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New Public Sector Equality Duty to Commence April 2011
New guidance has been published by the Coalition Government to help public bodies prepare for the forthcoming Single Equality Duty. The revised duty covers a broad range of new considerations for public bodies when making policy decisions and delivering services. Formally just covering ethnicity, gender and disability, the new duty extends these considerations further to cover age, religion and belief, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.
 
The new more general duty aims to;
  • Eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation;
  • Advance equality of opportunity and
  • Foster good relations
The government claims the changes will save the public purse up to 17 million pounds by ending strict top down equality targets set by Whitehall and removing unnecessary bureaucracy. Savings will also be made because public bodies will not be required to produce equality schemes, action plans, or annual reports.
 
Sceptics have questioned if the new autonomous approach will motivate public bodies to challenge the status quo if they fail to deliver on equalities. The coalition have responded by arguing that public bodies will be required to show what they are doing tackle inequality. Information will be made open to scrutiny by the general public and charities. Clearly how effectively this role is adopted by the general public and charities will be critical to highlighting where considerations are failing.
 
Most public sector bodies will have until the end of July before publishing information about their equality performance, schools will have longer due to the seasonal summer holidays.
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