We asked Marlene Blake, Team Leader, Housing Department and Chair of Black Workers’ Support Group to tell us a bit more about how the Black Workers’ Support Group is helping people across Leicester City Council to be more informed, engaged and effective in our workplace.

As well as being a team leader in the Housing Department, I’m also delighted to be the Chair of the Black Workers’ Support Group. First and foremost, we are a support group and we’re doing incredible things to make sure that all Black staff know that they are valued and enjoy equality of opportunity in accordance to the Authorities public sector duty

Over time, the group has grown into a valuable network for many, where like-minded people can share good practice.

We share issues and we learn from each other, we empower and motivate  people in their current role and to progress to new ones by providing training opportunities and guest speakers

We encourage people to have a voice in their service areas where there needs to be more consideration around diversity and fairness, and to raise workplace issues with their unions.  we’re at the heart of the relaunch of the Council’s Equality and Diversity Charter to improve awareness of what is required to meet these commitments. That includes helping the Council understand how we can encourage more Black people to not only apply for jobs at the council, but then to progress to senior jobs. We have also helped to drive improvements in the recruitment process, such as introducing anonymous applications, the development of an unbiased selection process and interview training.

We’re also very much involved in helping the Council to adapt to new ways of working and the cultural implications that this has. For example, the impact agile working may have on colleagues who live in multi-generational households. We encourage our members to voice concerns so that their needs can be taken into account. We have briefed members on DSE and individual  risk assessment checks, ensuring that they access to the right tools and technology by requesting assessment via the GOV Access to work scheme with an understanding of the impact on their health and well-being.

Even now that our monthly meetings are on Microsoft Teams, one of meetings  attracted more than  150 people, so we must be doing something right!

The Council gives members two ½ hours each month to attend and I advise members to put the meetings dates in their calendars early so service needs can be planned around them to enable their attendance.   attendance to the Black Workers Support group meeting is supported and have been endorsed at the highest level by managers, the Mayor and our Chief Operating Officer. We know after meetings that colleagues return to their workplace positive and refreshed. Their stress levels are often reduced and this benefits everyone.  

I know the benefits first-hand. At first, for me, the meetings were a chance to share

cultural concerns but more opportunities quickly opened up: courses on building confidence and assertiveness, inspiring guest speakers and the opportunity to join the ‘Women in Leadership’ programme. I’ve also had access to training I couldn’t have got elsewhere. And I am not the only one, many people have benefited.

In fact, I have seen many people promoted with support from the Group. It helped me to secure my first management job.

It’s most rewarding to help make the council a better place to work. We offer people guidance on how to call out unfairness, having those uncomfortable conversations about racism and discrimination and we give colleagues a forum to ensure that their voice gets heard. We celebrate our equality and diversity and put them at the centre of everything we do encouraging all Leicester city council employees to do the same.

I support the Authorities action plan in developing employee talent within Leicester City council to ensure that the cultural diversity of the council’s workforce  also reflects the diverse mix of people in Leicester.

Though we are still having the same conversations about diversity and inclusion excited about raising the profile of the authorities ‘Tackling Race Equality’ group in response to Black Lives Matter agenda which aims t address the disparity amongst our staff and wider. Which aims to promote more cultural awareness in schools, museums and other cultural venues and  cuts across many other themes. Do visit the  councils webpage https://www.leicester.gov.uk/your-council/how-we-work/equality-and-diversity/black-lives-matter/

Going forward we would like to see the procuring council services through suppliers that actively support the Black community and other local businesses. For Senior Officers to  review the performance of council projects,  initiatives and the employee and HR complaints  to understanding what worked, what lessons have been learned and how we can address them in the future.

I am really proud of our work and the progress the Authority are making but  more can be done.

We would like to actively reach out to the communities we want to engage with, have the time to meet with community leaders, see the authority offer more people work experience and give colleagues the opportunity to do special projects, mentoring opportunities that would enable then to ‘work up’ into senior roles.

The Black workers Support Group remain committed to advancing equality, fostering good relations and eliminating discrimination, harassment and victimisation

If you’d like to have your details added to the Black Workers Support Group email and Teams distribution list, then please email bwsg@leicester.gov.uk.