Review of public sector Equality Duty

Overview

The public sector Equality Duty (PSED) requires public bodies to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between different people when carrying out their activities.

On 15 May 2012, the Home Secretary announced a review of the PSED, as part of the outcome of the Red Tape Challenge spotlight on equalities, to establish whether the Equality Duty in the Equalities Act 2010 is operating as intended.

Read the Independent Steering Group’s report and the government’s response.

The announcement brought forward a planned review of the Equality Act (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011. The government is now combining it with a planned review of the general ‘due regard’ equality duty.

A Programme of activity has commenced, involving:

  • Thematic desk-based research. We have gathered evidence on the Duty, both from literature and case law. We will be speaking to a number of EU countries to seek information about their experiences of equality mainstreaming, and will also look beyond the EU for good practice.
  • Roundtables to provide more detailed evidence. These are now underway and will involve the voluntary and community sector, trade unions, lawyers from a range of public bodies, equality and diversity practitioners, inspectorates, senior decision-makers from public bodies and both private and voluntary sector organisations with experience of bidding for public sector contracts.
  • Site visits to public bodies. These will provide further insight into how the duty is working on the ground.
  • Inviting selected organisations with experience of the duty’s operation to submit evidence to the Review. These will provide insight into organisations’ experiences of working with the duty.

We will not be conducting a full public consultation as part of this review. The bulk of the review’s evidence gathering will focus on organisations that have experience of the Duty’s operation.

Call for evidence

The review is particularly focusing on the following key themes:

  • how well understood is the PSED and guidance
  • what are the costs and benefits of the PSED
  • how organisations are managing legal risk and ensuring compliance with the PSED
  • what changes, if any, would ensure better equality outcomes (legislative, administrative and/or enforcement changes, for example).

The Chair of the steering group is particularly interested in looking at equalities paperwork and policies related to PSED (particularly in relation to public sector procurement processes) and the collection, retention and use of diversity data by public bodies, for example, in relation to goods, facilities and services.

If you have evidence about how the PSED works that relate to any or all of the above points, please submit this to the PSED review team by Friday 19 April. We will only be able to consider information relating to the Duty’s operation, and will not be able to consider submissions which are not evidence-based. We will not be able to consider evidence submitted after this date.

We would also welcome examples of documentation you are aware of relating to the PSED, for example equality impact assessments, procurement forms, diversity data forms, guidance and toolkits.

We expect this combined review to be done by summer 2013.

Steering group appointment

The government has appointed an independent steering group to oversee the review, made up of senior figures with experience in public sector delivery. The Government Equalities Office (GEO) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) also sit on the group.

The full text of the Home Secretary’s statement is available to read on the Parliament website.

Steering group meetings

12 December 2012

PSED Review Steering Group: summary of first meeting (PDF, 22.7KB, 1 page) Chair: Rob Hayward

25 January 2013

PSED Review Steering Group: summary of second meeting (MS Word Document, 30KB) Chair: Rob Hayward

20 February 2013

PSED Review Steering Group: summary of third meeting (MS Word Document, 28.5KB) Chair: Rob Hayward

25 March 2013

PSED Review Steering Group: summary of fourth meeting (MS Word Document, 33.5KB) Chair: Rob Hayward

30 April

PSED Review Steering Group: summary of fifth meeting (MS Word Document, 37.5KB) Chair: Rob Hayward

Membership of the steering group

Members of the steering group, announced on 15 May 2012.

Rob Hayward OBE (Chair)

Rob Hayward OBE is a former MP for Kingswood/Bristol.

Councillor Mark Loveday

Mark Loveday is a barrister specialising in property law.

Cathy Bakewell MBE

Cathy Bakewell MBE was a Councillor on Somerset County Council until May 2013 and continues to be a Councillor on South Somerset District Council and an independent board member of Equalities South West.

Councillor Ed Lord OBE

Ed Lord OBE is Chairman of Local Partnerships LLP and an ex-officio member of the Executive and Improvement Board of the Local Government Association (LGA).

Charlie Pate

Charlie Pate is Deputy Director for Home Legal and Communities, leading the HM Treasury team responsible for the oversight of Home Office, Ministry of Justice and Law Officer departments’ spending and equalities work.

Stephen Otter QPM

Stephen Otter is HM Inspector of Constabulary for the National Team.

Rachel de Souza

Rachel de Souza is chief executive of the new East Norfolk Academies Trust and executive principal of Victory Academy.

Paula Vasco-Knight

Paula Vasco-Knight is the chief executive of South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, a practising nurse and a senior manager at the NHS Commissioning Board (National Equality Lead).

Dr Munira Mirza

Dr Munira Mirza is London’s Deputy Mayor for Culture and Education.

Rachel Clark

Rachel Clark is the Director of the Government Equalities Office (GEO), taking up this post in January 2013.

Baroness O’Neill

Baroness O’Neill is the Chair of the EHRC. She is a cross-bench peer in the House of Lords.

Terms of reference

Purpose

A review of the public sector Equality Duty (PSED) to establish whether the Duty is operating as intended.

Objectives

To provide a report for ministers by June 2013, on:

  • how both the General and Specific Duties are working
  • how effectively the Duty supports delivery of the UK Government’s Equality Strategy
  • options and recommendations for changes or improvements in the way the Duty operates

Scope

The review of the PSED will:

  • examine evidence about the effectiveness of both the General Duty and the Specific Duties, drawing on views from public bodies with first-hand experience of fulfilling the Duty, as well as from practitioners, voluntary bodies and private sector organisations upon whom the Duty has had an impact
  • explore the impact of the Duty in terms of costs, burdens and a range of benefits (including policy improvements, efficiencies and equality outcomes)
  • consider comparative models internationally to understand the range of levers available to help public bodies deliver equality of opportunity
  • consider how the Duty functions in the context of the UK government’s equality strategy and its new approach to achieving change, including transparency; devolving power to people supporting social action; and integrating equality considerations into policy and programmes
  • examine the role of support and guidance given to public bodies and how legal risk is managed within different types of public bodies
  • consider what further measures could be taken to improve operation of the Duty

Parameters

The Review will:

  • look at Great Britain in terms of the General Duty, but will take account of the different Specific Duties and implications for the Devolved Administrations and specific evidence arising from their experiences
  • consider the breadth of protected characteristics within the context of the PSED
  • take account of the budgetary position facing public bodies
  • consider the duties and powers conferred on the EHRC, by the Equality Act 2006
  • have its costs met from existing budgets

Governance

A steering group - with an independent chair - will oversee the Review. It will include senior level figures with experience of the main delivery public sectors of policing, education, health, local and central government. GEO and EHRC will also be represented. It will meet every four to five weeks, beginning in December 2012.

The Steering Group will consider how best to develop and gather evidence that will inform the review findings. Throughout the process, members will be expected to offer challenge and support to conduct the Review effectively, and ensure the findings are backed up by robust and credible evidence.

The review and Steering Group will be supported by GEO.

Method for carrying out the review and preparing the report

Phase 1

Initiation:

  • form a steering group by end of November, including appointment of the Chair
  • develop and agree an evidence approach which supports the purpose of the Review, its findings and conclusions

Phase 2

Evidence Gathering:

  • using public sector bodies to gather evidence through their channels
  • review existing research and evidence
  • conduct a series of roundtable evidence-gathering exercises by theme or sector
  • manage other information requests

Phase 3

Findings and Conclusions:

  • analyse material
  • develop review conclusions
  • produce a report by June 2013
  • conclude the Review

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