Responses to Community Issues
Officers will be present to discuss the following issues raised by community groups at the last meeting:
- Equalities profiling form – Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Trans question
- Disabled User Toilets – responding when the alarm is raised
- Green Badge Scheme – allocating new badges under the Green Badge Scheme
- Consideration of access issues in the design of the new HQ.
Officers responded to the following issues raised by community groups at the last meeting:
(i) Equalities Profiling Form
Copies of the Equalities Profiling Form that had previously been agreed by the Group were tabled. Simon Rodgers reported that the LGBT Forum had discussed the matter further at their last meeting. The LGBT Forum recommended that the following wording be used on the Monitoring Form:
“Which of the following best describes how you think of yourself?
· Bisexual 
· Gay Man 
· Gay woman/lesbian 
· Heterosexual/straight 
· Other ______________
· Prefer not to say ”
The Group agreed that the council should be asked to use the wording suggested by the LGBT Forum.
Referring to the section on the form about learning disabilities, Fiona Walker informed the Group that the Partnership Board had agreed wording in respect of dyslexia and learning disabilities. She would forward this to the Equalities and Inclusion Manager for inclusion on the Equalities Monitoring Form. It was noted that, with effect from April 2011, the form would also need to ask if the person was a carer.
It was suggested that the council needed to consider how the Monitoring Form could be made more accessible so that people could complete the form in confidence without asking for help. It was requested that the font size be increased and that it be made available in different formats on request in order to meet individual needs. It was also important that the form was used across all council services to ensure consistency.
Members of the group stated that more needed to be done to make all council documentation more accessible. It was noted that the council was working towards ensuring that information was provided in size 14 sans serif font. Details were given of the work that the Valuing people Partnership Making Information Accessible cross-sector task group was carrying out to encourage the council and other organisations in York to commit to a charter of minimum standards for accessible information.
(ii) Accessible Toilets
Following issues raised at the last meeting regarding the fact that the alarms in the toilets were not linked to a source of help, the Head of Neighbourhood Pride Services was in attendance to discuss the Group’s concerns. He informed the Group that other local authorities had been approached to find out what systems they had in place but none had alarms that were linked to a call out system. The ambulance service had stated that they were unwilling for the alarm to be linked into their system because of the possibility of false alarms. Service providers had been approached about possible solutions but a way forward had not been found. Consideration had also been given to linking the alarms to the Eco Depot but this would not resolve the problems, as there could be no guarantee that the person on duty would not have been called out to attend to other issues.
Members of the Group suggested that the alarm be linked to the Warden Call Service who would then be able to contact the emergency services.
The Group reiterated their concerns that the alarms gave a false sense of security. When the alarms were activated a light flashed but members of the public would be unaware that action needed to be taken to obtain assistance. If it was not possible to link the alarm to the Warden Call Service, signs should be placed outside the toilets to advise members of the public of the need to take action to obtain help.
(iii) Green Badge Scheme
The City Centre Manager was in attendance to discuss with the Group, the concerns that had been raised at the last meeting about the Green Badge Scheme. Details were given about the footstreets scheme and leaflets were circulated. The officer explained the application process and the criteria that was used when allocating green badges.
Clarification was sought as to whether there was a threshold regarding the number of green badges that were issued. Officers explained that there were approximately 2000 green badges currently issued and there were around thirty vehicle spaces in the area. Concerns had been expressed that green badge holders had not able to find a place to park and a decision had therefore been taken to cease to issue green badges. This decision had subsequently been reversed.
Members of the Group stated that they found the green badges to be very useful. Concerns were, however, expressed at the misuse of the blue badge scheme. Officers explained the difficulties faced in enforcement and gave details of the powers of enforcement of the police and the council.
The Group was informed that a review of the footstreets scheme was taking place and the Group’s views would be taken on board.
Members of the Group expressed concern that when consultation took place on issues such as footstreets, the council did not consult with all the relevant organisations. They suggested that the council should compile a comprehensive list of relevant consultees and that all council consultations should be available for organisations and members of the public to complete on the council’s website. The Group stated that they would welcome the opportunity to have an input when a list of consultees was being compiled.
(v) Access Issues in the Design of Council Buildings
As requested at the previous meeting, officers were in attendance to provide further information as to the arrangements that were in place to ensure that the new council building would be fully accessible.
The Group was informed that the contractors had to comply with a detailed brief that ensured that the building was fully accessible throughout and that it would comply with legislation. The building itself was very complex as it was based on the refurbishment and extension of existing buildings. Floor levels varied so there would have to be some ramps and potentially longer routes for wheelchair users in some areas. There would be three lifts in key locations, accessible toilets and a Changing Places facility.
Members of the group asked if employees with disabilities would only be able to work in certain parts of the building. Officers stated that this was not the case. The council’s workforce strategy aimed to encourage more diversity in the workforce.
Officers were asked about the consultation that was taking place with access groups regarding the design of the building. They explained that the developer had been asked to consult with a wide range of groups across the spectrum. The developer also had an access consultant as part of the team. The Group stated that it was important that they were involved as soon as possible. Councillor Gunnell informed the group that the contractors had attended a ward committee meeting and had stated that members of the public were welcome to visit their offices to discuss any issues they may have. It was noted that the contractors had been due to attend the EIA Fair that had been cancelled. It was agreed that they should be invited to attend the EIA Fair in March1. In the meantime information would be obtained regarding the timescales for the project to enable more urgent action to be taken if necessary2. The group requested that the parts of the design brief for the project that related to accessibility were circulated to them3.
Members of the group made the following points:
· Accessibility was about more than mobility, it was also important that the building was accessible for people with visual or hearing impairments or other disabilities.
· It was important that appropriate signage was in place, including signs in Braille.
· Staff training was essential. Staff needed to be aware of how to use evacuation chairs etc in the case of an emergency.
· As well as access within the building, consideration should also be given as to how accessible the building was for people to get to.
RESOLVED: (i) That it be recommended to the Executive that the
Equalities Monitoring Form (attached as a minute annex) be adopted for use by all council departments4.
(ii)That it be recommended to the Executive that consideration be given to linking the alarms in the accessible toilets to the Warden Call Service or, if this was not possible, to ensure that signs were placed outside of the toilets to alert members of the public as to the action that they needed to take if the alarm was activated5.
(iii)That it be recommended to the Executive that the council compile a comprehensive list of organisations that should be consulted when consultation exercises took place and that all council consultations be made available for organisations and members of the public to complete on the council’s website6.
(iv)That the contractors for the new council building be invited to attend the next EIA Fair.
REASONS: (i) To ensure that the council is a fair and inclusive
service provider and that the information collected is consistent across all council services.
(ii)To ensure that arrangements are in place to provide assistance for users of accessible toilets in the case of an emergency.
(iii)To ensure that arrangements are in place to enable effective consultation with voluntary organisations and members of the public.
(iv)To ensure that the group’s expertise is taken on board when ensuring that the new building is accessible.