Religion & Belief

1  Introduction

This is one in a series of needs assessments regarding protected characteristic groups to support compliance with the public sector Equality Duty (The Equality Act 2010).

The document is intended to raise awareness of the key public health, and health & social care considerations relevant to people of different religions and beliefs; and to provide a starting point to inform the development of Equality Impact Needs Assessments (EINAs).

Religion and belief is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, and refers to recognised religions (e.g. Buddhism), but also includes religious and philosophical beliefs including lack of belief (e.g. Atheism). Generally, a belief should affect your life choices or the way you live for it to be included in the definition[1].

2  Background

Little evidence is available on the particular health needs of people of different religions and belief. Most specific health issues that might be associated with people of different religions are actually associated with their race or ethnicity, and these issues are dealt with in a separate needs assessment on this topic.

However, it is important that health and social care services are aware of the need to respect and be sensitive to the preferences of people of particular religions and beliefs relevant to the services they delivery. For instance, including:

  • Practices around births and deaths
  • Diet & food preparation
  • Family planning and abortion
  • Modesty of dress
  • Same sex clinical staff
  • Festivals and holidays
  • Medical ethics considerations in accepting some treatments and end of life care
  • Pharmaceuticals, vaccines, and other medical supplies.

In addition, faith organizations can provide a focus for and additional community capacity for health and social care, and public health work[2].

3  Local picture

The proportion of the population reporting themselves as Christian is declining and those reporting no religion increasing. Compared to London as a whole, Richmond continues to have a higher proportion of Christian (55% vs 48%), a higher proportion reporting no religion (28% vs 21%), and lower proportions of other religions (e.g. Muslim: 3% vs 12%).

According to the 2011 Census the following proportions of the population consider themselves to be of the following religions or beliefs

Religious beliefs in Richmond Borough (2011)





No religion












None stated


Source: 2011 Census, ONS

Despite this, like the BME communities in which they are most common, the Muslim, Hindu and Sikh communities in Richmond are highly concentrated in Heathfield and Whitton wards. Unlike some Boroughs, Richmond does not have any sizeable non-Christian places of worship.

4  Service Provision

A comprehensive range of public health programmes[3], and health & social care services are designed, planned and delivered to meet the needs of Richmond’s population.

The following mechanisms are in place to ensure that consideration is given to the diverse population and individual needs of residents, including those of protected characteristic groups.

  • Development of needs assessments to research local population health and wellbeing needs.
  • Liaison with a range of local community organisations, including the Interfaith Forum.
  • Tailoring of the design and delivery of services to maximise their appropriateness and accessibility to all residents, including the targeting of services and initiatives at populations with diverse needs, including protected characteristic groups. For example:
  • Provision of interpreters and information in a range of languages.
  • Targeted NHS health check invitations and events.
  • Delivery of targeted health campaigns to coincide with faith festivals.
  • Sensitivity in relation to the needs of children relating to religion or belief is incorporated into health education and healthy lifestyle promotion activities, including diet, sexual health, and physical activity.
  • Audits, reviews, and evaluations of existing services including consideration of equality and diversity issues.
  • Equality Impact Needs Assessments (EINAs) of new services and changes to existing services.
  • Monitoring of service use by key population characteristics, including some protected characteristic groups.
  • Adoption of equality requirements in service specifications and monitoring processes as part of contracting requirements for services and their providers.
  • Annual reviews of compliance with the Public Sector Equality Duties.
  • Implementation of the NHS Equality Diversity System by local NHS commissioners and providers.
  • The council has undertaken an audit of provisions for protected characteristic groups in public health programmes, and the findings are under consideration.

5  Conclusion

A number of further actions are underway or being considered by Richmond Borough Council, including:

  • Development of a detailed Equalities Profile for the Borough based on the results of the 2011 Census. This will further support general consideration of protected characteristic group equality issues across council responsibilities and beyond.
  • Work to support Richmond CCG in their planned update of their Public Sector Equality Statement and implementation of the NHS Equality Diversity System.
  • Consideration of the extension of routine, consistent equality monitoring of all protected characteristic groups, including religion/belief, across public health programmes, in addition to those groups most frequently routinely covered by standard data collection systems (i.e. age, sex/gender, ethnicity).
  • Given the relative lack of a diversity of a range of religious workshop venues located within the Borough, consideration should be given to alternative approaches to engaging with religious groups in community settings.
  • Review of service specifications for the commissioned services included in public health programmes, to ensure an adequate and consistent approach equality issues relating to the protected characteristic groups.
  • Review of access to data essential to undertake adequate equality monitoring of key public health services, particularly immunisation and screening.

6  References

[1] Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) website accessed 10/03/2014

[2] FaithAction. 2013. Opening the dialogue…Faith and public health.

[3] NHS Health Checks, LiveWell Richmond health lifestyle service, Kick It stop smoking service, School nursing and the National Child Measurement Programme, Sexual health and contraception services, Substance misuse services, Screening programmes, Immunisation programmes.

The Equality and Diversity pages of DataRich provide further data and analysis on each of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010.

 Document information 

Published: July 2014
For review: July 2017 
Topic lead:
 Jane Bailey, Public Health Lead