EHRC cuts announced
Equality campaigners have expressed concerns about Government plans to cut the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) budget, outsource its helpline and scale back the recently created public sector equalities duty.
The review of the public sector equalities duty is part of the Government's Red Tape Challenge. A written ministerial statement from the Home Office states that the EHRC budget is being comprehensively reviewed, a new chairman being sought and tighter controls being implemented. Of its plans to review and scale back the public sector equality duty, it says it wants to reduce "unnecessary bureaucracy".
It says: "A proportionate approach to legislation goes hand in hand with our plans for the EHRC. We want the EHRC to become a valued and respected national institution. To do so, we believe it must focus on the areas where it can add value – as an independent equality body and 'A - rated' national human rights institution. And, it must be able to show that it is using taxpayers' money wisely.
"We have decided to scrap vague, unnecessary and obsolete provisions from the Equality Act 2006 to focus the EHRC on its core functions."
Ceri Goddard, Fawcett's Chief Executive, said: "We are disappointed to learn that the government proposes to review the effectiveness of the public sector Equality Duty so soon – it came into force little more than a year ago, reviewing it at this stage is unlikely to lead to meaningful conclusions. Moreover, it could prove unsettling for public bodies when they are under pressure to become more efficient.
“The duty requires that all public bodies - government departments, councils and other agencies - consider the impact of their decisions on women and other groups - and take steps to eliminate discrimination and advance equality in their work. “It fosters good decision making – be it in shaping policy or delivering services – and has been an important tool in allowing the general public to hold public bodies to account.
“Going forward, we are concerned that important equalities legislation is not seen as simply burdensome red tape – rather government should see it as a tool to help them deliver on their stated aims of fairness and transparency, especially in times of austerity."
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: "Today's announcement is bad news for people facing discrimination and mistreatment as they will have fewer places to turn to for support.
"Outsourcing the EHRC helpline will mean the loss of specialist support for the thousands of people who call in every month.
"And just a day after the EHRC investigation showed that the public sector equality duty is helping to build the evidence needed for sound policies, ministers are looking to run it down.
"These cuts will mean more bad policy making which will further alienate those who are already bearing the brunt of the Government's austerity programme."