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Snapshot of learning: Getting to the heart of things

Summary of the action taken

Many councils are keen to include representatives of people with protected characteristics (in law) in decisions and day to day practice. Devon County Council is very well organised in this respect and have a formal process to recruit to their Equality Reference Group (ERG). This group works with various council committees and considers the day to day work of the council, looking at policies and processes. This helps the council ensure underrepresented views are heard by decision makers and that policies and practices make services available to all.

To ensure a fair recruitment takes place the council adopts its tendering process, this may seem quite daunting but taken a step at a time it is quite a straightforward if bureaucratic exercise. This snapshot explains the processes Fawcett Devon went through to be selected as a member of the current ERG. The benefits were that the group's views are heard in the heart of local decision making and the group receives a fee for providing this service.

Details of what happened

The starting point is to read through the recruitment pack. This explains the role of the ERG and its members, gives background information and full details of the recruitment process including a specification of what the council is looking for. The pack makes good night-time reading but some of it is vital information so worth the time spent.
The most crucial document is the specification. This document explains what the council is looking for and it is vital that you explain in your application why your organisation is a good match and how your representative will approach the role in the way required. Each point needs to be addressed even if it seems obvious to you - the panel will not use prior knowledge of the organisation to help them make a good decision.
We were selected to make a presentation and attend an interview. The briefing on the presentation needs a good read and any points made need also to reflect relevant aspects of the specification used in the application phase. It is also useful to identify examples of activity which fit with the specification and the presentation briefing.

Outcome and thoughts about why things turned out the way they did

One of the common features of these sorts of interviews is that each interviewee is asked the exact same question with no supplementary questions asked. It is crucial to expand on your answers - this is why taking the time prior to the interview to identify examples of activity is so useful, as you have them ready to draw on as needed. You need to think back to the specification and try to make sure you cover as many of the things the recruiters are looking for.

We were fortunate that we knew how these sorts of appointments work and knew we needed to address the specification at all stages of the recruitment process. Understanding the questions asked are an opportunity to expand our answers was also an important feature of our success.

Things you would do differently or do again in similar circumstances

Things went very well but we were somewhat unprepared for the tight timescales. This is not a process that can be completed by a committee, it is much better for one or two people to start and finish the process and only go back to other members with specific queries.

Ensuring other requirements such as insurance are in place as soon as possible is also helpful. Our internal processes got in the way slightly and led to a delay in confirmation of appointment

We were appointed and the funding will pay for all our activities in the coming few years, our views will be heard and we will be contributing to ensuring women's voices will be heard at a county level.

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