A new advisory service that provides a range of help for people who feel they have been unfairly discriminated against was formally launched today by Minister for Women and Equalities Helen Grant.
The Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS) is designed to offer bespoke advice and targeted support on issues of discrimination to those who need it most.
Individuals from across the UK can already access help and information from a range of expert advisory services including Citizens Advice and Acas, but where appropriate these organisations will refer more complex cases to the EASS for further tailored assistance.
Where possible the new service seeks to resolve issues informally, but can also offer referrals to mediation or conciliation services, or help to start a legal claim if necessary.
Helen Grant said:
“Discrimination has no place in modern society, but sadly we know it still exists.
“It’s vital that people experiencing unfair treatment can access the right help and support to resolve issues quickly.
“The EASS offers a range of targeted assistance with a focus on seeking informal solutions wherever possible. Over the first month the new service has received numerous calls and I would like to thank all our partners for their help in supporting this important service, which I hope will go from strength to strength.”
Sitel, the leading global provider of customer care services, was awarded the contract for providing the EASS, which has been operating since 1 October.
Lawrence Fenley, Sitel’s General Manager for UK and Ireland said:
“We are delighted to be delivering the EASS, and to be able to provide support to victims of discrimination, when they need help understanding their rights and assistance in dealing with complex and sensitive issues.
“Our approach from day one has been to work with key partners from the voluntary and not for profit sector, such as Disability Rights UK and Law Centres.
“This gives us a depth of knowledge and links to other community and support organisations, enabling us to provide information on complex areas of legislation and support within a network of partner organisations.”
Notes to Editors
The EASS has been providing expert information, advice and support on discrimination to individuals in England, Scotland and Wales since 1 October. It is an improvement over the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) helpline it replaces, with longer opening hours, providing more active help and significantly better value for money. It focuses on prevention and informal resolution wherever possible. Where this is not possible or what the client wants, the new service offers referrals to mediation or conciliation service. For clients who need or want to seek a legal solution, it will help establish if they are eligible for legal aid and if not, help them find an accessible legal service, or to prepare and lodge a claim themselves. It is open 9am to 8pm Monday-Friday and 10am to 2pm on Saturday. It is free to phone from landlines and soon from most mobiles. For details of how to contact the service please see the EASS website.
From its work it will assemble evidence about discrimination problems, for example trends over time or spikes in particular types of case, and share this with the EHRC, Government and more broadly within the advice and wider voluntary and community sectors.
The EASS was set up following a Government review of information, advice and support on equality and human rights, which was published in March 2011. The review concluded that Government should continue to fund information and advice to potential victims of discrimination and human rights breaches and so it decided to commission a new service.
Following a procurement process carried out under EU rules, the contract to provide the EASS was awarded to Sitel. Sitel will work with Disability Rights UK, the Law Centres Federation, Voiceability, the British Institute of Human Rights and the Royal Association for Deaf People.
Further background information is available on the Government Equalities Office website.
An event at the headquarters of Disability Rights UK on 15 November marks the launch of the new service and brings together senior management from the key organisations/ representatives within the advice, pro bono and public sector. The event will highlight strategic direction and foster further cooperation and joint working on discrimination and human rights issues.
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