Speaking about North Ayrshire councils’ commitment to equality

It was a real pleasure to attend the reception and awards ceremony in Ayr on Saturday and show North Ayrshire’s support for LGBT Youth Scotland.  I was there both in my role as Youth Champion and as Chair of the Corporate Equality group.  North Ayrshire’s Corporate Equality Group is responsible for directing, supporting and reviewing the arrangements for promoting Equality, tackling discrimination and fostering good relations on behalf of North Ayrshire Council.
North Ayrshire council has strengthened its approach to equalities over recent years.  We now have 9 equality outcomes which we aim to achieve.  These were devised after extensive consultation with our communities and act as a focus across the council.
Our Equality Action Plan contains actions from all Council services outlining exactly what they will do to achieve outcomes such as “pupils feel safer in schools” and “the incidence of hate crime is reduced”.  In Education, very important work is being undertaken in our schools.  Training is being provided to ensure that staff are better informed in relation to the reduction of homophobic language in particular and indeed discriminatory practice in general.  We are improving the recording of bullying behaviour and Equalities champions in every school are promoting an anti-bullying ethos.
We are particularly proud of “OpeN Ayrshire” our first LGBT Youth group.  The group are well established meeting weekly to promote and support local Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender young people.  OpeN Ayrshire were recently finalists for a Rising Stars award, this is an awards ceremony held in North Ayrshire to recognise the positive contributions our Young People make to their community.  The group as a whole were recognised for their excellent work they’ve done as a team creating and promoting their group for LGBT young people and their supporters – we are very proud of them and I was really pleased that Joshua and Sian from the group attended the civic reception with us.
At North Ayrshire Council we aim to mainstream equalities.  We are moving away from seeing equality issues as an additional part of council business and instead recognise that promotion of equality must be an integral part of the way North Ayrshire Council thinks and functions.  In April this year we published a report on Mainstreaming the Equality Duty in North Ayrshire.  This provides a useful overview of the range of work we are taking to raise the profile of equalities issues within the council.

We are very clear that it’s not enough just to ensure that our policies and practices not discriminating unlawfully and are taking proactive steps to promote equality and advance equality of opportunity.  To do this we use an Equality Impact Assessment toolkit.  The results of these assessments are available on our website.  In further support of this approach Equalities training will be mandatory for all North Ayrshire Council employees and an e-learning training course has been developed, which in addition to training provided as part of the corporate training programme will help all staff to take on board their responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010.  For us it’s not just an understanding of equality policies and procedures but also effective implementation and meaningful change throughout North Ayrshire that is required.

This is a journey we are on and means building on previous work in changing sometimes long held attitudes, language and behaviours.  I really believe North Ayrshire is making progress, however recognise that there is always more that we can learn. 

Events like Saturdays are a wonderful opportunity to do just that.  I enjoyed hearing from the other speakers on the evening and it was a privilege to be part of celebrating the success of our young award winners.   

Signing the Pledge