Tackling the embedded inequalities exposed by the pandemic is vital for community recovery.
The COVID-19 pandemic has acted as a magnifying glass, bringing to the fore the impact that embedded inequalities have on our residents’ lives and life-chances.
Coupled with the heightened awareness that the Black Lives Matter movement has generated, this has created a growing recognition of the need for genuine change to address inequalities.
Throughout the pandemic, councils have demonstrated the vital role they play in protecting our society’s most vulnerable people.
Councils are community leaders, promoting cohesion, and bringing people together in a common cause at a time of uncertainty. They have been advocating for and supporting their staff, many of whom come from communities that have been particularly affected by the crisis.
Councils have continued to provide essential services, while adapting services to meet specific needs, bringing together diverse partners to deliver support, and responding to established and emerging vulnerabilities.
They have been at the forefront of supporting their local economies and businesses, offering preventative services to those at risk of hardship, championing the ‘green’ economy, and ensuring the harder-hit places and employment sectors get the support they need.
Evidence shows that there has been, and will continue to be, significant social and economic repercussions from the pandemic. These impacts – health, social, and economic – play out in complex and dynamic ways in local communities, with some groups more at risk of poor outcomes than others.
Councils are working hard to understand and mitigate these impacts and narrow the gap that the pandemic has widened.
Addressing inequalities already intersects with much of the LGA’s work, with several programmes that aim to promote equality.
The ‘Be a Councillor’ programme encourages diversity in those putting themselves forward to become councillors (see www.local.gov.uk/our-support/highlighting-political-leadership/be-councillor).
The LGA’s improvement offer includes the Equality Framework for Local Government and equalities peer review, which are due to be refreshed. The LGA’s Workforce Team supports local government as an employer of more than two million people with objectives to improve diversity and inclusion at all levels.
Community cohesion and empowerment are key elements of
LGA focus around creating safe and resilient communities, which is complemented by policy work around specific inequalities.
Underpinning all this, LG Inform makes local and national data accessible, which helps councils design appropriate policy and services for their communities and understand the impacts of their decisions on equality (see www.local.gov.uk/benchmarking-data-lg-inform).
We recognise more needs to be done to curb inequalities and stop them from being further ingrained, and that councils need support to address these issues.
The LGA has already begun an internal equalities review of its policies and processes and will be reviewing the range of LGA activity around equalities to identify how we can improve. Every LGA Board will now have an equalities advocate who will challenge us to embed equalities in everything we do.
As we move through the recovery phase, we must grow our understanding of how inequalities are perpetuated and help councils turn the tide in a post-COVID world.