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Green light for ambitious plan to tackle inequality in Hounslow

Hounslow Council has approved an ambitious plan to reduce inequality, improve the day-to-day lives of the borough’s most vulnerable residents and communities.

Published: Friday, 12th June 2020

Image of Cllr Katherine Dunne, Cabinet Member for Communities and Climate Emergency.

Hounslow Council has approved an ambitious plan to reduce inequality, improve the day-to-day lives of the borough’s most vulnerable residents, and ensure those from disadvantaged communities have their say on how the Council serves its residents.

There are 18 new areas of work included in the refreshed Equalities Plan which was approved at the Council’s Cabinet meeting this week.

There are 276,700 people living in Hounslow, and it is home to a growing black and ethnic minority population which is estimated to make up two thirds of the total population, while one in every eight residents has a long-term illness or disability.

There is an urgent need to improve the day-to-day lives of the most vulnerable and poorest residents whilst understanding the challenges disadvantaged communities face. This plan will help to ensure equality is considered at all levels of Council decision making and Council policy and service delivery.

The Equalities Plan will be particularly crucial in the changed economy post lockdown. It is projected that Hounslow will be the second-worst-affected borough in London, with a 40 per cent drop in economic activity and tens of thousands of jobs at risk because of the impact of Covid-19 on the aviation industry, particularly Heathrow. National research predicts a disproportionate economic impact for black and ethnic minority communities meaning already-disadvantaged residents are likely to face unemployment, poverty and hardship over coming months and this will particularly affect those in the sectors predicted to shrink.

Research also shows that women, young and older workers will be more badly affected in a more challenging jobs market.

In light of this, the 18 new areas of work agreed within the Council’s priorities include a specific set of equality measures to support the recovery programme to protect and support BAME communities, women and younger and older workers as much as possible from the impact of coronavirus and lockdown.

Cllr Katherine Dunne, Cabinet Member for Communities and Climate Emergency said: “I’m extremely proud to serve one of London’s most diverse boroughs. Its broad range of ethnicities and cultures is a source of inspiration, pride and strength. However, we know we don’t reach, hear and represent all communities in the borough all of the time and we need to do better.

“We all understand the toll coronavirus has taken on our society and economy at large but it is important to stress that coronavirus and lockdown has put already-vulnerable people at more risk.

“This will become more pronounced when restrictions have fully eased and we are returning to normal. ‘Normal’ for many people involves returning to work but for many, their jobs will be gone. Black Lives Matter has been top of the news agenda for the past week but it is always a priority in Hounslow and the agreement made at Cabinet is our way of ensuring we are doing everything we can to protect the black and ethnic minority community, as well as other vulnerable communities, during the uncertain period that lies ahead. This includes proactive plans to engage hard-to-reach communities for test, track and trace when it becomes more universally available to residents.”

The plan's proposals include:

  • Build long-term community capacity in the borough where there are known gaps in community organisations/networks at local level to support specific equality groups, particularly around the impact of coronavirus and lockdown
  • Work with Hounslow’s voluntary sector support to set up a new Community Equality Advisory Group. This new group will act as a vehicle for consulting on equality matters to shape, influence and guide equality impact assessments.
  • Improve services for blind and partially sighted residents in Hounslow (“Right to Sight”)
  • Build social capital for deaf residents and residents with hearing loss, creating new community presence in Hounslow for deaf and hard of hearing residents. This proposal includes introducing British Sign Language classes for the community.
  • Build social capital for LGBT residents
  • Develop culturally competent managers and staff by developing and delivering cultural competency training
  • Continue the Council’s digital empowerment of residents with no digital literacy - 10.5% of adults in Hounslow have never been online.

 Progress already made by the Council on equality matters was also acknowledged at the Cabinet meeting. Just one of the many projects completed in recent years was an initiative where bus companies Metro Line and Abellio were trained by the equality team to ensure bus drivers at the Hounslow Bus Garage were disability aware.

The equalities team also successfully submitted a bid to Public Health for a grant to commission BSL Video Relay Service to help deaf residents communicate with the Council, while the team also negotiated Free Digital Literacy Classes from the RNIB for blind and partially sighted residents.

Cabinet also agreed that the future promotion of equalities events will be led and delivered by specialist third sector organisations who represent equality groups. Hounslow Council plans to build on the social capacity equality organisations in the third sector and this will begin with a review of the resilience of these organisations and the challenges they are facing in order to respond to the impact of coronavirus and lockdown. The Council will continue to have a role at all events and the equality unit will retain a supportive role.

Details of the Equalities Plan can be found here.

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