Topical conversations Re Equality & Equal Opportunities

The simplified list below conveys the spread of conversations in small group scenarios comprised of BBO grant holders and/or partner organisations (29.09.21). The discussions were held for peer-to-peer dialogue and the sharing of experiences and insights.


  • The pandemic has really impacted women more as they have taken the greatest impact from childcare and home schooling, this has hit retention and results in this area.
  • Interestingly one project felt the focus on education was more about women wanting to better themselves and was often high-level education taken up.
  • A number of discussions involved around the targets not representing the local conditions e.g. more male referrals/need. This is where the CCT can come in to demonstrate actions even if they don’t reflect an increase in results.
  • Discussion of ‘equity’ versus ‘equality’ for the MA targets and the conflicts this causes.
  • Evidently, several projects struggling with engaging women appeared to be reliant on DWP/JC+ (i.e. suggesting success/struggle can depend on the pool/spread of people available/reachable at DWP localities).
  • One answer presented is to invest in an outreach team or just do outreach work with hidden groups such as domestic abuse charities etc.
  • Some use Mumsnet to share project benefits to women.
  • Some target young mums programmes and local groups. Plus holding and promoting female only sessions (mostly for fitness/wellbeing) to encourage more females to enrol.
  • Childcare can be a challenge or barrier: some providers require long term commitment whereas BBO partnerships can only pay out while the person is involved/signed-up on project activities. Also tough to find providers when it would be to cover just a short one-off time, or brief series of sessions.
  • Although the jobs market has improved in certain sectors, many of these are on minimum wage so need a spread of employers to work with.
  • Discussion re Care Sector, which has the jobs but poor job training/support/image. There is a greater need to work with these employers to raise standards.
  • Definitely some local linkages to be made as some projects admitted they needed to target men not women.
  • Post anxiety lockdown remains an issue when engaging women specifically, and some projects have noted it as a reason for limiting the time spent on the project.
  • Menopause was tabled in some chats with one project having links to a menopause champion. (Also we learned that October is menopause month).


  • As participants are asked to self-declare a disability there is the possibility of an unknown number of people with a disability being under-reported primarily due to the stigma associated with a disability amongst certain cohorts.
  • Vice versa on the ways data can be skewed, according to some BBO partnerships an unknown number of people have declared a disability (often expressed by participants as ‘mental health issues’ without a definitive/official diagnosis).
  • While this next point is not the norm some participants with very clear disability - do not class themselves as disabled.
  • Many of the disabilities projects are seeing seem to be around mental health issues, which have been exasperated during the pandemic – many of participants from this cohort have stepped back from the programme (not disengaged) due to fears around Covid etc.
  • Those projects who are successful in engaging with disabled participants have cultivated strong links with organisations like MENCAP & Mind, as well as specialist colleges locally.
  • Projects and participants are fighting numerous historic mis conceptions which impact on both participant and employers- we were given an example of a disabled participant who wrote to an organisation prior to applying for a role asking whether, given their disability it was worth applying for a job.
  • Cultivating relationships with potential employers is key to providing employment opportunities – Many projects educate potential employers of the potential of the staff they are recruiting – debunking some of the myths that surround them. Projects need to work with employers to develop their Disability Confidence – working with them to get them to actively recruit disabled employees, provide reasonable work place adjustments and identify suitable jobs and arrange to support participants post-employment and in interviews.
  • Volunteering opportunities are a good way to introduce participants to employment- increasing participant confidence and showing organisations exactly what they can do.
  • Some BBO projects state there needs to be a willingness to challenge recruitment decisions asking why individuals weren’t employed and where necessary point out that discrimination is evident.
  • Many large organisations actively employ staff with disabilities but do little around publicising this this. If organisation were to publicise this and share case studies misconceptions may be helped.
  • COVID and the emergence of home working is providing new opportunities that participants would not have had access to previously.
  • Access to work is useful- although the paper work was seen too much.
  • One project mentioned having developed a toolkit for employers to help the latter understand the people the project supports toward work, and to start to consider these people for employment.


  • Disengagement - Disengaging from the project is an issue, especially amongst over 50’s, perhaps the biggest issue in this age range is the quality of referrals that projects receive, especially those referrals from DWP. Also participants over 50 are more likely to disengagement given their life experiences, almost a feeling of apathy and that they won’t progress to work or training. Some projects would like further support around how to get better quality of referrals for over 50’s especially given increase in targets with extension funding.
  • GDPR - There appears to be a reluctance for many participants from all age ranges to share personal information and data, obviously the entry information required for BBO is extensive and there appears to be a recent shit towards individuals not wanting to share this. Although this goes across all age ranges, projects note that this is particularly prevalent amongst the Under 25’s. Covid could be an issue here as participants are not able to build that rapport with a face to face meeting prior to giving out personal information.
  • Digital Platforms - With the onset of Covid, many projects have moved the delivery of their projects online. Projects noted that the over 50s group have adapted really well to the online delivery, however, they note that the under 25’s have shown a reluctance. They noted that this could be to do with the type of digital media that projects are using to engage with participants , rather than a reluctance to engage digitally at all. However, it was also noted that they thought the under 25s did prefer the face to face contact that projects were able to offer prior to covid.
  • One partnership noted that the lack of face to-face time with young people, in particular, due to COVID-19 has proven to be a major barrier/hurdle when it comes to exit evidence.


  • This acronym was acknowledged, across all sessions during the week, as being contentious for many people and many organisations in the voluntary sector.
  • Vice versa, it was acknowledged also that the acronym remains in very wide usage, for instance: on mainstream media, daily news, political speeches, popular culture, and across BBO partnerships or in the names and language adopted by voluntary sector groups.
  • Interpretation and readings of each letter in the BAME acronym sparked discussion, and some debate.
  • Also there was an acknowledgement in several groups that partners have not been held up by the acronym, and not gotten hung up on any language/culture wars around its use.
  • A few partnerships would like to see a broader range of ethnic (and identity) identifiers – one popular example was “Black British”.
  • Also on broadening the range of identifiers, one partnership suggested that what they dubbed ‘mixed British’ is the fastest growing ethnic grouping, but the available options mean people tend to select ‘Other’ and some people have expressed that this option feels dehumanising. In a similar sense, a different partnership noted how they have what they dubbed ‘Black British’ participants who tell them they don’t identify as either ‘African’ or ‘Caribbean’ and who , also, say ‘Other’ is wrong.
  • One project expressed never having heard the use of ‘BAME’ across local VCSE groups, community groups and among local people.
  • GDPR was raised as a complicating factor by a grant holder but expressed as more of an irritation than an actual stopper to any positive activity.
  • Forms of racism were touched upon – in one case study a black African person who had had to leave their homeland due to a war conflict ended up being helped by a BBO partnership – things went well and so the partnership decided to use the story in some promotional material however when the print materials cam e back from the designer, portraits of the (black African) person had been substituted for images of white people.
  • Confused and missed data was raised. It was expressed how some people at sign-up will self-identify in surprising ways or as an act of resistance to what they perceive to be a limited set of ethnic identifiers. Likewise, some people will choose not to declare any ethnic identification data option.
  • A recent change of eligibility for EEA was tabled in one group however no conversation followed.
  • BBO is truly international: one partnership relayed a story of translators who had been expecting to speak Bangladeshi but it turned out that the young people they worked with had grown up in Italy and so fluent Italian was required instead. A different staffer expressed how wonderful it was to be able to speak her mother tongue (Gujarati) for 3 hours in a BBO session with participants.
  • People seemed generally impressed with the programme-level datasets that were aired across the sessions Re both engagement and results related to ethnicity.

Other/general points

  • Participants’/people’s nervousness on the rise after COVID-19 pandemic conditions; likewise rising mental health flagged up multiple times.
  • Although the BBO programme is not time-pressured, and is not the payment by results model, there was some call for longer time to be spent with people, notably migrants and all people with high anxiety given the pandemic since early 2020 onwards. Some people suggested 2 years is a sensible timescale for working with these people to better support and help progress.