Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Commission for Racial Equality (PAP 67)

  The Race Relations Act 1976, as amended by the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 (referred to as the amended RRA) places a statutory general duty on public authorities to work towards eliminating unlawful racial discrimination, and to promote race equality and good race relations. Approximately 43,000 public bodies, including Government departments and Ministers of the Crown, are subject to this 'general duty' which aims to make race equality a central part of the way public bodies work, by building race equality considerations into all aspects of their public services, including regulation and enforcement.

  Key bodies delivering major public services (e.g. government departments, local authorities, health trusts, the police and educational institutions) are also subject to "specific duties" in the areas of policy-making, service delivery and employment which aim to improve the performance of the general duty. These duties require certain public authorities to publish a Race Equality Scheme which should:

    —  list all functions and policies that are relevant to the duty to promote race equality, and

    —  set out their arrangements for:
monitoring policies for any adverse impact on promoting race equality;
assessing and consulting the likely impact of proposed policies on promoting race equality;
publishing results of their monitoring, assessments and consultation;
ensuring the public have access to information and services; and
training staff on the general and specific duties

    —  for employment, authorities must monitor, by racial group, staff in post and applicants for jobs, promotion and training. If they have over 150 staff they must also monitor grievances, disciplinary action, performance appraisal, those receiving training and ceasing employment.

  Educational institutions are subject to a similar but lesser set of specific duties and required to produce a Race Equality Policy.

(To clarify, we refer to the general duty and specific duties as the "public duty").

  Of particular relevance here is the Government's agenda for modernising public services - to improve performance, openness and accountability as well as being flexible enough to meet the needs of their customers. The duty to promote race equality adds fairness to these objectives. By providing a performance management framework for continuous improvement in race equality across the public sector, implementation of these new duties will only serve to benefit all customers and communities and contributes to this modernisation agenda.

  Of crucial importance in this modernisation agenda is the setting of national standards and targets that are relevant and realistic, and that focus on outcomes relating to the life chances of the people we serve - those that will make a real difference to people's experience and levels of satisfaction of public services. It is key that targets set, focus on outcomes that public authorities will realistically be able to deliver on, whilst striving for excellence, and that public bodies are not set up to fail. (Of relevance here is the comment about league tables having a detrimental effect on an organisation's ability to improve performance.)

  We feel current targets do tend to put too much stress on the three Es of economy, efficiency and effectiveness, with little focus in wider public concerns such as equality. However if targets to measure effectiveness specifically address improvement in customer focus and satisfaction then services should be more effectively tailored to ensure they meet the needs of all service users, including those from BME communities providing that the meeting the general duty is taken into consideration.

  There does need to be an overall improvement in accountability as reporting against targets is variable and not always clear and consistent. The requirements of the specific duties (to publish results of assessments and monitoring for impact on race equality and results of consultation) will help to improve accountability. It is also important that in setting national targets consideration is given to how these will be met or implemented at a regional and local level. We agree that those formulating national targets need to involve those regional and local bodies and learn from their experience of working to meet these targets.

  The CRE is acutely aware, and keen to support the Government's agenda in reducing the number of indicators and targets that public services are required to report their performance against. However we feel that in order to demonstrate compliance with the public duty there needs to be some specific targets put in place. Within existing systems there are few race equality specific targets or indicators but many have the scope to give some indication of how public authorities are implementing the new requirements of the amended RRA as long as performance measures are linked to ethnic monitoring data.

  The CRE encourages public authorities use the general and specific duties to improve their performance overall and to include in their Race Equality Schemes, strategic outcomes in the following areas:

    —  improved workforce representation at all levels

    —  no significant differences in staff satisfaction, based on their racial group

    —  no significant differences in public confidence, based on their racial group

    —  no significant differences in service outcomes between racial groups

    —  no significant differences in customer's satisfaction with services, based on their racial group

  We have recently been working with the Home Office Race Equality Unit during their development of the government-wide race equality strategy and have contributed to their consultation process, particularly commenting on the targets being set for government departments. We are also pursuing our own specific programme of work on building "public duty" success measures into public service performance measurement systems, including public service agreements. We have been successful so far in securing a limited number of key targets and continue to pursue this agenda with lead custodians.

  It is crucial that public bodies, including government departments develop outcome-based measures to deliver on the public duty agenda over the next 3-5 years and this should be considered as part of this review being undertaken by the Public Administration Select Committee. It is important to bear in mind that the "public duty" is a statutory duty and therefore compliance with and performance against the requirements by the public sector need to measured by some means. If the opportunity is not seized upon now, then a key plank of the government's modernisation agenda will not be delivered.

Public Duty Team

Strategy & Delivery Directorate

Commission for Racial Equality

February 2003

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