How will people feel about equalities monitoring?

Equalities monitoring means that people do need to provide detailed personal information.  People can sometimes be worried about this.  Generally, the main concerns are:

  • why do you need this information?
  • who will see this information?
  • what will you do with the information?

It is important that these concerns are addressed, to encourage people to give you the information you need to plan and improve your services.  It is also vital that staff and volunteers understand the importance of collecting this information. 

The following screens set out how you can ensure people are as comfortable as possible with the process of gathering monitoring information.

Approach monitoring in a sensitive way
When working with people from equalities groups it is important to be sensitive about some issues they may feel uncomfortable with.  Remember, people are often discriminated against because of certain characteristics, so they might be reluctant to provide certain information.  You need to take this in to account.

Explain how and why the information is being gathered and used
Firstly, make sure that there is a clear explanation of exactly why you are gathering the information, what you will do with it, and who will see it.  For example:

We are committed to providing a high quality service to everyone.  It helps us if we know a bit about the people who are using our service.   It would be very helpful if you could fill in this short equalities monitoring form.

The information you provide will be anonymous.  It is also voluntary - you don’t have to fill it in.  Or if you like, you could fill in some parts and not others.

We will only use this information to help us to improve our services in the future.  We will anonymise the information, and provide details on the overall number of service users in each category to the Community Learning Partnership, and other funding organisations.

Statements like this can be helpful in encouraging people to complete monitoring forms. 
Demonstrate a commitment to equality
The main way to encourage completion is through demonstrating that your organisation is committed to equality.  This is a longer term objective, but can be evidenced by publishing the results of your analysis of equalities monitoring information, and committing to action to address any inequalities identified.  

Example: encouraging people to fill in ethnic monitoring forms
Hackney Community College wanted to encourage more students to complete the voluntary ethnic monitoring section of enrolment forms.  In 2003, almost one third of students did not declare their ethnic origin on the form.  To encourage students to complete the form the college produced leaflets explaining:

  • what information was needed and why;
  • how it would be used; and
  • how the use of such information would benefit the students
Training was also provided to staff on how to ask questions on ethnicity and other personal information.  By 2005, the number of students declaring their ethnicity had increased by 20 per cent.