Equality and Diversity Protocol


It is our pledge to do all we can to strive to ensure that everyone feels that their experiences and well-being are paramount and equal:

  • Children and families should have equal status and have the right to access appropriate services, with each child being included and given encouragement to fulfil their individual potential;
  • Employees should feel safe respectfully talking about any aspect of what shapes their individuality.

Foreword - From the Leadership Team

It is important to us as individuals and in our roles as leaders that we understand the role of inequality in all our lives. It is essential that we reflect together, listen, share and learn.

This pledge is more than a message urging solidarity and active action and education. It is a pledge to encourage ongoing, open discussions about the characteristics that shape us and have an impact on our experiences.

It is our pledge to do all we can to strive to ensure that everyone feels that their experiences and well-being are paramount and equal:

  • Children and families should have equal status and have the right to access appropriate services, with each child being included and given encouragement to fulfil their individual potential;
  • Employees should feel safe respectfully talking about any aspect of what shapes their individuality.

Together we can embed further equality, diversity and community cohesion to the heart of everything we do, across all of our services, from strategic decision making to the delivery of front line services which should be culturally appropriate and accessible.

Everyone we work with deserves a good quality service.

Good quality means making a positive difference, changing and improving lives.

The following strategic aspirations underpin our improvement strategy across all service areas within children's social care. Together they constitute a 'whole system' approach, and ensure that each service areas development activity is set up to benefit the whole service rather than only improve performance in that service area:

  1. Learning from good practice;
  2. Keeping families together where it is safe to do so;
  3. Being ambitious for our children looked after (exceptional corporate parents);
  4. Considering permanency at the earliest opportunity;
  5. Being kind, caring and respectful to all children, families, foster parents and people who have left care, and each other;
  6. Striving for inclusivity, eliminating discrimination and exploitation for all.

1. Our Equality and Diversity Pledge

1.1 An Equal Society

According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the definition of equal society is as follows:

“An equal society protects and promotes equal, real freedom and substantive opportunity to live in the ways people value and would choose, so that everyone can flourish. An equal society recognises people's different needs, situations and goals and removes the barriers that limit what people can do and can be”.

Children's Social Care (CSC) recognises its responsibilities and its duties set out under the Equality Act 2010. The Act covers nine protected characteristics on the grounds upon which discrimination is unlawful:

  • Age;
  • Disability;
  • Gender reassignment;
  • Marriage and Civil Partnership;
  • Pregnancy and Maternity;
  • Race;
  • Religion or belief;
  • Sex;
  • Sexual Orientation.

We expect all our colleagues and partners of Bracknell Forest CSC to strive for inclusiveness. For our society to be fair, cohesive and prosperous, inequality needs to be tackled and discrimination ended; we all have a part to play in that.

Together we can make sure that everyone can fully join in the social, cultural, political and economic life of the borough.

1.2 Our Objectives

For all staff to work in an environment free of bullying, harassment, victimisation and unlawful discrimination, promoting dignity and respect for all, and where individual differences and the contributions of all staff are recognised and valued.

To foster good relations between those who share a relevant protected characteristic and those who do not share it and promote community cohesion between different communities.

To ensure services are easily accessible and can respond to the different and changing needs of our children, young people, care leavers and families.

That we can identify and take action to combat discrimination in service delivery on the grounds of any of the protected characteristics, or on another ground, which cannot be justified.

That all children, young people, care leavers and families are entitled to equal access to services which do not discriminate on the grounds of any protected characteristic.

1.3 Our Commitments

We will:

  1. Ensure that all staff are aware of this Equality and Diversity Policy and receive appropriate diversity training; this will be mandatory within all staff inductions, and all staff must complete the eLearning modules in the Equality and Diversity section within the eLearning Zone;
  2. Take seriously complaints of bullying, harassment, victimisation and unlawful discrimination by employees and the children, care leavers and families that we support;
  3. Ensure that scrupulous processes are in place to remove any implicit bias or unfair treatment in all areas of employment, including recruitment, promotion, training opportunities, pay, grievances and disciplinary action;
  4. Support internal workshops and forums that promote an inclusive organisation, which will include information sessions and employee groups supported by allies at all levels;
  5. Ensure that all commissioned services provided on our behalf have rigorous and appropriate equality policies covering employment and service delivery which meet the requirements of the Public Sector Equality Duty;
  6. Make sure that we provide children, young people, care leavers and their families with services and resources that value differences, promote equal opportunities and help to achieve the best outcomes;
  7. Work with children, young people, care leavers, and families to develop, monitor and review our policies, practices, functions and services.

1.4 Our Employees

We ask that in all that you do, you have:

  • Due regard to eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and ensure that your conduct is in line with the Equality Act 2010;
  • Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a relevant protected characteristic and those who do not; and
  • Foster good relations across all protected characteristics.

Key action points for all staff, in line with the Council's Equality Group Priorities for 2020-21:

  • Bringing your authentic self to work;
  • Work hard to see who is missing – in conversations, in meetings, in service delivery;
  • Being curious about others;
  • Being brave to defend those who are not in the room.

Should understand and be able to differentiate between the different types and categories of discrimination and bias:

  • Direct discrimination occurs when someone is treated less favourably than another person because of a protected characteristic they have or are thought to have, or because they associate with someone who has a protected characteristic;
  • Discrimination by association is direct discrimination against someone because they associate with another person who possesses a protected characteristic;
  • Perception discrimination is direct discrimination against an individual because others think they possess a particular protected characteristic. It applies even if the person does not actually possess that characteristic;
  • Indirect discrimination is where a provision, criterion or practice is applied that is discriminatory in relation to individuals who have a relevant protected characteristic such that it would be to the detriment of people who share that protected characteristic compared with people who do not, and it cannot be shown to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim;
  • Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside of their own conscious awareness. Unconscious bias can lead individuals to favour or discriminate against people because of their own experiences without realising it;
  • Affinity bias is when individuals show a preference for people who they are similar to themselves, because they find them familiar and easier to relate to;
  • Conformity bias is the tendency to take cues from others to arrive at a decision, rather than exercising our own independent judgement.

1.5 Monitoring Equality

This policy will be monitored to ensure that our aims are being achieved and to identify barriers to success, through our service plans, audits, training and connectively with the Council wide Equalities & Diversity Group.

The purpose of monitoring is to identify trends and patterns that may support differences and inequalities between groups, both in terms of staff and the provision of services. It is also a method of ensuring that children and families are receiving the services they need.

We recognise that to provide excellent services we need to regularly review the changing needs of our communities. We need to provide fair and appropriate access to services that are tailored to meet the needs of our residents.

In terms of commissioning:

  • Ensure Officers/ Commissioners complete Equalities Impact Assessments to make sure that they have considered the potential impact of their procurement;
  • Ensure equalities monitoring forms part of the Council's quality assurance framework so all commissioned services are monitored through the gathering of information/ data and ongoing dialogue with providers to analyse the experience of different groups, and take the necessary and appropriate action to improve services for particular groups or redress areas of difficulty.

Equalities monitoring reports and Equality Impact Assessments are available at Bracknell Forest Council Website.

Equality Impact Assessments are tools for assessing the implications of decisions on our workforce and the community. They work to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and promote good relations between people of different backgrounds and groups.

2. Fair Assessments

2.1 Referrals

Must be completed having due regard to ethnicity, language, gender, disability and religion with a view to collating accurate statistics on the take up of services. Accurate and significant information must be taken at the referral and assessment stage, and this must be updated as appropriate.

2.2 Assessment

Must identify the following information:

  • Nationality and Ethnicity;
  • Languages spoken at home;
  • Religions and current cultural practice;
  • Sexual orientation;
  • Disability;
  • The child/young person's view of their own identity and any identity confusion;
  • The child/young person's natural and extended family, their ethnic and cultural origins, experience of racism and the role of religion in their lives.

2.3 Recording

The recording of names is important. Different cultures use different structures for names. People should be given the freedom to identify themselves as they choose, although it can be important, for instance if a police reference is sought, to check whether a name is the person's given name or one they have chosen to use.

Practitioners should raise any subject relating to protected characteristics in a manner which is appropriate, acceptable and fair.

2.4 Language

This should not be a barrier to completing fair and thorough assessments. Appropriate translation and interpretation services should be sought to avoid errors in communication.

3. Ethnicity, Language, Religion and Cultural Considerations

3.1 All Children, Young People, Care Leavers and their Families

Ethnic origin and cultural background must be considered in order to make accurate judgements about a child's needs. It is particularly important in cross-cultural assessment work to try to understand the experience of another.

It is important not only to recognise difference but to appreciate some of the positive aspects of difference. Customs and practices which the assessor might find restrictive can be viewed as a source of strength and fulfilment to individuals brought up in a different culture.

Racism can be one of a range of problems that a family is experiencing. It may be the main cause or contributing factor in their need for services, and it may also affect their willingness to confide in you or trust you or your agency. Although many families are resilient in the face of racism, it is important not to minimise their experiences but to be willing to be open and to understand its impact on a family's day to day life, as issues about racism are often complex and charged with feelings.

Child abuse happens in all cultures and all children have a right to be protected. Cultural differences should not be used as a reason for non-intervention but workers should not ignore family and community networks as a source of protection. Workers should be sensitive to the many differing factors which may need to be taken into consideration, depending on a child's ethnic or cultural background. For example:

  • It may be more difficult for a black child to disclose to representatives of white authority that s/he has been abused – the consequences for the family may be different than for a white family;
  • Religious and cultural beliefs may exacerbate feelings of shame or guilt;
  • It may be less easy for a mother to protect her child in some cultures than others, depending on the power position of women within their culture;
  • It may be that the consequences of disclosing within a particular culture are that the abused child will never be accepted back into their community;
  • It may be that workers will need to consult with appropriate ethnic minority colleagues.

3.2 Children Looked After

When a placement for a child who is from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background is being considered, a systematic assessment will be necessary which should include how the child's ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic needs will be addressed whether at home, in foster care, in residential care or with adoptive parents. Children should be placed with carers who can address their identified needs, and who can provide a familiar way of life, behaviour, attitudes, expectations, religious practices, language, food and cultural activities. In circumstances where it is not possible to provide a “same race” placement it is important that both carers and social workers have or are willing to obtain knowledge and understanding of the child's heritage and they are prepared to help the child maintain their heritage.

The care plan for a Child Looked After addresses both immediate and longer-term needs. It must take account of all information available on ethnic origin, religion and cultural and linguistic background before any decisions regarding the child are made.

When children are placed with foster families or residential carers of a different background, familiar food will assist continuity and will demonstrate that their culture and religion are valued. To help with this:

  • Discuss with the child and the parent what food they like and are familiar with and, where that differs from their own style of cooking, find ways of accommodating the child's preference;
  • Encourage carers to make links with local minority ethnic community centres to find out about different ways of preparing food and where to buy specific foods;
  • Provide relevant training or pay for carers to attend evening classes in particular cuisines;
  • Allow children to have a regular “take away”.

Children should be provided with or encouraged to buy clothes appropriate to their cultural backgrounds. They should be helped to develop a positive image of their cultural heritage in all its forms including dress. Carers need to be aware that fashions in other cultures can change rapidly. Most children want to be fashionable and it helps to build their self-esteem if they can express this.

A range of toiletries should be purchased which meets the needs of black and minority ethnic children. For example, it is common for African and Caribbean children to need certain creams for skin care.

Specialist hairdressers will make sure that hair is kept in good condition and will be able to provide the most up to date styles as well as more traditional styles such as plaiting.

3.3 Staff

Recruitment and selection decisions will be made on the basis of clear and justifiable job-related criteria. Everyone involved in the recruitment and selection process will have undertaken specific equalities and diversity training in this regard.

Specific courses on equality and diversity will be available to all staff. Employees should all understand their responsibilities with regard to ethnic diversity; identifying any instances of racial discrimination, harassment or victimisation and taking appropriate action to address the problem and prevent its repetition.

All employees have the right to a workplace free from racial discrimination. Every employee has the right to be treated fairly, with dignity and respect at all times.

4. Gender, Gender Identity and Transgender

4.1 All Children, Young People, Care Leavers and Their Families

Children regardless of gender who are receiving a service should receive equal opportunities and encouragement to pursue their talents, interests and hobbies. Gender stereotypes of behaviour must not be imposed or condoned. These principles will be achieved by:

  • A wide range of activities being offered to all sexes and attempts being made to overcome peer group pressure, if it prevents children pursuing their interests;
  • Having equal expectations that all children will participate in domestic tasks;
  • Enabling all young people, regardless of gender, access to information relating to sexual relationships in line with their level of understanding and maturity. All young people have a right to information and counselling around sexual issues;
  • Encouraging staff and carers to model behaviour to children that demonstrates that there are gender variant roles and not specifically male, female and trans roles. Whilst individuals will have different talents, interests and skills, the imposition or toleration of sexually stereotyped roles is not acceptable;
  • Some children, because of their previous experiences, may be fearful, angry or acutely self-conscious with staff, carers or other children of a particular gender. Children should be given choices and should not be pressurised to work with or live with someone of that gender;
  • The toys, books, games, posters, artwork, music etc. displayed or used in children's centres, residential homes, foster homes and offices should be non-sexist and should portray positive and varied images of all children regardless of gender.

4.2 Children Looked After

Children will naturally explore their sexuality and gender as they grow up. Carers have a legal and moral responsibility for finding useful and suitable resources or to signpost the child/young person to appropriate services if they need additional support regarding their gender.

The language and processes that agencies and individuals use that require individuals to identify themselves by gender, can contribute to a sense of disempowerment for those who do not feel comfortable identifying themselves as male or female. Adults must listen to children/young people and take their lead from the child for the support and help they need. For example, when the child expresses the wish to be identified by a new name, this should be used in face to face meetings as well as in case records or other formats. This includes the use of the child's chosen pronoun (he/she/they).

Children and young people have the right to and should be supported to style their hair and wear the clothes that make sense for their gender expression. When purchasing clothing or toys for the young person without knowing their preferences, gender neutral items are preferable, until they are old enough to choose their own toys and clothing.

Professionals and carers must be extremely sensitive with the young person's information around their gender identity. Sharing information must be at the young person's pace and they should be ascribed time to explore their identity, allowing this to be a flexible rather than fixed thing. Share information only when the young person is ready to prevent them from feeling out of control about their identity.

Further information and resources can be found at Trans Youth in Care: A Toolkit for Caring Professionals.

4.3 Staff

An applicant's gender identity status is irrelevant to the recruitment process, except in the rare circumstances where a genuine occupational qualification applies to the job. If this is the case, it will be made clear in the recruitment material.

It is not necessary for employees to disclose their gender history. If an employee's gender history is known or becomes known, for example due to certain documents with a previous name, or if an employee chooses to change their gender identity, this information will be kept entirely confidential and at the discretion of the individual.

Support will be offered to any employee who expresses an intention to undergo gender reassignment and we will work with them to ensure as smooth a transition at work as possible.

All employees are responsible for helping to ensure that individuals do not suffer any form of discrimination as a result of their gender.

5. Sexual Orientation

5.1 All Children, Young people, Care Leavers and Their Families

A number of young people to whom we offer services will be lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual or unsure of their sexual identity (LGBTQ+). Those young people should be able to expect acceptance and sympathetic understanding from staff and carers of their sexual identity. This will be achieved by:

  • Heterosexist discrimination, abuse and jokes being totally unacceptable and, so far as is achievable, providing protection from such behaviour by their peers or other adults;
  • Making counselling available when requested by young people who may identify as gay, bisexual or lesbian or are questioning their sexuality, to help them with their uncertainties or feelings, develop their self-esteem or identity or to establish a lifestyle and relationships which are safe, legal and with which they should feel contented and comfortable.

For some young people, being LGBTQ+ may not be well received in their culture. These young people may wish to explore how they can express their sexuality without abandoning their cultural and religious backgrounds. They may also need support to address the reality that, within their communities, sexuality is a taboo issue that may not be able to be open about in the way they wish. Professionals need to demonstrate ways of accepting and valuing diversity with different sexualities and within different cultures and communities. Support and acceptance from a young person's own culture is very important; sometimes they may fear moving outside their cultural norms in case they are rejected by their own families and/or communities.

5.2 Children Looked After

Professionals should not assume that young people are heterosexual. It is important that young people know that they can confide with their worker and/or carer without judgement.

For many young people, the process of exploring sexual orientation is gradual and needs continuous availability by carers. All adults supporting the child/young person should educate themselves in order to ensure they have the capacity and emotional availability to respond appropriately and sensitively to conversations around sexuality.

A young person has the right to decide who they come out to and this information should not be discussed with others without the child/young person's permission.

5.3 Staff

Applicants will not be discriminated against on the grounds of sexual orientation in all aspects of employment.

Homophobic bullying will not be tolerated, and any instances should be reported immediately. Where possible, employees should stand up and tackle homophobic bullying or offensive behaviour when they witness it.

It will not be assumed that any employee is heterosexual. Any disclosure with regards to sexuality will remain strictly confidential and at the discretion of the individual.

6. Disability

6.1 All Children, Young People, Care Leavers and Their Families

Professionals working with children and young people with disabilities and their families must recognise the heightened vulnerability of those individuals and, using comprehensive assessments, the potential interaction with other risks or vulnerabilities within the family.

It is important that professionals understand that whatever the individual's level of impairment, everyone has a right to be heard. When a person's disability limits or precludes verbal communication, then efforts must be made to facilitate communication by appropriate means. Where there is a safeguarding concern relating to a child/young person, parents should not be used as interpreters.

6.2 Children Looked After

Decisions on placement for children with disabilities should be based on a detailed assessment of the child's needs. This should include the wishes and feelings of the child/young person.

All professionals have a role in helping children with disabilities to develop a positive sense of identity in the face of negative public stereotypes about disability.

6.3 Staff

Reasonable adjustments will be made, where necessary, staff with disabilities, potential staff, or staff who become disabled during:

  • Recruitment and selection;
  • Development and Training;
  • Retention;
  • Redeployment;
  • Work locations, equipment, etc.

Attitudinal barriers can prevent people with disabilities from giving their best. It is vital, therefore, that all employees commit to taking steps to prevent discriminatory practices.