The Public Sector

This cross-cutting theme is now closed for comments.

You can read comments made since the start of the Red Tape Challenge in April 2011 below.

You can also still submit comments to the Red Tape Challenge inbox by clicking here.

Public bodies, such as local councils and hospitals, provide a range of services to a large number of people.  The Equality Act contains particular rules which require public bodies to think about how their policies and services deliver equal treatment and equal opportunities for everybody.

The Act replaces three different equality duties in previous law with a single Equality Duty on public bodies.  This requires public bodies to think about how different people will be affected by the decisions they make and the services they deliver so that they are appropriate and accessible to all and meet different people’s needs.

The Act also contains a new socio economic duty requiring some public bodies to think about how their activities affect the most disadvantaged people, but the Government has announced that it does not intend to implement this measure.

Tell us what you think should happen to these measures and why, being specific where possible

216 responses to The Public Sector

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    Bertille Calinaud said on June 14, 2011 at 8:54 am

    The public sector duties should remain as it has done a real contribution in advancing equality of opportunities. The government should implement the socio-economic duty has it could have a very positive impact as well.

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    John Roberts said on June 13, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    This is one of the most significant developments in equality law where you remove the burdens from individuals to take reactive action to placing a proactive and positive duty on public authorities. Remember the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry and why these provisions came about

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    Mike Brooks said on June 13, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    The Equality Act is an excellent piece of legislation and should be left untouched. The decision not to implement some parts of it is damage enough already! The Equality Impact Assessments should be reinstated as soon as possible.

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    Dr Elizabeth Lawrence said on June 13, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    Equality duties, both general and specific, are very useful in taking the equality agenda forward. They encourage organisations to do monitoring and set targets. It is regrettable that the Government scrapped the socio-economic duties. I would like to see equality duties extended to the private sector too. So please keep existing equality duties and do not dilute the Equality Act.

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    Sean Crawford said on June 13, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    I suggest that the public sector general and specific duties should be expanded on a voluntary code best practice basis to those private sector organisations that deliver public services. [deleted text]provide a range of services that are paid for from the public purse eg street cleaning in local authorities, delivery of schools, to running of hospital based services. With the developing trend for greater involvement of the private sector in public services, there will be a two tier system where two similar services will have very different equality requirements imposed upon them i.e private none, and public the current equality legislation.

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    Jo Henry said on June 13, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Disabled and older people are some of the most disempowered citizens in this country. Not all, but a significant proportion of disabled and older people will find it very difficult to challenge their public agencies over unfair treatment and ensure full account is taken of their rights. The public sector equality duty places an ESSENTIAL responsibility on public bodies to actively promote equality on behalf of their residents who may not be in a position to advocate on their own behalf. It compels authorities to use their very considerable influence and resources to tackle inequalities in proportionate, evidence-based ways. Mess with the public sector duty and you mess with the rights of the most potentially vulnerable in our society. The new duty should be strengthened – I would like to see a range of specific information published about what public agencies are doing to tackle serious, persistent inequalities for disabled and older people. This is genuine transparency.

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    Lynne Henderson said on June 13, 2011 at 10:33 am

    The new Public Sector Equality Duty, bringing together the previous Race, Disability and Gender Equality Duties and extending considerations to all protected caracteristics, is a positive step in reducing bureaucracy. However, public bodies have not had an opportunity to work with the new duty to find out whether it is fit for purpose. Since October 2010 both the Equality Act and the Equality Duty have been under continuous review by the current Government; at present the outcome of the most recent review has not been published.

    Transparency must be an integral part of any public sector duty that expects thhe general public to hold public bodies to account for their decisions; the recommendations made in the most recent review removed this commitment to transparency.

    I don’t believe that the duty itsef is overly bureaucratic, but that in some cases the people leading on equality and diversity within an organisation are disproportionate in how they respond to the duty. Better communication and education about how to prioritise those functions that are most relevant to equalities, and carrying out proportionate engagement as a result, would be more beneficial than this continuous review process.

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    Tony Williams said on June 13, 2011 at 7:34 am

    Keep the legal measures as they are but make sure the EHRC does not add to the bureaucratic burden by bringing out multi-volume guidance which replaces the lightness of touch in the law with mulitple bureacratic requirements, which may be only advisory, but bodies feel obligated to follow.

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    Jackie Longworth said on June 12, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    The new public duty brought in by the 2010 Equality Act is a very important step forward for equalities and should not be tampered with at this early stage in its implementation. Rather, some effort should be put into ensuring compliance with it both locally and nationally. We have commented separately on draft specific duties which in our opinion are not helpful either to equalities campaigners or those public bodies expected to comply. The key issue is around transparency – about who has been consulted and how decisions have been made in relation to actions designed to reduce inequality. The requirements of the Act should certainly be retained and the Specific Duties should be based on on the January 2011 response to consultation not the later rethink.

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    Chris Barry said on June 11, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    They should be left the way they are

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    James said on June 11, 2011 at 6:30 am

    I think the existing guidance provided by the EHRC should be kept as it provided a useful framework.

    The question about what can be improved is not helpful as the legislation has only been in force since Oct last year, so I do believe it has not been given time to work in practice!!! For the future I suggest the GEO or the EHRC collect this information.

    The gov position on the legislation instead of reducing burden is creating it, because organisations/individuals are seconding guessing what will happen next. One example to support this is pulling the non-statutory guidance for the spspecific duties 3 weeks before it was implemented.

    Also future consultations should be held via the GEO website instead of the red tape challenge. Holding the consultation via this website implies the legislation is seen as a “burden” which is conflicts with the gov message of fairness?

    In the interest of transparency I hope the responses to this and the previous consultation on the EA will be publicly available?

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    Barbara Harris said on June 10, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    I work within the Public Sector, the NHS to be specific. The removal of the duty around socioeconomic status will have a detrimental effect on health outcomes for people in the lower economic parts of our society. The watering down of the Specific duties will i believe lead to organisations not taking their duties seriously. I believe that there needs to be real sanctions against public sector organisations that do not fully and completely engage with the equalities legislation.

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    L Souvarine said on June 10, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    Carrying out equality analyses as a routine part of the policy process helps with better decision making overall. Civil servants are often compelled to do more research and analysis in order to comply with the public sector equality duty than they would otherwise. In doing so, they develop a better understanding of the potential issues and practical implications of their work. They interpret evidence and data more objectively, document the entire decision making process more effectively and often present a more complete and unbiased picture of the policy in their submissions. In my experience as a policy specialist, the Act and the public sector equality duty have been very effective tools in improving the quality of our work. The provisions of the Act should be strengthened to further improve transparency – anyone should easily be able to obtain the equality evidence used by public authorities. Also, the socioeconomic duty should be enacted as social class is highly pertinent indicator of broader social inequity – everyone except the Government seems to appreciate this!

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    moira macdonald said on June 10, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    It is demonstrably true that socially disadvantaged people cannot engage with the modern world. How many will even have internet access to be able to visit this site and object to your proposal to further disenfranchise them. Disgraceful. People who are already disadvantaged socio-economically will fall further into their trap if no-one has to care about the effects of new policies or provisions. Understand reality, get real.

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    David Corbin said on June 10, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    If it is not clear that this is mandaotry and if there are not real penalties faced for individuals in Public Bodies who fail to deliver on this agenda, nothing will change.
    The Count Me in Census 2010 still shows no change from 2005. Has anything happend to individuals in Health Authorities where this is an issue? Will anything change if the Govenrment contiue to water down the specific duties?
    If you or your family are faced with organisational processes that openly discriminate against you the law should be the framwork you rely on to get justice and access. Take away the law and you are left with nothing.
    Organisations won’t do it if it costs money, they won’t do it because they know it’s right. The are more likley to do if if they are told too otherwise we are just wasting our time.

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    John Cowings said on June 10, 2011 at 8:21 am

    The issue of how to demonstrate compliance and what constitutes adequate evidence of having taken due regard of the general duties when making decisions about public services needs some clear guidance and a clearer legal position – to avoid costly legal action and to ensure that the cuts to services which are currently having to be made are fair – but can be enacted when necessary. Constantly having to await the ruling in one case after another in the courts is very unhelpful to local authorities seeking to balance their books and having to make what are already tough decisions about their services. Disputes over significant changes to services could be better handled by say the local government ombudsman service.

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    peter benjamin said on June 9, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    Enforce the law! Public bodies are the worse discrimmnation still goes on

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    Suzannah Lee said on June 9, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    I think it is essential to ensure the law can be enforced. It needs to be effective and have sufficient backing from the Government with outcomes that have sufficient impact upon those who fail to comply. Otherwise, despite the spirit of the law, there lacks the clarity of how it must be embedded rather than dealt with as an optional extra. Even though the law states it is not optional, there is no evidence that the organisation will be effectively required to demonstrate outcomes. By removing the obligation to evidence that an organisation has complied – I have no confidence that they would give priority to the necessary duties. I believe that organisations would not effectively do the work, but wait until they are challenged. Being challenged by the public, relies upon the public confidence that by raising a concern would benefit them more than disadvantage with the perceived caution that the individual would be treated with.

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    Henrietta Barkham said on June 9, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    I think that the public sector equality duties are important and should be kept. I don’t believe that their purpose would be achieved in a non-regulatory way as I think there is a danger that in times of budget reductions, equality of access might be viewed as an optional extra, rather than the key that underpins effective service development and delivery. I believe that the Act should be implemented as it was originally intended by the previous government.

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    Tearheart said on June 9, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Until the Government, public bodies etc acknowledges that we are all part of the human family they will continue to revise and change the Equalities Act.

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