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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Public Sector Equality Duty

Do you know who’s coming to the party?          

Political parties and ethnicity monitoring

Rebecca Marek  - December 2015

Recently, the Scottish Government held a roundtable discussion to address the lack of diversity and representation in public life and to consider ways to increase the participation of under-represented groups in elected office. As far as we understand, no representatives of political parties were invited, which is unfortunate, given that responsibility for ensuring equal participation of BME communities within party politics lies largely with parties themselves.

Equal representation is essential to racial equality, but before there can be equal representation, there must be active participation in politics, and therefore, active members in political parties.

As part of ongoing research to inform the Scottish Government's Race Equality Framework, CRER contacted the party offices of the Scottish National Party, the Scottish Labour Party, the Scottish Conservatives and Unionists, the Scottish Liberal Democrats, and the Scottish Green Party to enquire about ethnic demographics of their membership.

Four of the parties do not keep data on the ethnicity of their membership, with one party stating that the information was deemed “not important to collect.” One party had recently begun monitoring the diversity of its membership at a UK-wide level, but did not yet have data available.

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image of public sector equality dutiesimage of scissors

The final report of the Public Sector Equality Duty Review has arrived, two months late and yet somehow still far too early.

Unsurprisingly, one of the main thrusts of the PSED review report is that it’s not possible to accurately review the public sector equality duties because of the short space of time since their introduction. This concession will be cold comfort to the many people who raised the inappropriate time scale when the review was first proposed; particularly as it hasn’t stopped the Independent Steering Group from deciding that there is much to criticize and almost nothing to commend in the operation of the duties so far.

The tone of the report is overwhelmingly negative from the foreword onwards. The first description of the Steering Group’s feelings about the review is a single sentence from Chairperson Rob Hayward OBE, set in a paragraph all of its own (presumably for emphasis), stating “My colleagues and I were disappointed by some of what we found.” Whilst discussion of best practice is noticeably absent, the report often veers towards scaremongering. For example, it alleges that emergency services are less effective thanks to the paperwork associated with PSED (seriously), that citizens should not have to bear the ‘burden’ of filling in equality monitoring forms and that private businesses undertake days and days of unnecessary administration as a result of the duties.

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Amongst other so-called ‘red tape reduction’ activities, the UK Government is in the process of reviewing the Public Sector Equality Duty of the Equality Act 2010. The Steering Group undertaking this review is due to report its findings by June 2013, having taken approximately six months from the date of its first meeting to consider a range of largely desk-based research and views from primarily public sector contributors.

Concerns have been put forward by a number of organisations and individuals across Britain that the Review process is premature, rushed and lacking in objectivity. The Public Sector Equality Duties have been in place for a very short time (since October 2010 for the overarching General Duty, and since April 2011 for the English Specific Public Sector Equality Duties which are also being reviewed).

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On 15 May 2012, the Home Secretary announced a review of the public sector Equality Duty, as part of the outcome of the Red Tape Challenge spotlight on equalities. They are now combining it with a planned review of the general 'due regard' equality duty which would have been done in 2015.

The TUC believes this review is premature - the new equality duty only came into effect just under two years ago and the specific duties only a year ago. They have also expressed concerns about the review being overseen by a steering group that lacks any public service user or worker voice on it and has no representation from the devolved administrations.

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There is a lot of ‘noise’ coming from public sector organisations about equality outcomes at the moment. 

To give just three examples, the Scottish Government held a meeting with equality groups earlier this week to report on the progress they are making with setting their outcomes; a number of organisations are consulting on final draft outcomes and Caledonian University have brought in Simon Fanshawe to facilitate an equality outcomes summit. 

Under the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012, listed public bodies need to publish a set of equality outcomes no later than 30th April 2013. These outcomes set out the change that they want to see related to their General Equality Duty to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between different groups of people. 

The regulations say ‘no later than 30th April 2013’, however most public bodies’ outcome setting processes are running very close to the deadline. They could have begun working on these from at least May 2012 when the regulations were first agreed. So it's worrying that so many of these listed bodies have agreed their strategic plans and budgets for the year ahead before even completing their consultations on their equality outcomes.

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