The UK Government has published its review of the Equality Duty under the ‘Red Tape’ challenge programme. As Scotland has its own public sector duty this report mostly focuses on the English duty.
The main conclusion is:
“The Steering Group believes it is too early to make a final judgement about the impact of the PSED, as it was only introduced in April 2011 and evidence, particularly in relation to associated costs and benefits, is inconclusive. While the Steering Group has found broad support for the principles behind the Duty, the review has found the main challenges lie in its implementation, which varies considerably across the public sector.”
When you read the report it churns out much of the predictable ‘Red Tape’ ideology in its high level messages. However, when you dig deeper the most notable feature is that business interests largely ignored it. The annex of those submitting evidence shows that virtually no business interests even bothered to submit evidence. Strange when we were told this review was necessary because of the concerns of business.
As TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said:
“This review has exposed the government's Red Tape Challenge as a waste of taxpayers' money. The fact that businesses have failed to engage with it shows they are far too concerned with real issues like access to finance to humour a futile political exercise. The review has however highlighted where the public sector duty has made a difference to people's lives. It was the duty for example that halted the government's disgraceful 'Go Home' vans, which drove through London over the summer. Ministers should use this review to help public bodies share best practice on how to use the duty more effectively.”
The report does make at least one useful point that also applies in Scotland. Far too many Equality Impact Assessments are just ‘tick box’ exercises. However, the solution to that is a more rigorous process and better data collection.