Race Equality Matters is pleased to announce that Devon Council have been awarded Bronze Trailblazer status!


Between 2021 and 2023, Devon Council dedicated themselves to tackling structural racism and tackling race inequality, which they found in an independently commissioned. 100% of our judges agreed that their application had demonstrated evidence of action taken in tackling racial inequality and 75% voted for them to receive the Bronze Trailblazer award.


Actions and initiatives


Strengthening governance, resources and accountability


After analysing the results of their audit, Devon Council responded to them in their Strategic Plan, which is available to read on their website. They established an influential Race Equality Staff Group, chaired by a senior manager with an ethnically diverse background. This group steered and challenged a Race Equality Delivery Group who were responsible for implementing the corporate Race Equality Action Plan, published in September 2022 with real-time progress reporting.

Progress reports have been provided to the Strategic Leadership Team on a regular basis, as well as public accountability being provided and involving the political side of the organisation through the Corporate Infrastructure and Regulatory Services Scrutiny Committee. Additionally, the EDI team has been expanded.


Creating a safe and inclusive working environment


Devon Council have implemented various ways to tackle race inequality and create a safe working environment for their ethnically diverse colleagues, including: having a multi faith room, promoting their ‘It’s OK to say it’s not OK’ campaign which encourages staff to report incidents of racism and other forms of discrimination or bullying, providing trauma informed training for HR staff who answer the  ‘Unacceptable Behaviour’ helpline, and updating the Unacceptable Customer Behaviour policy and guidance to address racist abuse from customers.


Shaping organisational culture


As an organisation, Devon Council have identified that they need people who were motivated to make change and could use their ‘positional privilege’ within the organisation to drive this work forward. They have developed anti-racism webpages with resources and information for staff, developed a corporate EDI Communications Strategy which includes a calendar of cultural and religious events and awareness days, and continue to work in collaboration with staff, partners, and the voluntary and community sector on a programme of engaging events that explore ethnic diversity and antiracism.


Gaining senior leader buy-in


The Strategic Leadership Team, including the former Chief Executive, took part in a reverse mentoring scheme, which the former Chief Executive stating it was the “most powerful personal development” he had received in his entire career. Following the publication of the audit both the Chief Executive and Leader of Council issued statements, one which read: “We know that we have much more to do in the County Council if we are to help Devon become a place where all our Black, Asian and ethnically diverse residents and staff feel safe and included. It is not sufficient to be ‘not racist’ for then we fall into the trap of condoning racism through our silence. I want us to be intolerant of racism and actively challenge racist language and behaviour.”


Impact and Ethnically diverse Staff Endorsement


Devon Council have done well to ensure ethnically diverse staff have been involved in their work and positively impacted them. Some ways include:


  • Their race equality audit was carried out by three local and independent people who have lived experience of racism in Devon
  • The audit included interviews with ethnically diverse staff who were also invited to help shape the recommendations and action plan arising from the audit
  • Ethnically diverse staff were given the opportunity to participate in the 12-month pilot ‘reverse/reciprocal’ race mentoring program which provided training and ongoing support and development through group supervision sessions
  • The new Resolution Policy was produced in consultation with the Race Equality Staff Group, replacing the Grievance Policy and applying a Restorative Practice approach, and ethnically diverse staff helped develop the new Customer Notice and Lone Working policy/risk assessment process
  • Through their ‘It’s OK to say it’s not OK’ campaign and ‘Unacceptable Behaviour’ helpline, more people have come forward to tell them what is happening so that they can target action and support. Reports of racism quadrupled from 2021 to 2022 and the EDI team and HR team review cases every six months to ensure they are managed effectively.
  • Following on from the events they hold, all staff who attended were asked to complete a feedback form which was evaluated on personal role, grading and service area
  • They had taken part in many Race Equality Matters initiatives with some events relating to the Race Equality Themes, including #ItsEveryonesBuisness and #MyNameIs (‘more than a name’)
  • Feedback from one ethnically diverse staff member who previously felt they could not address racism and didn’t feel safe was: “I was given the opportunity in April 2020 to be a race mentor to a senior leader. Not only were they able to listen first-hand to the overt racism staff were facing, but also be able to truly understand the impacts of trauma for those who have experienced racism.”


Feedback from an Ethnically Diverse Panel


Our Trailblazer judging panellists noted that there was “a substantial paradigm shift in the culture of the organisation” and many praised the “exemplary use of the data discovered through the independent audit” and said Devon Council’s application showed “a commitment to investment demonstrated through the substantial increase in the corporate equality budget and senior leadership endorsement”.

They felt the application was strong and the testimonial shared demonstrated changes to learning and understanding as well as the culture of the organisation where colleagues are now feeling more confident to ask questions. One panellist in particular said there was “good evidence of measures put in place in terms of accountability and the fact that they have pushed the boundaries to produce unprecedented guidance for individuals” while another said they “have taken this opportunity to turn around the situation” after being accused of racism.

There was unanimous agreement that “many commendable initiatives” had been implemented and that Devon Council “demonstrated transparency and responsibility and
effective future planning.”


2023 to 2024


Since achieving Bronze Trailblazer status, Devon County Council have:


  • Provided training and mentoring, including running a training pilot on decolonialisation, trauma-informed and compassionate leadership to all senior managers within Intergrated Adult Social care and all members of the Corporate Senior Leadership Team.
  • Initiated a review of Disciplinary and Acceptable Behaviour policy and procedures to ensure they effectively address racism in the workplace.
  • Introduced a new Equality Commission with cross party elected membership on the Board, an influential Equality Steering Group of staff and community sector representatives, and a Delivery Group – this approach will build on the work around race and integrate intersectionality
  • Developed a new Equality Action Plan to support the work of the Commission.
  • Corporate participation for REW 2024.
  • Continue to engage people through events and information.
  • ‘Anti-Racism in School’s Project’ was launched in 2024 following the rise of reporting of racism incidents in Devon Schools. We are working collaboratively within Devon County Council and with other partners: district councils, police, public health and voluntary organisations) to understand schools’ needs and support staff and governors feel empowered to tackle racism and become anti-racist. So far, five sessions have been delivered to over 200 people.  This number continues to grow as there are other 6 sessions booked between now until September 2024.
  • No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) training to be delivered to targeted workers in May 2024.


Next Steps…

  • Continuing a Compassionate and Inclusive Leadership Programme.
  • Ensuring bias-free processes in recruitment and selection
  • Improving procurement and commissioning standards so that they influence organisations providing services on their behalf
  • Making better use of information and data including developing Census 2021 profiles and an Equality Dashboard to measure outcomes


Statement from the current Chief Executive:


“There are many barriers to race equality, including a lack of understanding of what it feels like to be in others’ shoes and what it means to be positively inclusive, and small changes make a real difference in how people feel. We are committed as an organisation to challenge inequality, celebrate diversity, and create an environment where everyone feels safe, supported and included. To help achieve this, and in response to the Race Equality Audit, we are continuing to make changes to workforce policies and practices.”


Follow Devon Council’s Lead: Become a Trailblazer


If your organisation is driving change for Race Equality and you can demonstrate impact, endorsement from ethnically diverse employees and share future plans; register your interest for the next round of trailblazers.

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