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Equality and Human Rights Commission: New Board and Budget Mark a New Era

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A new board for the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has been announced today by the Maria Miller.

At the same time, the Secretary of State has announced the Commission’s indicative budget for the next two years.

The EHRC has been going through a significant period of reform and the new board, appointed in collaboration with the new Chair Baroness Onora O’Neill, will mark the next important step for the EHRC’s transition to a more effective and efficient body.

The EHRC is the UK’s designated equality body and ‘A-rated’ National Human Rights Institution.  As the country’s expert body on equality and human rights issues, and guardian of legal rights, it has an important role to fulfil.

Following a very competitive recruitment process, which attracted a large and strong field of candidates, Mrs Miller has today announced the following appointments:

Deputy Chair:  Caroline Waters OBE
Disability Commissioner: Chris Holmes MBE

Commissioners: 

  • Evelyn Asante-Mensah OBE
  • Laura Carstensen
  • Professor Swaran Singh
  • Sarah Veale CBE

The Minister for Women and Equalities, Maria Miller said: “The EHRC has an important role to play in tackling discrimination and promoting equality and human rights in this country.  Today’s new board appointments, along with the recent appointment of Baroness O’Neill as chair, marks the start of a new era for the EHRC.

“The new board reflects the diversity of modern Britain and will bring the skills and experience needed to provide the Commission with strong governance and direction.  Having reached agreement on the budget settlement, we now look forward to the new Board leading the organisation from strength to strength and becoming a valued and respected national institution.”

In May 2012, the Government announced a number of reforms to the EHRC, including the appointment of a new chair and a smaller board, with a greater focus on business and corporate governance skills, to provide strategic leadership for the EHRC.

The first task of the new board will be to agree on the Commission’s business plan for the next financial year.  Following a comprehensive review of the EHRC’s budget (conducted jointly by the Government and the EHRC) and discussions with the new chair, the Minister has written to the EHRC setting out an anticipated core budget of £17.1 million per annum. The EHRC will be able to access additional programme funds to spend on wider equality and human rights activities, as appropriate and subject to normal value for money tests

Baroness O’Neill said: “I am greatly looking forward to welcoming new Board members to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.  Between them they have formidable experience of working for greater equality and inclusion, and for respect for human rights.  The breadth and depth of the experience that they will bring from their work in very diverse professional, community and business settings across the regions will bring added strength to the Commission.

“I am also pleased that the Government and the Commission have been able to work together to agree a budget that will allow us to continue as an effective organisation in all our roles.  I look forward to working with the new Board to set out a programme of work that can make a real difference in protecting everyone against discrimination and human rights violations.”

Caroline Waters said: “I am delighted to accept this appointment and to continue to build on over 30 years’ experience of creating change and new opportunities.  I look forward to the challenges of helping more organisations integrate responsible and inclusive practices into their operations so that we can build a society, economy and nation that enables each of us to thrive”.

Notes to Editors

  1. These appointments were conducted in accordance with the Office for the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments to Public Bodies, which makes clear that the three principles governing public appointments are merit, fairness and openness.

  2. The Equality and Human Rights Commission is accredited by the United Nations as a category ‘A’ status National Human Rights Institution (NHRI), responsible for monitoring the human rights situation in Britain.

  3. The deputy chair will be paid £450 per day for approximately 52 days per year.   The disability commissioner and the commissioners will be paid £400 per day for approximately 25 days per year.

  4. The new appointees will bring the number on the board to 10. This includes Baroness Onora O’Neill of Bengarve, who joined the board on 12 November 2012 as the new chair; Sarah Anderson, appointed in July 2011 as commissioner; Ann Beynon OBE reappointed in December 2012 as Wales commissioner; Kaliani Lyle whose reappointment as Scotland commissioner takes effect from March 2013; and the chief executive, Mark Hammond, who is ex-officio a member of the board.

  5. Full details of the budget review can be found here. The budget will be finalised in due course as part of the annual financial cycle. 

  6. Biographical details of the new commissioners are as follows:

Deputy Chair, Caroline Waters OBE

Currently Director of People and Policy at BT, Caroline Waters has a distinguished record on equality, inclusion, and human resources, and has been the driving force of many diversity-focused groups such as the Chair of Employees for Carers since 2001, helping to found  the Employers’ Forum on Belief, and as Chair of the Lone Parents working group. She was awarded HR Director of the Year in the 2009 HR Excellence Awards and has also judged a number of prestigious diversity awards including the CRE Race in the Media Awards and Help the Aged’s Living Legends. She was awarded the OBE for services to diversity and equal opportunities in the New Year’s list in 2010. She is a Trustee of the Employers network for equality and inclusion. She lives in Bedfordshire.

Disability Commissioner, Chris Holmes MBE

Chris Holmes, Director of Paralympic Integration at LOCOG (since 2009) where he was responsible for leading the team that planned and delivered the 2012 London Paralympic Games. Also a Non- executive Director at UK Sport (since 2005) where he has been the Chair of the Audit Committee since 2006, also a Patron of Help for Heroes and a commercial lawyer.  The candidate’s application presented a strong commitment to Disability-related issues, Board-level experience, and corporate governance experience, experience of leading significant change, audit committee experience, and relevant field experience. Chris was awarded the MBE in 1993 in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List for services to sports. He lives in Richmond.

Commissioner, Evelyn Asante-Mensah OBE

Evelyn Asante-Mensah has worked with a wide spectrum of organisations and partnerships for over 20 years, tackling inequalities and promoting equality, most recently as Head of Equalities and Economic Inclusion for the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA). Previously, as Chief Executive of the Black Health Agency, she grew the organisation from a community group to a well-respected regional organisation with a national profile. She was Strategic Adviser for Community Cohesion and Diversity for the Government Office for the North West and has held several non-executive roles, including Commissioner for the Equal Opportunities Commission, Chair of Race for Health, and Chair of NHS Manchester. She features in the Independent on Sunday’s Pink List which names the top 100 most influential LGBT individuals. She was awarded the OBE for services to communities in the New Year’s Honours List in 2006. She lives in Manchester.

Commissioner, Laura Carstensen

Laura Carstensen is a former Partner in Slaughter and May and was the first woman to be appointed to their Board. She is currently a member (and former Deputy Chairman) of the UK Competition Commission and a member of the Cooperation and Competition Panel for NHS Funded Services. Her portfolio includes a varied range of Board positions including at the Countess of Chester FT Hospital and National Museums Liverpool. She is a former Chair of The Women’s Library and was named by Working Families as one of their Pioneers. She lives in North Wales.

Commissioner, Professor Swaran Singh

Professor Swaran Singh is Head of Division, Mental Health and Wellbeing, at the University of Warwick. He is also an honorary Consultant Psychiatrist at Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust as well as Hub Lead of the Mental Health Research Network (MHRN) at the Heart of England Hub.  He has worked within the NHS at clinical, academic and managerial levels and is an academic respected in his field, having written extensively on ethnicity and mental health. He has also engaged in voluntary work dealing with human rights abuses in India. He lives in the West Midlands.

Commissioner, Sarah Veale CBE

Sarah Veale is the Head of the Equality and Employment Rights Department at the TUC.

Prior to her role as the Head of the Equality and Employment Rights Department, Sarah was Senior Employment Rights Officer at the TUC, in which role she was responsible for the development of TUC policy on employment law.

Sarah is a member of the Government’s Regulatory Policy Committee, the HSE Board and the Government’s Employee Engagement Task Force and was formerly a member of the ACAS Council and the Women’s National Commission. She was awarded the CBE for services to diversity in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in June 2006. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Laws by Oxford Brookes University in June 2011. She lives in London.

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