Catch up

Last week:

I was invited to the AGM of Haringey Race and Equality Council to speak about the equalities agenda and take questions. The key concerns were on funding and the future of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. On funding it was clear that small groups are having funding withdrawn by the Council. It was interesting that the frustration was around support for vulnerable people – and yet if you take the Supporting People funding  – the Government has actually cut 1% from the £650million. Without the ring fence (removed by Labour when in government) it appears that cuts are being made way disproportionately to that 1%.

The EHRC is remodellling itself to become probably what it was always intended to be – a much valued and respected national institution for upholding equality and human rights in this country. It had an unfortunate birth – where the previous three commissions (race, women and disabilities) were folded into one body without any real decisions being made on purpose. The EHRC is now moving towards that new vision. A consultation on its future has now gone out and how it achieves its new incarnation is up to the EHRC – as it is an independent body – albeit in financial terms it is funded by public money and has to be accountable for its expenditure.

I received a lobby from local environmental and sustainability groups on the Energy Bill. They presented their case for improvements and additions to the Energy Bill and I have undertaken to take those ‘asks’ to the appropriate ministers. In fact – to facilitate the lobby I had in attendance one of the special advisers to the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate change – so straight (so to speak) to the horse’s mouth.

I had the pleasure too, on Friday, of visiting Treehouse – our exemplar facility for children with autism in Muswell Hill. This was to celebrate the opening of the OGA (outdoor games area). It is a wonderful new area for games where not just the children from Treehouse – but also children from the local schools – can come and do games and sport together. As part of the celebrations children from Muswell Hill School had come (as they do once a week) to demonstrate a range of games with each of them paired with a child from Treehouse. It was extremely moving – and there can be no better education than children playing together to encourage understanding, kindness and community.

0 thoughts on “Catch up

  1. “the previous three commissions (race, women and disabilities”

    And therein lies the problem. Due to it’s makeup and these 3 previous narrow agendas the EHRC doesn’t care in the slightest about any white males unless they have a disability.

    It’s a useless, sexist organisation. I’m pleased the coalition is trying to fix the problem though you’d be better off starting from scratch to be honest.

  2. Lynne is misleading you – it was called the Equal Opportunities Commission.

    I feel that Lynne does seem to very much favour some groups over others.

  3. Lynne, I find it odd that you, Minister for Equalities and an enthusiastic blogger, have had nothing to say here about the ‘public sector equality duty’ which came into force on Tuesday. This coalition government seems half-hearted about equality. Care to explain?

  4. I don’t understand how the EHRC can achieve its aim of becoming “a much valued and respected national institution” if its closing its regional office. If the Coalition Government is asking Central Government departments to make a journey from Whitehall to Town hall – are you happy that the EHRC is proposing to do complete opposite position?

  5. Now many central Government departments now have outreach functions, such as BIS and the Cabinet Office, why is the EHRC to be an exception? As a social enterproise we have even offered to help, but had no response.

  6. I attended a seminar at which an EHRC regional representative spoke very passionately about their guidance on using the equality duties when making cuts.

    Lynne, has the EHRC conducted an impact assessment on their proposed closure of their regional functions….Practice what they preach? It is surprising that whilst the coalition is talking about localism a NDPB like the EHRC wants to centralise again. A ideological or policy clash?

  7. “The EHRC is remodellling itself to become probably what it was always intended to be – a much valued and respected national institution for upholding equality and human rights in this country.”

    Yawn, Lynne. The EHRC can only be successful without people such as yourself, who only promote their own pet causes. Lynne, you have a cliquish view of who is deserving of equality, and who is not, and it shows in your work.

  8. I am fascinated by the mixed messages that are being brought forward by the various groups engaged in Equality, Human Rights and “fairness” at the centre of Government. On the one hand we have the GEO (Government Equalities Office) on behalf of the coalition government pledging a firm commitment to the principles of equality and diversity and publishing the Cross Government Equalities Strategy stating that they are firmly committed to promoting and protecting the rights of both minority groups and the wider population. Following this we have the publication by the GEO of the secondary legislation (the specific duties) that will be used to enforce and empower parts of the new Equality Act 2010, the legislation that is designed to drive forward many of the key points made in the Equalities Strategy. The publication followed a long and flawed consultation process which deliberately targeted greater numbers of private and public sector organisations which necessarily would welcome fewer requirements regarding equalities in the interests of making greater profits at the expense of employees (private sector) or being less accountable to the public (public sector). However, despite these flaws the draft specific duties were published in light of this consultation. It then became apparent that despite the statutory consultation being undertaken to inform the duties the Government were not happy with the outcome and these were then reviewed and redrafted again and are subsequently out for consultation again. However, in this instance due to this being a “listening” government its all very well to listen, it’s the actions that count) this is a shorter non statutory consultation that they can ignore if they want to, thereby ensuring that even the watered down and unenforceable first version of the specific duties has been further diminished and will not come into force. Whilst all this has been going on the political leaders at the heart of government have been making announcements of their own about equality, human rights and the Equality Act, seemingly with no reference whatsoever to the GEO or based upon any consultation or evidence base. Firstly we have George Osbourne making pronouncements in the budget speech that certain key parts of the Act such as the ability to take direct dual discrimination cases to tribunal would not be introduced. Subsequently we have Theresa May stating that parts of the 2006 Equality Act would be repealed altogether, in the interests of making the EHRC the body it should always have been… There have been further announcements about the EHRC helpline and the grant funding programmes all of which, along with the EHRC Regional Teams were the key public facing part of the EHRC.
    The cumulative effect of all of the mixed messages, confusion and chicanery is that the real message of this government; that your rights as a citizen are secondary to the needs of business and that increasing the power of Coalition Government members is more important than reflecting the genuine needs of voters, is being lost. I urge Lynne Featherstone to take a real look at what is happening out there in the constituencies of this country because of her willingness to go along with her Conservative paymasters. The Government speaks of greater local accountability but removes the tools to achieve this (EQIAs and Equality Schemes) they talk of creating a more meaningful response to equalities and then require public authorities to publish only “one or more” equality objective. They talk about greater transparency but cannot specify what information public authorities should publish to create this transparency there3by leaving them free to publish virtually nothing. They talk about reforming the EHRC (the regulatory body for the Act) but in reality are removing a huge amount of it’s most valuable resources (helplines and grants functions) and making the legislation virtually impossible to regulate by creating vague specific duties. In all Lynne, if you cannot turn this around and guarantee that during your tenure you do not oversee the sharpest diminishment of peoples rights in this country for over 50 years then I think you are better off staying in your office and not making pronouncements about equality and human rights as it is fairly obvious that you neither understand what this means nor have the commitment to deliver on any pledges you make.

  9. It seems that this coalition government is determined to remove all the hard won rights and freedoms that we, the people of this land, have gained. It is despicable to even think about repealing equality legislation, never mind sneak this idea onto the Red Tape website with no publicity, no formal statement from the Ministers responsible for equality. Oh wait, that’s you.

    Have you consulted with Mrs. Doreen Lawrence about repealing the very legislation which her son’s death precipitated? Can we expect a return to the days of the SUS laws, with no legal recourse to challenge this? Back to the days when disabled people were hidden away from society and kept out of the workplace? Back to the days of women at home, men the breadwinners? Your plan to introduce Universal Credit discriminates against part-time working mothers, yet you support it? The Inter-Ministerial Group for Equalities is comprised of 8 white men and five white women – how can you possibly claim this to be inclusive?

    Shame on you, Lynne Featherstone, for destroying my daughter’s future by diminishing her rights. Shame on you for all those hard-working women and men losing public sector jobs. Shame on you for cutting government funding for domestic and sexual violence services whilst claiming to do the opposite.

  10. Where is the fairness in wanting to hold on to the Equality Billin Whithall ?you already have to tick 43.000 box’s which we can all do, hence where’s the evidence to show: How- What- and how are you going to achieve a good balance which will give EVERYBODY a say for the furture of the EHRC By moving services, you will lose people’s skills, research, and thats just for starters.
    The Equality Bill stands at the forefront and heart in everything we do, so i ask you to go though your Quality Impact Assessment and you will see it has a detrimental impacted on the staff and all British people.

  11. Disappointed to learn of the planned closure of the regional offices of the EHRC as it is clear to me that the EHRC provides a much valued regional support mechanism. It’s outreach function is essentially needed to drive both the Big Society and the Localism Agenda forward. Given the Government’s so called commitment to “empowering grass root communities”, the closure of the EHRC outreach functions will be a huge step backwards in this policy area. Furthermore, the EHRC needs a regional presence to engage stakeholders and stimulate new ways of working between the public, private and voluntary sectors. I just hope they re-think this decision.