Equality and access for customers

Somerset Waste Partnership (SWP) manages waste and recycling services for Mendip, Sedgemoor, South Somerset and West Somerset District Councils, Taunton Deane Borough Council and Somerset County Council.

This includes collection, recycling and disposal services for almost 250,000 homes in Somerset and access to the 14 Recycling Centres and two Community Recycling Sites in the county.

We recognise that the diversity of such a large population means that adjustments must be made to allow access to the service for all.  The main ways we ensure our services are accessible are as follows: –

Assisted Collections
Assisted collections are available to residents who find it difficult to take their containers to the road for their scheduled collections.  This may be due to frailty or physical impairments.  This service allows them to leave their containers at an agreed point on their property.  The crew will then go on to their property to collect their waste and return the empty containers to the collection point.

This is promoted when there are major service changes, on our website and in service information.  To get the service customers should contact their district council, briefly explain their circumstances and agree a place where their containers can be left.  We may get in touch from time to time to check the service is still required.  There is no additional charge for provision of an assisted collection.

Extra Capacity for those with a need
If there is a genuine need resident’s of Somerset can contact their District Council and request a larger bin, or excess waste stickers.  These requests are passed to Somerset Waste Partnership for assessment.  Extra refuse capacity can be provided for a range of specified reasons, for example:
• Where sanitary waste is produced, either as a result of a child in nappies or adult incontinence.
• Where the resident finds it difficult to understand and manage the recycling services, perhaps due to episodes of mental ill health or physical disability.
• Where there is a large family / number of people living in the household.

Recycling Sites
Somerset’s Recycling Centre / Community Recycling Site  staff members are trained to be watchful for, or respond to requests from people who may find it difficult to load or unload their waste.  They will assist with any materials, in reasonable amounts, apart from the handling of asbestos. (Most asbestos presented by the public is cement bonded and presents a very low hazard but low risks are compounded with degree of exposure so site staff are instructed to minimise contact).

Clinical Waste Collections
Weekly Clinical Waste collections are available for people who use hypodermic needles for medication or  produce sanitary waste they wish to have collected weekly, such as incontinence pads, used dressings, catheter and colostomy waste, etc.  There is no additional charge for collection of this waste.  Clinical waste collections can be requested by contacting District Council customer services.

Information in other languages, large print and Braille
Translation to other languages is available for all service information on request.  Information is also made available in large print, Braille and audio formats.  These options are promoted on all printed literature produced by Somerset Waste Partnership.

Impact Assessments
A formal assessment process exists that allows us to analyse any potential service changes and understand the impact they may have on people who are within any of the Protected Characteristic groups in Somerset.  Somerset County Council, as the administrating authority of SWP, publishes these on their website.

Understanding our customers
We use a variety of means to better understand our customer needs.

Resident surveys
In 2009 and 2012 we conducted surveys of local residents to better understand attitudes to waste and recycling and satisfaction with our services.

Just before and just after service changes are introduced are good times to find out more about how we can best meet the needs of local people.  For example, just prior to the roll out of our Sort It Plus recycling service, we wrote to all local residents in the areas involved asking them to let us know if they had any special requirements.  In most cases we also surveyed samples of residents shortly after the introduction of the service changes to find out their views and satisfaction levels.

Somerset Intelligence Network
The Somerset Intelligence Network (SINE), along with Inform Somerset, is an excellent resource for understanding the nature and circumstances of local populations within Somerset.  The information available through SINE has been extremely valuable in helping us understand the impact of changes. These helped us understand and offset the challenges presented to local people when shorter opening hours were introduced at our Recycling Centres.

Analysing customer contact data
Customers can provide feedback on their waste services via any of our partner authority customer service centres.  This feedback is logged in a structured manner, making it possible to analyse the data and highlight strengths and weaknesses of the services.  We can use this information to look at trends in the number of missed collection complaints for example the number of assisted collections missed by the collection crews in any given period.

Transparency and Decision Making
SWP will use the evidence available to it about the equalities impacts of services when formulating proposals and recommendations to the Somerset Waste Board for decision.

This will be reflected in an assessment of equalities implications which is included in all reports to the Board as part of the decision-making process.

Evidence of equalities performance will be included in periodic reports to the Board.