Tips on influencing local strategies for women’s organisations
Influencing local strategies
“Women’s voices and experiences must be heard to ensure the needs of service users are met”.
Women’s organisations should feed into policy consultations around equality objectives, contribute to local Joint Strategic Needs Assessment’s (JSNA), and contribute to specific strategies to benefit women in order to influence provision and policy.
How to respond to consultations
- Ensure you fully understand the question being asked, and what you wish to convey.
- Your organisations views may be at odds with the consultation questions- but these views need to be expressed. Work out how to portray these views or values in response to the consultation questions. (If it’s not possible to insert these as ‘additional information’, perhaps do so in the introduction). Also, try to use the same structure as the consultation document.
- Make sure you timetable your response correctly if you wish to if you wish to make this a collaborative response e.g. ensure enough time to collect data from others before submission.
- A collaborative response is often a stronger response as it shows your organisations views are shared – not individual and swayed by private considerations. Also, ensure that the ‘right people’ respond to the consultation.
- Use views from diverse groups in the consultation e.g. service users, trustees, similar women’s organisations, and equality organisations.
- Be clear, succinct, jargon free and avoid emotional comments. Make a practical ‘business case’ for your views e.g. how can services be more effective, or the additional value of inclusive policy.
- Ensure that your views are backed up by statistics, and you provide references for evidence and research used.
- Use all methods available to ensure your views are heard e.g. if the consultation is carried out by local authority officers, perhaps talk to, or send information to Councillors.
Case study: A women’s organisation’s experience of consultation on the Equality Strategy
One Coventry Women’s group challenged the City Council both on the process for drawing up the equality objectives and the actual objectives.
The challenge on equality objectives was based on the following:
- Concern that objectives were drawn from the Coventry Plan rather than being based on an analysis of equality issues in Coventry.
- Concern that while many of the objectives set had a potential impact on equalities they were not in themselves equality objectives. For example the objective to increase the number of people in employment could be met in a number of ways that could reduce or increase inequality between groups in the city.
- Concern that gender was absent from a number of objectives.
They issued another challenge around the Council’s decision to stop carrying out Equality Impact Assessments (EIA’s). A council Equalities Officer spoke to them setting out the Council’s response to its Specific Duties under the 2010 Equality Act. The officer said that the council would be setting equality objectives as required by the Specific Duties, but that they did not believe they were obliged to continue to carry out EIA’s following Government Equality Office guidance that said “The Equality Duty does not impose a legal requirement to conduct an Equality Impact Assessment”. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/public-sector-quick-start-guide-to-the-public-sector-equality-duty
The women’s organisation challenged the guidance as misleading, since there had been a series of judicial review challenges of decisions by other councils where failure to carry out an impact assessment had been taken as a sign of failure to meet council obligations under the general Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED). The organisation followed this up with a letter to the council equalities team containing a briefing from Dr James Harrison at the University of Warwick School of Law http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/research/centres/chrp/ , an expert in impact assessments. There was no response to this letter so the organisation wrote to the Chief Executive of the City Council raising the same concerns, asking that they be consulted on the Council’s equality objectives.
There was no direct response from the Chief Executive to this letter, so the organisation then wrote to a number of Coventry City Councillors raising concerns that the advice they were being given around EIAs was misleading and would leave the council open to legal challenge. The Council policy on impact assessments has now changed.
The organisation has been successful at raising equality issues in other areas of the City Council. Its Co-ordinator is represented on a group that sets and monitors indicators for the impact of welfare reform on the people of the city and on the Police and Crime Board. In both of these groups the organisation has been able to ensure gender is properly considered. Members of the organisation have met with the Leader of the Council and other senior councillors to discuss the impact of spending cuts on women in Coventry and have found them engaged and responsive with a strong commitment to gender equality.
Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (JSNAs)
What are they?
- JSNA’s identify the current, and future health and care needs of communities to inform and guide the commissioning of health, wellbeing and social care services within each local authority remit.
- The NHS and upper-tier local authorities have a statutory duty through health and wellbeing boards to produce a JSNA, which then informs their health and wellbeing strategy.
- The JSNA helps statutory partners, local authorities, local commissioners, and the voluntary sector to identify and better understand the needs of the local population, and should be produced with input from the local community.
- At a time of financial constraint the JSNA enables service providers to provide more targeted services – therefore being more cost effective. This is why it’s important that women’s organisations are familiar with their local JSNA.
How to contribute?
- You can feed into JSNAs to ensure that women and women’s health needs are included.
- You can find data on public health profiles to use to make your case – http://fingertips.phe.org.uk/ (Find out more here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/joint-strategic-needs-assessment-and-joint-health-and-wellbeing-strategies-explained)
Case study: Islington JSNA and the voluntary sector
Islington refreshes their local JSNA by conducting a qualitative approach towards developing local evidence of need within the voluntary and community sector. Methods to capture this qualitative information included a questionnaire to the citizen’s panel, a call for information from the third sector and an assimilation of existing sources of engagement activity across NHS Islington and the London Borough of Islington. The report from this work informed the JSNA and also highlighted the need to continue to engage with the community and voluntary sector throughout the JSNA process. http://www.islingtonccg.nhs.uk/about-us/jsna/the-islington-jsna.htm
Influencing specific strategies
Another way to influence is to get involved with strategies that will benefit women. To do so you will need to get in touch with your local unitary authority.
- All unitary authorities (including metropolitan and London boroughs) will most likely have a Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy which sets out how they will enable provision of effective services.
- To find out more, go on your local authority website to read the strategy. This will indicate what provision there is and oversight of implementation of the strategy.
- If you feel there are serious omissions or it is not being implemented talk to those who have responsibility for implementation.
- You can use Freedom of Information requests to find evidence relevant to your particular point of view.
Case Study: Model Strategy on tackling Violence against Women and Girls- Thurrock Council
Thurrock Council decided to target VAWG by using a partnership approach. In 2012 they launched a ‘joined-up’ strategy that, according to women’s organisations, put it at the vanguard of efforts to tackle violence against women and girls (VAWG) in England and Wales.
The strategy was developed by the Child and Women Abuse Studies Unit at London Metropolitan University http://www.londonmet.ac.uk/faculties/faculty-of-social-sciences-and-humanities/research/child-and-woman-abuse-studies-unit/ and those involved range from voluntary sector specialists including South Essex Rape and Crisis Centre (SERICC) http://www.sericc.org.uk/ and Thurrock Women’s Aid http://www.thurrock-wa.org/ alongside experts from Essex Police, Healthwatch and other health services. By working together the issue is being addressed in a wider context rather than simply focusing on domestic abuse, as it has in the past.
Thurrock’s strategy is a long term five year plan working towards ensuring there are shared principles across all departments and organisations. They range from educating everyone involved to identify risks and issues, and taking action- including prosecution and supporting victims.
Among other measures, the strategy includes:
- Core definitions of forms of VAWG adopted across Thurrock
- Victims providing quarterly feedback on the provision of support services
- The launch of sustained awareness campaigns
- Anti-VAWG education programmes in schools
- Training for relevant professionals, such as doctors, in how to handle VAWG victims
- Protection orders available swiftly through the courts
- VAWG becoming a priority in the five year police and crime plan for Essex.
See the full strategy here http://www.sericc.org.uk/pdfs/1024_thurrockvawg201203.pdf