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Equality and public services: recent policy trends Eleonore Kofman Middlesex University.

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Presentation on theme: "Equality and public services: recent policy trends Eleonore Kofman Middlesex University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Equality and public services: recent policy trends Eleonore Kofman Middlesex University

2 Concern about equality agenda and practices Fawcett Report Red Tape, Red Line: five reasons why government should not ‘drop its duty’ to tackle women’s inequality Gradual development of UK’s equality architecture. Specific duties set out in range of international, European and domestic human rights conventions and laws But Coalition has restricted state institutions and weakened legal provisions and now reviewing Equality Duty Replacement by concept of fairness strongly promoted by current Coalition government

3 Equality developments Creation of Minister for Women and Equalities and Government Equalities Office in 1997 Macpherson Inquiry increased awareness of existence of institutional racism following Stephen Lawrence murder and resulted in Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 and Race Equality Duty (RED) placing onus on public bodies to review their policies and procedures to remove discrimination and promote race equality Gender Equality Duty (GED) 2007 – same approach as RED Growing use of Equality Impact Assessments EIAs – though often perfunctory – about asking question of how policy or decision likely to impact on a particular group

4 EHRC Equality and Human Rights Commission created in 2007 from Equal Opportunities Commission, Commission for Racial Equality and Disability Rights Commission current statutory remit is to promote and monitor human rights; and to protect, enforce and promote equality across the nine "protected" grounds - age, disability, gender, race, religion and belief, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.

5 Equality Act 2010 Brought together all previous anti-discrimination legislation and added protections against discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation Also would have provided protection on dual discrimination eg. gender and age or gender and race but this was removed by Coalition Government

6 Equality Duty Came into force on 5 April 2011 replacing previous race, disability and gender equality duies. Has 3 main aims as set out in Equality Act Requires public bodies to consider implications for equality when carrying out their day to day work in shaping policies, in delivering services and in relation to their own employees. This will vary according to size of organisation, extent to which functions affect equality and evidence that such objectives are needed. Important because it forces public bodies to think strategically rather than leaving it to individuals to challenge poor practice.

7 Coalition Approach Building a Fairer Britain: “New legislation and increased regulation has produced diminishing returns…This strategy sets out a new approach to equalities, moving away from the identity politics of the past and to an approach recognising people’s individuality. And its sets out a new role for government, moving beyond simply introducing more legislation, to promoting equality through transparency and behavioural changes ’. But it is not about individuals or groups having rights In addition, EIAs treated as red tape and called into doubt by Cameron, reduction in legal requirements and greater reliance on voluntary action and reduction in consultation; massive reduction of EHRC budget and programme But it is not about individuals or groups having rights

8 Cameron (November 2012 speech) ‘calling time on EIA as we have smart people in Whitehall who consider equalities issues while they’re making policy”. Government may admit discrimination and simply assert its proportionate for their legitimate purpose eg. family migration regulations which are massively discriminatory against women, certain minority ethnic groups, low wage earners, young people and those living in poorer regions where salary levels are low and unemployment high

9 Fairness Fairness had begun to be used before Coalition Govt. The Equalities Review was established. Its report Fairness and Freedom was published in 2007 and aimed to modernise the equality legislation in preparation for the new single body and single Equality Act. It doing so it suggested a measurement framework based on a capability approach (Amartya Sen 2007; Martha Nussbaum 2003). Approach focuses on what matters to people (the important things in life that people can actually do and be) and recognises that people have different needs and some people may need more or different resources to have access to the same outcomes compared to others, places emphasis on the barriers and constraints people operate under, and recognises that people have diverse goals in life.

10 EHRC Triennial Review “On many objective measures, Britain is a far more diverse society than it was a generation ago. Nearly 1 in 10 British children is growing up in a Mixed Race household. Some minority groups who were once more or less invisible – for example, transgender people – have become more confident about expressing their identity in the public sphere. At the same time as society has grown more diverse in objective terms, subjective attitudes have begun to change. In many ways, Britons are becoming more tolerant of difference and more welcoming of diversity. The change in attitudes towards lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people is emblematic There have also been changes in attitudes about race – people are increasingly at ease with the idea of working with and for people of a different ethnic background to their own. Some gender stereotypes, such as the idea that ‘a woman’s place is in the home’, have begun to soften. Britain is a country increasingly at ease with its diversity, proud of its heritage of ‘fair play’, and supportive of the ideals of equality and human rights”.

11 Understanding by Public Difficulty of understanding fairness without placing in context. Easier grasp and discussion of unfairness Fair and unfair are terms children often use as Giles Fraser, the Chair of the Tower Hamlets Fairness Commission, noted in relation to his 10 year old whose standard response to any parental intervention that he didn't like was that it wasn’t fair. And he continues ’yet us Brits pride ourselves on being fair… so we don’t require any extended philosophy of fairness in order to recognise unfairness when we see it’.Jenni Diski too in her article in New Statesman “The paradox of fairness’ (9 `April 2013) May be difficult to use discrimination in which case it may be explained as unfair, poor or refused treatment –see project on Inequalities and Multiple Discrimination in Access to Healthcare European Agency for Fundamental Rights

12 Two meanings of fairness First view that it meant treating everyone equally ie. even handedness, the second treating people differently according to their individual needs or merits and making allowance for people’s specific circumstances.. The first sense referred to different treatments of individuals where the term discrimination arose. The second sense referred to the disparity between what people put in and took out.

13 Local Fairness Commissions Fairness has been used by a number of local authorities, especially but not exclusively in London The public discussion of whether or not the cuts are fair has focused on whether they cause equal pain to the rich and poor, not on whether it is fair to cut services to pay for the mistakes of the rich. Indeed, to cut services to many of the most needy, while some bankers and others continue to receive bonuses each year of amounts equal to the combined total lifetime earnings of up to four full-time workers on average earnings, clearly has nothing to do with fairness (Islington Fairness Commission)

14 Islington Fairness Commission “Rather than being simply a matter of politics and political differences, building a fairer society is about the ethical basis of a better quality of life for all. Everyone would prefer to live in a friendlier, more cohesive and caring society, with less violence, stronger community life, fewer drug problems and higher standards of child wellbeing. Over the last generation modern societies have made huge progress in overcoming racism, homophobia and discrimination against women. The campaign against excessive inequalities in income is the next major task in front of us. What is at stake is nothing less than the emancipation of a very large part of the population” (Wilkinson (author of The Spirit Level) Co-Chair). Council cannot decide not to cut, only where although it can to some intervene in services eg. employees paid Living Wage, 150 cleaners brought in from out sourcing, Chief Executive salary cut, opening a new CAB


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