Agenda and minutes

Equalities Committee
Monday 20 February 2017 6.00 pm

Venue: Board Room 2 - Brent Civic Centre, Engineers Way, Wembley HA9 0FJ. View directions

Contact: Nikolay Manov, Governance Officer  020 8937 1348, Email: nikolay.manov@brent.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

Declarations of interests

Members are invited to declare at this stage of the meeting, any relevant personal and prejudicial interests and discloseable pecuniary interests in any matter to be considered at this meeting.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of Interests made by Members.

 

2.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 117 KB

Minutes:

RESOLVED that the minutes of the previous meeting, held on 6 December, 2016 be approved as an accurate record of the meeting.

 

3.

Matters arising (if any)

Minutes:

The Committee heard that Section 4.3 of the Task and Finish Group’s Progress Report on Eastern European Communities living in Brent had been updated to include schools as a venue for holding local drop-in information sessions. This had been done in accordance with Resolution (iii) of Minute No 8 of the minutes of the meeting held on 6 December 2016.

 

4.

Deputations (if any)

Minutes:

None.

5.

Impact and mitigation of the Overall Benefit Cap pdf icon PDF 309 KB

The report provides details of the expected impacts on residents of the reduced welfare benefits cap, and the steps taken to offer support and services to residents affected.

 

Minutes:

David Oates (the Council’s Head of Customer Service and Benefits) delivered a presentation on the impact and mitigation of the Overall Benefit Cap (OBC). He informed Members that the reduced OBC had been introduced in November 2016 and it had limited further the funds available to benefit claimants living in the Borough (£442.31 per week for working age couples and single parents and £296.35 per week for single persons living in the London area). He stated that 1,500 people in Brent had been affected by the OBC, with 600 of them subject to the previous cap and single claimants aged 35 or over living in privately rented accommodation being the most heavily impacted client group. Moreover, 80% of capped claimants were unemployed, 40% of which received Job Seekers Allowance (JSA), 35% received Income Support and 25% received Employment Support Allowance (ESA). In terms of demographic impact, there was a large amount of people whose ethnicity was unknown, but data available broadly reflected the Revenues and Benefits caseload and Brent’s areas of deprivation. Mr Oates informed the Committee of the four options available to claimants to address the impact of the OBC, stating that most likely, residents had to find somewhere more affordable to live (including outside Brent) or find work sufficient to qualify for Working Tax Credit. He noted that the Council’s approaches had changed to implementing more partnership work and strategic engagement rather than using an interventionist approach. Measures which had been implemented to mitigate the impact of the OBC included targeted publicity (emails, texts, publications in the Brent Magazine); the addition of a central Hub of information to be used by partners, a benefit calculator, and a budget calculator on the website; the targeting of the Local Welfare Assistance Scheme and Discretionary Housing Payment Fund to assist or incentivise affected residents; and the improvement of the interaction between services in the Customer Services Centre ‘triage’ in Brent Civic Centre.

 

Members of the Committee asked questions which related to partnership working arrangements, including compatibility of Information Technology (IT) systems, sharing of information and working agreements with third parties such as housing associations and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). In response, Mr Oates explained that the Council had been sharing data and engaging with the relevant specialist agencies rather than trying to develop expertise in various matters. In terms of IT, good data sharing between parties had existed despite the fact that systems had not been fully compatible. Furthermore, collaboration with the DWP had been promoted by their representation at meetings of the Welfare Team.

 

In response to a request for aggregated information on gender, disability and ethnicity (by community) of those impacted by the OBC, Mr Oates explained that  gender breakdown of affected claimants would be provided at the next meeting of the Committee. He clarified that the categories used by the service should be reflective of the corporate template. He also reminded Members that despite the fact that twenty-two ethnic groups existed, over one third of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

European Union Referendum and the Impact of Uncertainty on Brent Residents pdf icon PDF 663 KB

The report looks at the impact of uncertainty on Brent residents and services following the European Union referendum.

Minutes:

Anne Kittappa (the Council’s Senior Policy Officer, Strategy and Partnerships) introduced the report, which looked at the impact of uncertainty on Brent residents and services following the European Union referendum.  She noted that the 2011 Census, indicated that 11.5% of Brent’s population were born in Europe. This share had spiked in 2014 and then decreased over time by 2015, with the number of babies born to European mothers declining as well. Mrs Kittappa highlighted that European nationals had been overrepresented in the Electoral Register as they constituted 16% of the electorate in January 2017, with the majority of the population being concentrated in Wembley Central and Alperton wards. She noted that Brent had been aware of a small proportion of cases of fraud when Brazilian, Russian and Ukrainian nationals had been buying counterfeit Portuguese and Hungarian passports respectively. In terms of employment, European nationals constituted a small proportion (up to 13%) of staff at the London North West Healthcare National Health Service Trust, Central and North West London National Health Service Foundation Trust and London Ambulance Service. Mrs Kittappa noted that the proportion of applications to nursing courses made by European Nationals had declined over five years from 3.1% to 2.5%.

 

Members enquired about the next steps following the report and Carolyn Downs (the Council’s Chief Executive) asked if numbers of European nationals employed by the Council were available. David Veale (the Council’s Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development) said that ethnicity data was collected but not nationalities data so the team would look at that information might be collected.

 

As the report focused on European nationals living in Brent, it was suggested that it should be renamed to ‘European Union Referendum and the Impact of Uncertainty on European Union Nationals Living in Brent’.

 

The Committee heard that the number of rough sleepers had increased with Romanian citizens constituting the largest proportion of rough sleepers. Members highlighted that homelessness and casual illicit labour (as per paragraph 11.4 of the report; page 27 to the Agenda) were linked and enquired how the Council worked with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Police to tackle employers who hired casual labourers. This led to a discussion about potential services targeted at Eastern Europeans which could provide stability for these communities, and the work and recommendations arising from the Task & Finish Group on Eastern European communities, the scope of which was to identify and address socio-economic barriers and challenges facing these communities. Members were reminded that a report was presented to them on 6 December 2016 but that a progress update would be provided later in the year.

 

Ms Downs highlighted that key issues Brent had to address included overcrowding in Houses of Multiple Occupation and street drinking. She said that the Council had not been connecting well with Eastern European communities and pointed out that these communities were probably under-represented in the workforce. Pascoe Sawyers (the Council’s Head of Strategy and Partnerships) informed the Committee that a Community Engagement strategy  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Brent's Equality Analysis process pdf icon PDF 250 KB

The report outlines the Council’s Equality Analysis (also known as Equality Impact Assessment) process of assessing the potential / likely impacts of proposed changes on service users with protected characteristics. The Equality Analysis (EA) process aims to ensure that the Council’s decision-making is evidence-based and robust.

 

The organisation has a similar internal EA process for restructures which is outside the scope of this report.

 

Minutes:

Andreyana Ivanova (the Council’s Head of Equality) introduced CounBrent's Equality Analysis process report, explaining that it focused on the Equality Analysis (EA),also known as Equality Impact Assessment, process adopted by the Council to assess equality impact of Council’s decisions on service users and communities. The Council also has an internal EA process for assessing impact on employees with protected characteristics from restructures but this is not within the scope of this report. She reminded Members that in early 2015 the Council introduced an online EA system, which was supported by a comprehensive communications and face-to-face programme.

 

The system incorporates an initial screening and a second stage full equality impact assessment. The online system provides users with guidance of every stage of the process and they can access useful statistics and examples of best practice. Apart from a mandatory e-learning module, the Equalities team  provide face-to-face training and ongoing support to service areas. Equality considerations are part of the Council’s business processes and Equalities implications have to be considered in all decision-making. Directors have to sign the final version of the analysis; and the EA has to be published as part of the relevant decisions and reports. However, Ms Ivanova pointed out that the system had not been used efficiently as some report writers preferred to complete the paper version of the EA. The Equalities team sought feedback from EA users who acknowledged that the system had not been very intuitive and user-friendly. In addition, the reporting and monitoring function of the system is very limited and in order to extract relevant Equalities Analysis information (e.g. negative, positive, neutral impacts identified) the team has to interrogate the EAs manually.

 

Ms Ivanova highlighted that the annual contract for the software had been due for renewal and a decision had to be made whether the system was fit for its purpose. The Chair commented that if the Council had been paying £1,000 per year for a system that had not been efficient, other options had to be explored. David Veale (the Council’s Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development) explained that the team had been considering the introduction of an internal electronic form on the Intranet if necessary.

 

In responses to questions that related to the functionality of the system, accessibility of EAs by Members, data available, and any potential training, Ms Ivanova explained that Appendix 1 (page 37 to the Agenda) showed what the system interface looked like, with the only difference being that Members couldn’t see the relevant supporting information and guidance which provided useful context to EA writers. In addition, the Equalities team would overview the draft EA and make comments and suggestions. Sometimes one EA would be reviewed by the team two or three times until a comprehensive version had been developed. EAs are included in all relevant reports that are presented to committee meetings. Mr Veale encouraged Lead Members to approach the Equalities team if they had specific questions on Equalities.

 

RESOLVED that

 

(i)    The contents of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Progress update on the 2016-17 Equality & Diversity Action Plan pdf icon PDF 46 KB

The item provides the Committee with a progress update on the 2016/17 Equality and Diversity Action Plan.

Minutes:

Andreyana Ivanova (the Council’s Head of Equality) provided an update on the progress of the Equality Strategy Action Plan. She drew Members’ attention to page 41 to the Agenda pack. She highlighted that in January 2017 the Council had been ranked among the top 200 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender-inclusive employers by the 2017 Stonewall Workplace Equality Index, which constituted almost a hundred points improvement since the previous year. She also emphasised that all status updates had turned ‘green’ as all objectives had been completed.

 

Ms Ivanova informed the Committee that the Equalities team had started working on the 2017/2018 Equality Strategy Action Plan, which linked to the current plan and would be informed by key activities and initiatives in individual service plans. The committee requested that the Women’s Budget Group and Runnymede Trust publications be considered during the preparation of the 2017/2018 Equality Strategy Action Plan. 

 

RESOLVED that

(i)    The annual progress update of the 2016/17 Equality Strategy Action plan, be noted.

 

(ii)  The Women’s Budget Group and Runnymede Trust publications be considered during the preparation of the 2017/2018 Equality Strategy Action Plan; and

 

(iii)The draft 2017/2018 Equality Strategy Action Plan be provided at the next meeting of the Committee.

 

9.

Exclusion of Press and Public

 

The following item(s) is/are not for publication as they relate to the following category of exempt information as specified in the Local Government Act 1972 namely:

 

Paragraph 3

 

“Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information)”.

Minutes:

RESOLVED that under Section 100A (4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting during consideration of Agenda Item Number 10 on the grounds that it involved the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A,as amended, of the Act:

 

Paragraph 3

 

“Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person

(including the authority holding that information).”

 

10.

Equal Pay Audit benchmarking (verbal update) pdf icon PDF 689 KB

At the Equalities Committee Meeting on 6 December 2016 Members requested a report comparing Brent’s 2015-16 Gender Pay Gap Audit data to other London Boroughs.

 

The 2015-16 Gender Pay Gap Audit report is attached as an appendix for reference.

 

Members will be provided with a verbal update on cross-council Gender Pay Gap benchmarking data. The item is exempt from publication because the cross-council benchmarking data is not currently available in the public domain.

 

Minutes:

Following a request from Members at the last meeting held on 6 December 2016, David Veale (the Council’s Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development) provided a verbal update comparing Brent’s Gender Gap Audit data to other London Boroughs. He noted that reporting Gender Gap Audit data would become a legal requirement for local authorities from April 2017, with a requirement to publish reports no later than March 2018. Data from the Local Government Association Earnings Survey 2014/15 indicated that Brent had been comparable with other West London boroughs and its position had been reasonably good when compared with other boroughs in London. A Member of the Committee commented that Brent had to continue benchmarking against other authorities to ensure that it was performing well and identify potential improvements.

 

RESOLVED that the verbal update be noted.

 

11.

Any other urgent business

Notice of items to be raised under this heading must be given in writing to the Head of Executive and Member Services or his representative before the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 64.

Minutes:

There was no other urgent business.

 

12.

Date of next meeting

The next scheduled meeting of the committee is on

Minutes:

The date of the next meeting of the Equalities Committee was scheduled to take place on 2 May 2017 at 6 pm.