Duncan Lewis


Asylum, Detention/ Fast Track

Managed Migration, Public Law

An ECHR report says the coalition had ignored the basic requirement of law while pushing through its popular policies

Date: (14 May 2012)    |    

Total Comments: (0)    |    Add Comments

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it was not able to establish whether the coalition had checked its recommendation meant for vulnerable people though it was a legal necessity.
It said that in vital areas of policy, the government appeared to set aside equality legislation in the rush to push through eye catching policies. Under the law, ministers had to determine the effects of proposals, and mitigate or justify them so that outcomes were fairer.
The report said the government had not fully understood the requirements of public sector equality duties. It censured the Treasury, saying the cumulative effects of policies on vulnerable groups was not considered in a meaningful or comprehensive way.
For the first time in a report first of its kind, the commission considered nine policies and concluded that in six areas, child benefit, council tax, the pupil premium, legal aid, disability living allowance and employment support, the government fulfilled its equality obligations.
The Treasury was found lacking in three areas. In the capping of household benefits, limiting welfare to £500 a week for couples and lone parent households, the policy was announced even before its impact on women was known. When 20% was cut from low fares subsidies to bus services, ministers did not examine the effect on disabled people.
The most glaring omission appears to be of an equality analysis concerning withdrawal of the education maintenance allowance (EMA), which paid up to £30 a week to poor teenagers who stayed on at school or college beyond 16.
Although almost half of children from ethnic minorities live in low-income households – compared with a quarter of white British children – the commission discovered the decision to halt the subsidy had been made without any reference to ethnicity.
The commission found the Treasury often batted away arguments on gender by saying it did not have the information required to make judgments. However, the report says, officials could "consider the impact on sub-groups of women or groups where women are over-represented … for example, just over 90% of lone parents are women".
For the Treasury to continue to disregard these sub-groups, the commission warns, may be breaking the law by enforcing indirect discrimination.
The report giving an example said that a policy which puts part-time workers at a particular disadvantage would be unlawful as proportionately more part-time workers were women … Other departments, such as the DWP [Department of Work and Pensions], conduct analysis of sub-groups as part of their equality assessments the report said.
The commission's report follows a legal case brought by the Fawcett Society, which campaigns on women's rights, in August 2010. Campaigners argued the government could not show it had assessed whether the emergency budget in June that year would increase or reduce inequality between women and men.