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New Socio Economic duty to be debated in Parliament

New Socio Economic duty to be debated in Parliament

11th January 2010

Plans to include a new diversity strand in the forthcoming Single Equality Bill will be debated in Parliament this week.  The socio-economic duty will be a new legal consideration for public bodies when making strategic decisions. 

Public bodies currently need to consider the impact of decisions in relation to inequalities associated with age, sexual orientation, race, gender and disability. The new requirement will for the first time address disadvantages associated with social class.

Last year the National Equality Panel chaired by Professor John Hills identified socio economic factors as a core strand that affects outcomes in relation to Health, Education and Income. Subsequently it became a key focus of the government’s equality strategy.

Under the plans public sector bodies will be expected to examine evidence on socio economic factors relevant to a decision and look at actions that may reduce inequalities. Individuals and organisations will be able to take legal action if a public body is perceived to have failed in performing the duty.  

The government claims the new duty is not about spending more or running more programmes but making policy work better.

"A person’s socio-economic background is still a key factor in determining their life chances – how they get on at school, the chances of continuing with their education, their employment prospects and their health.

"This new legal duty will fall on every strategic body that affects these life chances and will be a catalyst for change so that more people have a better chance to enjoy a higher standard of living.

"Improving opportunities for everyone will be at the core of all key public services, and is a crucial part of the Equality Bill.”

Government Minister for Women and Equality Harriet Harman

Examples of current best practise that fulfil the proposed socio-economic duty include free school meals for children of deprived backgrounds, allocating additional funds in areas where there are disparities in health outcomes and awarding procurement contracts to businesses in deprived areas.

Government departments have already started streamlining their policies to accommodate the Socio economic duty. The duty will be accompanied by detailed statutory guidance, which will be produced in the summer. The duty is expect to come into force in April 2011.

The socio-economic duty policy statement can be found on the Government Equalities Office  website at www.equalities.gov.uk

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posted by

Asif Yusuf


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