Why we chose to add looked after children and care leavers to our equality commitment
By Cllr Jenny Bullen, Portfolio Holder for Children and Families
In December, I submitted a motion to request that Wigan Council takes the progressive step of adding looked after children and young people and care leavers to the protected characteristics listed in our Equality Commitment.
The motion was passed at our full council meeting meaning that looked after children and young people and care leavers will become the fourth additional protected characteristic that Wigan Council has chosen to include, alongside those required by law.
The fact that looked after children and young people and care leavers are now part of our Equality Commitment means that every time a new policy is developed, we are required to consider the impact it will have on those children and young people. If we think it may have a detrimental effect, we discuss what reasonable adjustments we can build into the policy to make sure that does not happen.
This is important because we are all corporate parents to these young people, and it is our responsibility to make sure they are looked after.
A recent independent review of children’s social care, commissioned by the Government, reported that Government should include care experienced people in the protected characteristics listed in the Equality Act.
This has not yet happened, but the fact that it is not yet legislation should not delay us from doing what is right.
I feel strongly that in Wigan we need to act now, to make sure we are being the best corporate parents we can be. We are in a position to make a difference, and I hope that this decision will mean that some of our most vulnerable children in the borough will now be happier, healthier and safer and have the confidence and opportunities to be ambitious and strive to achieve their goals.
One of the concerns that may put other organisations off expanding their list of protected characteristics could be the perception that a whole new policy needs to be created. But it does not need to be complicated as instead your Equality Commitment can be easily expanded.
Two years ago, Wigan Council added socio-economic disadvantage to the protected characteristics listed in our Equality Commitment. In Wigan, alongside those characteristics referenced in the Equality Act, we had already added carers and armed forces personnel, so a precedent had been set and adding an additional characteristic is now a relatively simple process.
Equality Act legislation already requires authorities to take age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation into account when making decisions.
I hope that other councils will consider expanding their Equality Commitment to include looked after children and young people and care leavers.
Posted on Tuesday 20th December 2022