisable activity; for example, it is our specific duty to produce a Scheme, identifying how we are going to promote equality. Defra must consider these needs in carrying out all its functions and must meet all three parts to fulfil this duty.
Defra also has to meet specific duties. One of these is the need to publish a Race Equality Scheme. This Scheme sets out the functions and policies that Defra see as relevant to the general duty. The Scheme also covers:
- how the Department assesses and consults on the likely impact of its policies on the promotion of race equality;
- how policies will be monitored for adverse impact;
- arrangements for publishing the results of its assessments, consultations and monitoring;
- arrangements for ensuring public access to the information and services provided;
- arrangements for training staff in connection with the duties.
Finally, Defra has a specific employment duty to monitor a range of employment practices from recruitment to retirement.
The General Duty: the Impact of Defra’s Policies and Services
Defra has a wide range of responsibilities relating to the environment, food and rural matters. More details of Defra functions are set out in the Departmental report published in May 2007. The ‘functions’ to which the general duty could apply could therefore cover a wide range of duties and powers, including both formal and informal decisions taken by Defra staff in carrying out their duties. However, not all functions are likely to have a significant racial dimension. For example, race equality is unlikely to have significant relevance to the work of the British Cattle Movement Service, which issues passports to farmers for their cattle, although race equality is clearly relevant to employment matters in BCMS.
- How the Department identified relevant functions: We carried out an initial review of all areas of Defra activity to identify those that are likely to have an impact on race equality and therefore to have functions relevant to the general duty. To do this we compiled a list of all policies and functions for which Defra has responsibility.
- How we assessed the impact: We looked at each function or policy to establish whether there was a race dimension. The basic impact assessment considered available evidence such as known public concern, results of previous monitoring, comments from stakeholders. Divisions also provided where possible evidence of no differential impact. The initial assessment is at Appendix 9. Details of policies/functions which affect minority ethnic groups are at Appendix 10.
- How we will ensure continued compliance: Policies highlighted in Appendix 9 will be reviewed over time to ensure that Defra continues to meet the requirements of the “general duty”. In particular during the three-year period of the Scheme we will review the classification of all policies and functions to check that they have been correctly classified; find out whether anything has changed; or take into account new information. We will also take into account any comments on the assessments expressed by stakeholders, both internal and external.
The reasons for our approach include the need to acknowledge commitments to existing and planned activity, high level reports, and robust examinations of our procedures as well as the work that our partners are undertaking. For example, we need to acknowledge activity still being undertaken such as reviewing our targets under the Government’s “Delivering a Diverse Civil Service – A 10 Point Plan” and as part of our revised diversity strategy. The Civil Service 10 point plan is currently being consulted upon and Defra is keen to ensure that a revised Strategy takes account of BME staff at all levels in Civil Service grading structures.
At Defra we are keen to promote positive action training (in the past we ran an Elevated Partnership Scheme which targeted BME staff at management level) and mentoring programmes which would lead to greater opportunities for promotion/development for under-represented groups.
Equality Standard for Local Government (ESlg)
To ensure that our activity is driven consistently, and that progress is measured effectively across the organisation, we have adopted the four strategic criteria from the Equality Standard for local government (ESlg). This is in use across local government and elsewhere in the public sector, and demands that all our functions should provide a fair and equally accessible service to all stakeholders.
It will enable us to include race equality within related policy, practice and procedure at all levels of the organisation and will ensure continuous improvements are made to all race equality practice.
The ESlg framework places emphasis on four key areas: Leadership, Service Delivery, Employment and Community Engagement. These themes underpin the action plans contained in this document and are expanded upon on further in this publication.
What does success look like?
The extent to which this scheme is successful should not be judged purely on a statement of activity. Success will be measured in terms of delivered outcomes that tackle race discrimination. We will become an organisation that champions equality for all ethnicities and leaders in:
- promoting equality so that all our staff and stakeholders can enjoy their full human, social and employment rights free from racial discrimination;
- providing responsive and accessible services for everyone we serve;
- challenging and eradicating racial discrimination;
- embracing diversity as a source of strength and opportunity for Defra;
- ensuring that our workforce reflects the diverse population of the U.K. and encourage exemplary employment practices, such as continuing positive action programmes and mentoring schemes across the Defra network.
Page last modified: 4 August 2008
Page published: 4 August 2008