18 November 2010 #Employment
The Government has decided to abandon implementation of the "socio-economic" duty, which was to come into force under the Equality Act. This proposed duty was part of Harriet Harman`s Equalities Bill and had been opposed by the Conservatives when in opposition.
The socio-economic duty would have required key public bodies, including local councils, health authorities and the police, when taking strategic decisions, to have due regard to the need to reduce the inequalities of outcome that result from socio-economic disadvantage. It would not have created any new right of action for an individual or any new protected characteristic. Enforcement of the duty was to have been by individuals or groups seeking judicial review where their interests were affected by the decisions of a public body if they believed that the public body had failed to peform the duty.
By "inequalities of outcome", the Labour Government meant any measurable differences in outcomes associated with for example, income, housing, health, education, employment or crime rates and when proposing any particular strategy, policy or practice, the public body would have needed to give weight to the issue in proportion to its relevance. For example, health trusts in looking to reduce levels of smoking or drinking would have been required to implement its policies to target the needs of those in deprived areas. Education authorities, when cutting budgets, would have had to demonstrate that children from disadvantaged backgrounds would not be disproportionately affected in terms of their educational attainment and needs.
Equalities Minister and Home Secretary, Theresa May, criticised the proposed duty, saying that it was too simplistic and would have "skewed" public funding.
Note, that the single public sector equality duty, due to come into force next year, is not affected by Mrs May`s announcement.