Northamptonshire County Council are currently consulting on the future of their library services and are proposing to close all of their small libraries, and possibly all of their medium libraries. These are notes I'm collecting to help determine how the public sector equality duty might be relevant to the proposed changes.
The Public Sector Equality Duty
The Public Sector Equality Duty is laid out in §149 of the Equality Act 2010: The relevant bits seem to be:
The whole thing isn't long, so it's probably worth you reading it in its entirety.
As applied to libraries
Other interesting bits include:
Sue Charteris has a presentation on Creating a Comprehensive Library Service - Getting the Equality Duty Right. We're reminded that services have to be comprehensive and efficient, which again reinforces that budgetary constraints may be a consideration. There should also be a thorough needs assessment for all protected groups. The presentation has a worked example:
Again, the whole presentation is worth reading.
Northamptonshire's Equality Impact Assessment
The proposal has an equality impact assessment compiled by First for Wellbeing's Service Delivery Manager, and signed off by First for Wellbeing's Managing Director. First for Wellbeing "is a Community Interest Company (CIC) - a social enterprise set up specifically to service the needs of the local community."
The methodology used by the equality impact assessment is as follows:
- Use demographic data collected by individual libraries on their users
- Compare the demographic data for libraries proposed for closure against the same data for all libraries in the county.
These data show that protected characteristics are fairly equally distributed across the county, e.g. that there are proportionately just as many people with disabilities proposed for closure as in the county as a whole.
On the basis of this, the impact assessment makes the claim:
There are no groups of library members who are disproportionately impacted by these proposals when compared to all library members
This is patently false. These groups are just as likely to be subject to a library closure as the general population, but they may still be disproportionately impacted by such a closure. For example, a person with a disability who cannot drive and has a limited bus service is going to be disproportionately impacted by a closure than someone with their own transport.
The impact assessment does not in any way consider the needs of groups with protected characteristics, nor consider how the impact on these groups can be mitigated.