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 On funding it was clear that small groups are having funding withdrawn by the Council.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.