It has become apparent that during many of the projects that Wokingham Borough Council is involved in that the needs of disabled residents are being overlooked or side-lined. It is normal for Councils to consult with Disability groups and to complete Equality Impact Assessments during the design phases. This should be done in all service areas, including highways, planning, property services etc.
What procedures and processes are in place within Wokingham Borough Council to ensure that these consultations occur and that it meets its obligations under the equality act in all of the projects and services that the Council is involved in?
It has become apparent that during many of the projects that Wokingham Borough Council is involved in that the needs of disabled residents are being overlooked or side-lined. It is normal for Councils to consult with disability groups and to complete Equality Impact Assessments during the design phases. This should be done in all service areas, including highways, planning, property services etc.
What procedures and processes are in place within Wokingham Borough Council to ensure that these consultations occur and that it meets its obligations under the Equality Act in all of the projects and services that the Council is involved in?
The Executive, as you may be aware, approved the Council’s Equality Policy in March 2017; this may be just before you joined the Council. This is underpinned by guidance and an Equality Impact Assessment template. This is supported by e-learning modules for all staff and specific e-learning for managers as well. Consultation with residents takes place in line with the statutory requirements of the item being considered.
The Council works within an approved Council Plan that includes its vision and principles that translate into service plans and individual team and personal development targets and this includes the underpinning principle; to look after the vulnerable. This should therefore be embedded in everything that we do. The Council Plan is in the process of being refreshed at the moment as well.
Following implementation of phase 1 of the 21st Century Council the formation of a Strategy and Commissioning Team will also help ensure a consistent and joined up approach to both Equality Impact Assessments and consultation. These changes will enable the Council to further enhance its approach to community engagement and particularly to disability groups.
We have to have due regard to the needs of the advanced equality opportunities within the Equalities Act and we are required to promote support for people with particular disabilities in this instance. I found with the Carnival Pool there were a lot of things missed. Although people talked about the British Standard I would put a couple of seats in. They didn’t look at automated doors, they didn’t look at seating that is outside in the rain. These are modern buildings, these are new buildings and I don’t understand why we are not meeting the standards that are required as part of the Code of Practice.
My concern is what are we going to do to fix them and how are we going to make sure that this thing is better done with Bulmershe pool?
In terms of Bulmershe pool there will be an assessment done at the appropriate time. In fact for the Carnival Pool I have the Equality Impact Assessment here and I am happy to take away some of the suggestions of what you think is missing but there are also a number of things which have been taken into consideration which I hope you would feel are appropriate and meet the needs of the users. I am happy to read out some of the points and those are: the public spaces have been designed to optimise inclusivity and accessibility and those include things like the changing rooms; accessible toilets; pool access pods; generous corridor sizes and lobby spaces; two vertical circulation lifts etc. I know that you raised some issues about the car parking and that has been raised to Councillor Bowring at the Council meeting and there are conversations going back and forth about that. So those are the particular items that Councillor Bowring is addressing at the moment.
As you say if there are particular items eg doors etc like that that we can address then perhaps we can organise a meeting to look at the specific items that you think we have missed and we can take those back and have a look at them. I would be very interested to hear what you think.