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The Equality Standard also provides a framework to review how an organisation treats equality in relation to its service delivery, workforce, policies, procedures and legal compliance against the backdrop of the FA National Game Strategy.
Jonathan Mills from the FA Equality Team recently informed Essex that the Preliminary Level had been achieved. He thanked Inclusion Football Development Officer Cindi Chatha, Chief Executive Phil Sammons and all of the county's staff and volunteers for the time, effort and dedication they'd put into gaining the accreditation. Mills said: "The quality of Essex's submission was very good indeed and that was echoed by the verifier who assessed their portfolio. Specific mention was made of the Essex County FA's disability programmes.
"Also noteworthy were the open equality audit which was promoted extensively to encourage as many players as possible to fill it in. The verifier was impressed by their internal consultation for an Equality Action Plan, which links to staff work areas and a business plan. Equality is a standing agenda item at all board, development and staff meetings and additional Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender training is also delivered to staff. Well done!"
Foundation Level was achieved by the County FA in September 2009 and, as mementoes of their new status, a certificate and a trophy have now been presented. Sheffield & Hallamshire, Kent, Manchester and Surrey are amongst the other counties to have achieved Preliminary Level, while many others are working towards it, having reached Foundation Level.
Staff at the County Office in Chelmsford, as well as council members and key volunteers, will now be attending an FA Equality & Diversity Workshop to continue with their development and education in this area. Cindi explained: "We're over the moon to have reached this point in our journey because a lot of hard work has gone into this.
"We've been examining and assessing our policies to ensure equality and inclusion are embedded into our organisation. We have introduced an Equality Action Plan for everything we do, which is a rolling, working document to be added to and improved over time. Everything we've put in place makes us more equipped to handle cases of discrimination in grassroots."
Sammons added: "Achieving the Preliminary Level shows that we're committed to equality here in Essex, not just ticking boxes. That's been proven by our appointment of a specific Inclusion Football Development Officer. We've been working on this for some time, and our submission was particularly accelerated when Cindi arrived into her position in November. We're determined to show that this award is more than just a badge of honour."
The Essex County FA recognise that individuals and communities may experience unlawful discrimination on the grounds of their race or ethnicity, disability, gender (including transgender and transsexual people), relationship or marital status, sexual orientation (because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or heterosexual), age, HIV status, language, background, physical or mental impairment, faith or religious belief, physical appearance or pregnancy.
They also believe equality for all is a basic human right and Essex actively oppose all forms of unlawful and unfair discrimination. The Essex County FA celebrate the diversity of society and are striving to promote and reflect that diversity within the County FA's own structure. Preliminary Level of the National Standards for Equality was collected with this in mind to demonstrate and measure their commitment to this.
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