Using Equality Legislation to effect change
The public sector equality duty or ‘section75’ has a duty on public authorities to produce equality schemes, these contain commitments and duties on public authorities to promote equality of opportunity, as well as duties to consult, monitor inequalities and to ‘screen’ and impact assess new or changed policies for the impact they have on the equality categories. Notwithstanding some good practice there are examples of public authorities acting in a way which worsen inequalities or generally avoiding their duties to properly screen and equality impact assess policies, even on major policies such as current cuts to health services, welfare reform and housing policy.
Whilst it is free and usually relatively straightforward to issue a complaint that a public authority has breached its equality scheme, in practice the complaints mechanism, which leads to an investigation by the public body and ultimately the Equality Commission, is not used very often, meaning most breaches of the Equality Schemes are never redressed.
The aim of the training is twofold: first to highlight successful strategies/ cases groups/individuals have had in challenging inequalities in general, and secondly to provide information specifically on how to enforce the commitments in ‘equality schemes.
What you can gain from the course:
The course will highlight the scope of equality laws in Northern Ireland and how it can be used as a tool that can be used to challenge changes in policy and practice which disadvantage workers and service users across any of the equality categories listed in the ‘Section 75’ statutory equality duty: religion, political opinion (including community background), ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, dependents, marital status, age). Commitments in equality schemes are often not abided by, complaints can be used as a mechanism to challenge these decisions which ‘adversely impact’ on the above equality categories.
The course will outline the background and scope of the ‘section 75’ equality duty and its nine categories; the duties a public authority has under its ‘equality scheme’; what can be considered a breach of an equality scheme and how to make a complaint; highlighted by a series of case studies and examples.