North Yorkshire County Council to create BAME network for staff in wake of Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter protests

A woman holding a Black Lives Matter banner during a protest in LeedsA woman holding a Black Lives Matter banner during a protest in Leeds
A woman holding a Black Lives Matter banner during a protest in Leeds
One of North Yorkshire’s largest employers will create a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) network to combat racism and unconscious bias following concerns exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement.

A North Yorkshire County Council meeting next week will hear diverting staff resources to manage the pandemic had interrupted authority’s review of its policy to eliminate discrimination, a duty imposed on it by the Equality Act 2010.

Councillors will be told it had emerged that further changes would be needed to advance equality of chances for people in light of inequalities exposed and exacerbated by the outbreak, such as school closures, health disparities, unemployment and subsequent economic hardship.

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A report to the authority’s corporate and partnerships scrutiny committee outlines a spectrum of projects that the council had achieved significant success in ensuring both residents and its staff are not excluded from services.

It has been agreed that a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic network led by a senior officer is created to help management hear and better understand the experience of BAME staff and for management to use this better understanding to combat racism and unconscious bias against people from different backgrounds.

It has also been agreed a wider equality group, open to everyone employed by the council, be created to encourage broader conversations on equality issues.

The authority’s executive member for stronger communities, Councillor David Chance said equality and diversity was an important priority for the council as it worked to foster a positive and inclusive approach to its staff and residents.

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He said actions such as the BAME network would enable the authority to maintain its zero tolerance stance towards prejudice.

The report states: “The lack of staff networks based on protected characteristics was also noted. This has meant that the voices of people from different backgrounds are not heard as well as they should be and management do not have routes to consult with groups of staff.”

It states a key scheme to ensure rural residents had mobile phone coverage had slipped due to the lack of interest from the mobile operators, but the council was hopeful one firm would agree a deal to new mobile install masts and a programme would be complete by March next year.

The report highlights challenges facing the authority, such as the widening educational achievement gap between disadvantaged pupils who qualify for free school meals and other pupils and attaining funding for schemes to improve disability access to transport hubs.

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It says while specific inequalities have recently been condemned by the Black Lives Matter campaign, during the pandemic support and resources have been developed for employees with a range of additional needs in mind.

These include support for people caring for children or other vulnerable loved ones, for those who already had mental health needs, and for those caring for those on the autistic spectrum for whom the changes have been particularly challenging.

Since August 20 when shielding has been paused, the council has offered individual risk assessment for any employee with one or more vulnerabilities before any consideration of a return to the workplace.


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