Memorandum submitted by the Department for Work and Pensions

Summary

 

The Government is committed to creating a fair society with fair chances and fair rules for everyone. Equality not only has benefits for individuals but for society and the economy too.

 

Over recent years the employment rate for people from ethnic minorities, disabled people and people aged 50-69 have all increased and the gap between the rates for these groups and the overall employment rate has reduced. Even with these successes, the Government recognises that there is more to do and is moving forward in both the areas of welfare reform and tackling discrimination in employment.

 

The Disability Discrimination Act is already succeeding in driving systemic change. Other areas of domestic legislation provide protections against discrimination in employment and the provision of goods, facilities and services on grounds of race, gender including gender reassignment, age (employment only, at present), sexual orientation; and religion and belief.  

 

The Government is keen to retain the successful features of the public sector disability, race and gender equality duties and to extend those benefits to the other protected strands. The proposed new duty will require public authorities to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination and harassment, promote equality of opportunity and promote good community relations in respect of all their functions and for all protected grounds.

 

All organisations, public and private, are subject to discrimination law. The Government is exploring options via public sector procurement to influence culture and practice in the private sector. The Equality Bill will ban secrecy clauses which prevent people discussing their own pay. The Government will work with business to improve transparency in the private sector, in particular through the introduction of a new "kite-mark", and gather and publish evidence on the effectiveness of equal pay audits in closing the gender pay gap. We expect business will increasingly regard reporting on their progress on equality as an important part of explaining to investors and others the prospects for the company.

 

The Government's ambition is to also bring about cultural change to tackle discrimination in the private sector. The Government wants employers and service providers to recognise their social responsibilities. This type of social change should help to drive improved opportunities without the need for individuals to have to rely on enforcement of legislation - though individuals will of course retain their existing rights to bring cases where they believe they have been discriminated against.

 

As well as strengthening the law in various ways, the Equality Bill will also simplify the law by bringing it together in one place.


1. Introduction

 

1.1 A fair society is one where people have the chance to live their lives freely and fulfil their potential. The Government is committed to creating a fair society with fair chances and fair rules for everyone. For a society to be fair we must tackle inequality and root out discrimination.

 

1.2 Equality not only has benefits for individuals but for society and the economy too. A more equal workforce is a stronger workforce. A more equal society is one more at ease with itself.

 

1.3 That is why the Government has committed to introduce a new Equality Bill which will do three things.

 

1.4 The new Equality Bill will strengthen the law where necessary to tackle discrimination where it still exists. For example, the Bill will include an expanded public sector equality duty that will also tackle discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation, age, religion or belief or their gender reassignment. It should not matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like, or what you believe: everyone should have the same, fair chances in life.

 

1.5 The Bill will support wider work to help people and businesses through tough times and emerge stronger. The Government will work with business, trade unions and delivery partners like the Equality and Human Rights Commission to provide practical guidance and day-to-day advice, to help make equality a reality.

 

1.6 The Bill will streamline the law, reducing nine major pieces of legislation into a single Act. This is particularly important in the current climate when resources are stretched. Employers and employees alike will benefit from a simpler, clearer framework for equality.

 

1.7 The Department for Work and Pensions has an interest in all areas of equality but the Office for Disability Issues, which sits within the Department, is the focal point within government for coordinating the development and the delivery of services for disabled people.

 

2. Equality in Employment

 

2.1 Overall, the UK labour market has improved considerably over the last decade. While the labour market has weakened over the last year, as a result of shocks to the world economy and in common with other countries, employment remains high by historic and international standards. In the quarter July-September (Q3) 2008 29.4 million people were in work, and the employment rate was 74.4%. However the Government has always believed that this relative success was not enough on its own. It is equally important to ensure that all groups have the opportunity to participate in the labour market, and in particular that the Government does all it can to support people through difficult times.

 

2.2 Over the last seven years[1] the employment rates for people from ethnic minorities, disabled people and people aged 50-69 have all increased. The gap between the overall employment rate and that of each of these disadvantaged groups has also fallen. Between Q3 2001 and Q3 2008 the employment rate for ethnic minorities has increased from 58.7% to 61.3% with the employment gap narrowing by 2.7 percentage points; for disabled people the employment rate increased from 42.7% to 48.3%, with the employment gap narrowing by 5.7 percentage points; and the employment rate for people aged 50-69 increased from 52.0% to 55.9%, with the employment gap narrowing by 4.1 percentage points.

 

2.3 The Department has used pilot programmes extensively to develop expertise and test out different ways of achieving desired outcomes. Lessons from these pilots have been used in developing the Department's approach to welfare reform. This approach was set out in the Department's Green Paper No-one Written Off: Reforming Welfare to Reward Responsibility[2] which included proposals for greater devolution of responsibility to individuals, providers and communities; for extending the support available through Pathways to Work to all individuals on incapacity benefits; a significant expansion of Access to Work; a new "Right to Control" for disabled people; and a "flexible New Deal" for those on Jobseeker's Allowance.

 

2.4 Taken together, these proposals represent a step-change in the welfare state, and in particular in support for the most disadvantaged people. The consultation on these proposals has now closed and the Government will respond in due course. What is clear however is that now more than ever it is imperative that the Government presses ahead with its welfare reforms - to extend opportunity to all and to ensure that, in contrast to previous economic slowdowns, the most disadvantaged are not left behind.

 

2.5 For disabled people, Pathways to Work is a ground-breaking programme that has been developed in partnership between the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department of Health and the National Health Service. Customers have access to a wide range of support including Condition Management Programmes, employment support and financial information. Since April 2008, Pathways has been available across the whole country and is mandatory for most new claimants. Research carried out by the Policy Studies Institute concluded that those who have gone through the Pathways programme are 25% more likely to be in a job after 18 months, than those who do not[3].

 

2.6 The Department's public consultation on proposals to Improve the Specialist Disability Employment Services set out how the Department could improve these services to help more disabled people. As a consequence of less prescription and greater flexibility, better links between elements of provision and a greater focus on job entries, our services will be more capable than at present of being able to meet the work support needs of each individual. The Department will move away from "one size fits all", and tailor our services to what each customer needs in order to move into and stay in work.

 

2.7 For people form ethnic minorities, DWP will be working with local strategic partnerships in areas that receive the new 1.5 billion Working Neighbourhoods Fund to consider how they can extend support and deliver improved outcomes for their ethnic minority residents. This is of a different order of magnitude to the small-scale outreach pilots, which it replaces and the Department believes that this is a more efficient and effective way to spend public money.

 

2.8 DWP also works, through the Age Positive initiative, to tackle age discrimination in employment and strongly promote the business benefits of employing a mixed age workforce and adopting flexible approaches to work and retirement.

 

2.9 The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 required amending to give real strength and powers to disabled people. The DDA now provides comprehensive rights for disabled people in recruitment and employment and the Government will ensure that this level of protection, particularly the key principle of reasonable adjustment for disabled people, will be maintained in the Equality Bill. The Equality Bill will not simply carry forward existing legislation, but will build on this foundation. The Government is taking opportunities to rationalise the disability provisions. This will help improve opportunities in employment for disabled people and ensure that equality legislation is more effective by making it more straightforward for employers to operate and disabled people to enforce.

 

2.10 The Government's policy intention is that disability discrimination legislation should strike a balance between the rights of the disabled person and the interests of those with duties under the legislation. A disabled person should be able to demonstrate relatively easily that discrimination for a reason related to his or her disability (disability-related discrimination) has occurred, and the duty holder, such as an employer or service provider, should be able to put forward a justification for the discriminatory act. The House of Lords' judgment in the Lewisham v Malcolm case has disturbed that balance by making it harder for a disabled person to be able to demonstrate a prima facie case of disability-related discrimination. The Government has been carefully considering how the disability-related discrimination provisions in the DDA1995 operate following the House of Lords' judgment, and whether the disability provisions in the Equality Bill should take a different approach to tackling this type of discrimination.

 

2.11 The Government has concluded that the concept of indirect discrimination should be adopted for disability in the Equality Bill and it is currently conducting a consultation exercise to seek views from stakeholders on how this should operate. The Government considers that adopting the concept of indirect discrimination in the Equality Bill will achieve an appropriate level of protection for disabled people. In addition it will improve consistency, within the Equality Bill, between the provisions for disability and those related to the other protected characteristics, such as age, race and sex.

 

2.12 Although the judgment in the Lewisham v Malcolm case has made it more difficult for a person to demonstrate a prima facie case of disability-related discrimination disabled people do still have means of redress ahead of the Government legislating in the Equality Bill. The judgment does not alter the duty which requires employers not to discriminate directly against a disabled job applicant or disabled employee. Nor does it alter the duty which requires those such as employers; providers of goods, facilities, services, premises and education; and public authorities carrying out their functions, not to discriminate by failing to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people.

 

2.13 In most instances, disability-related discrimination may be overcome by the duty of reasonable adjustment. For example, a restaurant may have a policy of excluding animals, which disadvantages a blind person who requires the support of a guide dog in order to use the restaurant. If it is reasonable to do so, the restaurant must adjust its "no animal" policy to enable assistance dogs to enter the premises, and therefore remove the barrier to the disabled person using the restaurant.

 

2.14 The Government is also considering the implications for domestic discrimination law of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) judgment in the case of Coleman v Attridge Law to assess what changes need to be made to the legislation as a result. However, the Government has made clear that it does not intend to extend protection against discrimination for carers as carers; or for parents as parents. We recognise the very valuable role which carers play and the additional responsibilities and challenges that people face when they act as carers - and are taking specific measures that support people in this position, particularly to help them balance work/life responsibilities. In particular, following the report by Imelda Walsh earlier this year, the Government has decided to extend the right to request flexible working to apply to all parents of children up to the age of 16. The Government has also adopted a new 10-year carers' strategy[4], which focuses on providing greater services and support for carers, including an additional 150 million on breaks for carers, up to 38 million in helping carers combine paid employment and caring; and over 6 million in support for young carers, within a total of 255 million on short-term improvements, on top of the 224 million granted to local authorities to support carers in 2008/09.

 

3. Equality in Goods, Facilities and Services (GFS)

 

3.1 There is evidence from research commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions that the DDA is already succeeding in driving systemic change. Research conducted in 2006 shows that compared with 2003 service providers were more likely to have made, or be planning, reasonable adjustments for disabled people. Nearly 90 per cent of service providers had made, or planned, adjustments and 72 per cent of service providers that had made an adjustment had done so because it was the right thing to do for the disabled person.

 

3.2 At the time that the research was conducted, many of the provisions in the DDA 2005 had not yet come into force. The DDA 2005 extended the provisions in Part 3 of the 1995 Act to include access to the use of land-based transport services, larger private clubs and the functions of public authorities. By extending the coverage of the DDA to most aspects of society the Government aims to ensure that tackling disability discrimination becomes more of a mainstream consideration for organisations.

 

3.3 Building on the individual disability discrimination rights for disabled people, the DDA 2005 also introduced the Disability Equality Duty (DED). The DED ensures that public authorities must have due regard to the needs of disabled people and promote equality of opportunity for disabled people when developing their policies and delivery mechanisms. Certain public authorities also need to produce a Disability Equality Scheme to demonstrate how they are meeting the general DED. The Government considers the DED to be key to driving systemic change within public authorities and it will build on the DED in taking forward the new single equality duty.

 

3.4 The Government has established the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) which provides a source of advice and guidance for people who wish to enforce their rights under anti-discrimination legislation. For disabled people, this builds on the foundation provided by the former Disability Rights Commission. In addition, under provisions in the Disability Discrimination Act 2005, the Government extended the coverage of the Questions Procedure so that it may now be used in respect of the goods, facilities, services, premises, private clubs and public authority functions provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act. The procedure is intended to help a person who thinks that he or she has been discriminated against to find out more about the treatment that he or she believes is unlawful. It also gives the individual or organisation that is alleged to have discriminated the opportunity to respond to the allegations made.

 

3.5 As the Government indicated in its response to the consultation on proposals for the Equality Bill[5], it is considering the European Court of Justice's judgment in Coleman v Attridge Law and what the implications are for the coverage of association in the Equality Bill.

 

3.6 Research[6] undertaken by the Department for Work and Pensions concluded that local authorities and housing associations tended to demonstrate a good understanding of disabled tenants' needs, but that private sector landlords were less aware of their needs. The report recommended that disabled tenants should be empowered to use the DDA effectively, and that more proactive approaches to providing information to disabled tenants and landlords needed to be found.

 

3.7 The Office for Disability Issues published a series of factsheets in September 2008 about disability and premises issues. The factsheets, one of which explains the premises provisions of the DDA, are aimed at enabling landlords, managers of premises and disabled tenants to use legislation governing disability-related alterations more effectively. The factsheets have been distributed to a range of housing and tenant organisations. They have also been publicised on the Office for Disability Issues' website and through its ODInsight newsletter.

 

3.8 The Government recognises that further improvements should be made to the premises provisions of disability discrimination legislation. That is why it intends to include provisions in the Equality Bill that will require landlords, where it is reasonable for them to do so, to make disability-related alterations to the common parts, such as common entrances or stairways, of let residential premises. This duty will only apply where the request for a disability-related alteration is made by or on behalf of the disabled person and the costs of the alteration, including reasonable maintenance costs and reinstatement costs, will be the responsibility of the disabled person.

 

3.9 In the Equality Bill, the Government intends to harmonise the different provisions that currently allow employers, service providers, etc to justify disability discrimination. Currently, landlords and managers of premises may only justify disability-related discrimination in specific circumstances. Once the Equality Bill is enacted, they will be able to justify discrimination where the discriminatory treatment is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. However, landlords and managers of rented premises will remain under a duty to make reasonable adjustments, for example by changing policies or procedures, or providing auxiliary aids or services, where these are requested by the disabled person. The Government considers that this will achieve an appropriate balance between the rights of disabled people and the interests of landlords, etc.

 

New EU Directive

 

3.10 A draft EU Directive proposes to make it unlawful to discriminate against or harass someone on the basis of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation in relation to a wide range of areas, in particular social security, healthcare, education and the provision of goods and services including housing and transport.

 

3.11 The UK strongly supports the aims of the draft Directive. The Government believes that a new Directive can contribute to a fairer and therefore stronger Europe and that a good level of minimum protection across all States is important. The Government believes the Directive should build on the experience that the previous Directives have provided and that it is important to get the scope right when it comes to issues such as education, healthcare and other areas of social policy.

 

3.12 The Government will want to ensure that the measures in the draft Directive complement the extensive and carefully balanced legal structures established or proposed in the UK - which have led to real progress. The Government will also want to be sure that the scope and various provisions of the draft Directive will work effectively and achieve the aim of enhancing protection against discrimination, without placing undue burdens on business.

 

3.13 In a number of respects, domestic legislation already anticipates provisions of the draft Directive, for example protection against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, religion and belief and disability, in the provision of goods, facilities and services.  These protections will be incorporated in the Equality Bill.  In addition the Government has made clear that it intends to prohibit age discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services, in the Equality Bill. The Directive is under negotiation and to the extent that the UK takes a different view on some aspects, these are not included in the Equality Bill. The Government will be consulting shortly on the Directive.

 

4. Public Sector Equality Duty

 

4.1 The Government is keen to retain the successful features of the disability, race and gender equality duties on public authorities and to extend those benefits to the other protected strands. The substance of the proposed single public sector equality duty will be broadly similar to the existing duties. The new duty will require public authorities to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination and harassment, promote equality of opportunity (whose meaning it is proposed to make clear on the face of the Bill as in particular addressing disadvantage, advancing positive attitudes, meeting different needs and promoting participation and inclusion). Public Authorities will also be required to promote good community relations in respect of all their functions and for all protected grounds (with the exception of age, regarding pupils in schools).

 

4.2 A single public sector duty will be easier, simpler and more practical for public authorities to implement and will enable public authorities to address their equality responsibilities more efficiently through a single mechanism. The current duties focus on the needs related to individual protected grounds rather than encouraging action to address the particular disadvantage experienced by groups, such as women from particular minority ethnic communities or gay and lesbian disabled people. More than 80% of the respondents to the Discrimination Law Review consultation[7] favoured integrating the three existing duties into one duty, and 90% favoured extending the duty.

 

4.3 The new equality duty will build significantly on the successes of the existing Disability Equality Duty (DED). Clear statutory guidance from the EHRC should help public authorities to implement the new duty in an effective and proportionate way.

 

4.4 The DED came into force on 4 December 2006, and since then the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) has undertaken a range of activities to ensure that the Duty is implemented effectively. Ipsos MORI was commissioned to carry out an audit of compliance in January 2007. The final report revealed that 72 per cent of public authorities covered by the audit were found to have published a Disability Equality Scheme (DES), and at least 54 per cent of all authorities covered in the audit had published a DES that contained evidence that the authority had involved disabled people in its production. By the summer very few authorities did not have a scheme in place, representing a high level of compliance.

4.5 While the ODI does not formally monitor compliance or progress made by all public bodies, in early 2008 the Strathclyde Centre for Disability Research, University of Glasgow was commissioned to carry out an in-depth examination of the implementation of the DED in England. The results indicated that a positive change in perceptions of disabled people and disability issues had taken place within most of the organisations in the study.

 

4.6 In addition to the requirement relating to the schemes, certain Secretaries of State are also required to publish a report, the first one being no later than 1 December 2008, on progress toward equality in their policy sector and proposals for co-ordination of future work by relevant public authorities within their policy sector. Some early anecdotal indications from departments suggest that the process of producing the reports has itself had an impact on mainstreaming disability into policy areas. Further anecdotal evidence from key stakeholders highlights the important fact that disabled people and organisations are using the DED as a lever for challenge and change at both the local and national level.

 

Equality in DWP

 

4.7 DWP has internal targets for the representation of women, ethnic minority staff and disabled staff at all grades at which there is under-representation (further information shown at Annex 1). DWP has met or exceeded its targets in many of these areas but there is clearly more work to do. The Department has in place a number of activities to help achieve equality in employment: such as the DWP Equality Schemes, Equality Impact Assessments, the Customer Involvement Strategy, the Reasonable Adjustments process, positive action programmes and mentoring.

 

4.8 DWP regularly take part in external benchmarking exercises on the different aspects of diversity. The Department achieved Gold standard in the Employers' Forum on Disability Standard 2007, scoring 89% against an overall average of 57% and public sector average of 60%. DWP assesses, monitors and provides an update on outcomes and progress against its equality action plans on a yearly basis, including reports such as promotions and recruitment by diversity strands (measures of success) [8].

 

4.9 DWP encourages all staff to disclose their ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation but disclosure itself is voluntary. Although DWP has achieved high disclosure rates for disability and ethnicity compared to other government departments, it believes that there are still more people who could disclose their status but who have yet to do so. For that reason it will continue to run campaigns for its staff to promote the importance of disclosing their status. DWP communications on disclosure set out the rationale behind diversity monitoring and emphasise particularly the confidentiality of the disclosure process. The most recent campaign to encourage disclosure ran in November 2008. DWP does not currently collect or monitor data regarding staff caring responsibilities.

 

4.10 DWP hold diversity events, Excellence in Diversity Awards, and has six National Staff Network Groups. These groups have informed, for example, the development of DWP's reasonable adjustment policy.

 

4.11 For its customers, DWP has established a Customer Insight team dedicated to better understanding customers' needs. DWP has held discussions with its customers at various events, including the annual Disability Forum to identify their specific diversity needs. The Department measures the success of its service to diverse customers by asking them for their views, for example through customer satisfaction surveys and mystery shopping.

 

4.12 As a result, DWP has developed a set of cross-departmental customer service processes to help customers with specific communication barriers better access DWP services. The Department has also developed centralised, easy to access guidance designed for customer facing staff, which provides links to current guidance and practical information relating to diverse customers. The guidance also includes information about equality and anti-discrimination laws, and links to examples of good practice in customer service from across DWP. DWP is also currently working to improve the ability of its IT systems to store and share information relating to disabled customers.

 

4.13 The Disability Equality Duty is an important tool in helping the Department to focus on disability equality issues in its policy-making. It provides a useful lever for the Department in its negotiations with other public authorities to help make progress towards disability equality. This is clear in much of the evidence in the Department's Secretary of State Report which outlines the progress made towards disability equality in policy sectors on which the Department leads, including employment, later life and disability equality.

 

4.14 However, the report also makes clear that more progress still needs to be made towards disability equality across these policy sectors. For example, the employment rate of people with learning difficulties remains low at 14 to 24 per cent as does the employment rate of people with mental health conditions (11 to 17 per cent)[9]. The report sets out what the Department is doing in order to make further progress towards disability equality, including how it is working with other public authorities. For example, it is developing a National Strategy for Mental Health and Employment, to ensure a coordinated response across government to the challenges faced by people of working age with mental health conditions and improve their employment chances.

 

Use of Procurement

 

4.15 The public sector spends around 175 billion every year on purchasing goods and services from the private sector. 30% of British companies are contracted by the public sector. Public sector procurement can therefore be a potentially powerful lever to drive progress on equality.

 

4.16 Under the existing public sector equality duties, public bodies are already required, in carrying out their procurement activities, to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination and to promote race, disability and gender equality. Some public bodies, for example, ask potential contractors for relevant equality related information, concerning relevant contracts.

 

4.17 The new equality duty will give a greater focus to increasing transparency. The Government is looking at how to help public bodies comply with the duty more effectively through legislative and non-legislative mechanisms.

 

4.18 The Office of Government Commerce's (OGC) procurement policy and standards framework was launched earlier in 2008. It sets out policy, standards and best practice guidance on public procurement, including what can be achieved through public procurement and how it can be done. The Government encourages public authorities to use this framework and is looking at mechanisms for collating and sharing examples of good practice.

 

4.19 As part of this framework the Government recently set out how social issues can be addressed through public sector purchasing. The OGC publication Buy and make a difference[10], provides practical advice, with good-practice examples to public procurers on when and how they can reflect social issues at the various stages of the procurement process: when identifying the need, at the specification stage; at the pre-qualification/selection stage; at the award stage; in the performance of the contract; and through relationship management.

 

4.20 The OGC will be publishing a similar guide specifically on addressing equality issues in procurement, including clarification of what the existing public sector equality duties mean for public procurement.

 

5. Private Sector commitment and support, guidance, advice and information for employers

 

5.1 The Government has a public policy objective to achieve a fair society in which people have the opportunity to succeed. Public bodies such as schools, local authorities, health authorities and government departments, have an important role to play in delivering this objective because of the services they provide, the people they employ and the money they spend in the private sector. The Government expects the private sector to play its part in making progress towards equality, including through its relationships and interactions with the private sector.

 

5.2 For example, Jobcentre Plus staff are trained to challenge any employer who appears to be behaving in a potentially discriminatory way when using their vacancy service. Additionally, if a customer reports to Jobcentre Plus that they have suffered discrimination, staff will advise them of their rights, provide details of how to access the Employment Tribunal Service and signpost to ACAS and EHRC if the customer requires further advice or guidance. Jobcentre Plus is currently introducing written guidance for customers, as part of its Job Kit. This explains to customers what to do if they feel they have been discriminated against when looking for work. Following the introduction of the guidance, Jobcentre Plus will explore including a question on awareness of discrimination reporting procedures in its two yearly customer satisfaction survey.

 

5.3 The Government does not think that an equality duty on the private sector is appropriate. However, the private sector has a valuable role to play in advancing good equality practice. The Government is exploring how to help public bodies comply with the equality duty more effectively, through legislative and non-legislative mechanisms.

 

5.4 The Government's ambition is to bring about cultural change to tackle discrimination in the private sector. Case study evidence from research[11] shows that the most important factor in employers and service providers making adjustments for disabled people was that 'it was the right thing to do'. That is the direction in which the Government want employers and service providers to move: to recognise their social responsibilities. It is expected that this type of social change will help to drive improved employment opportunities without the need for individuals to have to rely solely on enforcement of legislation. In addition, the Bill will widen the scope of recommendations made by employment tribunals so that they can indicate future best practice.

 

5.5 The task of achieving sustained attitude change amongst employers in relation to people from disadvantaged groups will not be delivered by a short awareness campaign. The Department has adopted a two-pronged approach through the Employ ability initiative, challenging employer attitudes (targeting small and medium sized employers on an area basis) and developing an employer-led strategy to develop and disseminate employer ownership and leadership of this agenda. The Department's strategy for achieving this is to work with a group of key (mainly larger) employers and disability-focused employer organisations, who have already demonstrated a commitment to do more to recruit and retain disabled people, and who have experience of the difficulties employers encounter in achieving this and good practice ideas for overcoming barriers. There will be a series of seven expert panel events between December 2008 and March 2009. Interim findings will be reviewed with partners in January 2009 and further action agreed building on the outcomes of the events in spring 2009.

 

5.6 Small and medium sized employers will be targeted as part of a new phase of the Employ ability campaign, which has an expected launch date of around this time next year. Employ ability currently addresses perceptions about the employability of disabled people, but it is to be expanded to cover lone parents, carers and ethnic minority groups.

 

5.7 In addition to exploring what more employers can do themselves, the Department has asked employers to look at what more they expect from Government and other intermediaries (including Jobcentre Plus and other job brokers and providers) who influence development, recruitment and retention, and from disabled people themselves. The aim is to replace ad-hoc, reactive employer thinking with consistent, proactive and representative ideas, widely accepted by employers. This will inform the design and delivery of services provided by intermediaries and the Government.

 

5.8 The aim is to develop a core employer expertise and leadership - and from there to establish employer-led communication channels for disseminating information and good practice.

 

The Access to Work scheme

 

5.9 The Department is looking at how it can improve Access to Work and make the best use of the resources available to the programme, including the additional funding proposed in the Green Paper No one written off[12]. The Department will consider whether awareness of Access to Work needs to be raised amongst small and medium sized employers and some customer groups, such as those with mental health conditions. More generally, the Department is also looking at how we can expand the support provided by Access to Work without displacing the support that we continue to expect employers to provide.

 

5.10 Although Access to Work can currently help support people with mental health conditions, the Department recognises that some people have fluctuating conditions that are not fully supported. From the end of November 2008 the Department will be piloting more flexible support for people with mental health conditions in two areas of London.

 

5.11 The 'Mind' London Employment Network, with the backing of national 'Mind', will collaborate with Access to Work to provide this new innovative 'in work' support package targeted specifically at people with early onset of mental health issues or an established condition. The plan is to provide a flexible and practical intervention while an employee is still in work, using support workers with an in-depth knowledge of mental health conditions. The aim of the specialist support worker will be to embed skills and tools into the workplace so that the need for ongoing support is minimised.

 

5.12 The Department is also considering how it could enhance choice and control for customers of our specialist disability employment services - including Access to Work - and is specifically considering how we might improve customers' experiences.

 

5.13 Policy development in this area will build upon the In-Control[13] and Individual Budgets pilots[14], which both focused on adult social care. These studies found that when disabled people had more say over how money was spent they were more likely to feel enhanced choice and control over their lives and have higher aspirations. The Individual Budgets pilot found that younger physically disabled people and mental health service users were the most likely to benefit from the new care arrangement; there was tentative evidence that physical and psychological outcomes were improved and that the quality of care was increased. The outcomes for older people and those with learning difficulties were more mixed and older people were more likely to find the experience stressful and an additional burden. The individual budgets pilot attempted to integrate a number of funding streams - including Access to Work - into a single pot but with limited results, due to some significant administrative and legislative barriers to bringing funding streams together.

 

5.14 The Department's recent welfare reform green paper, No one written off, included a proposal for giving disabled people a legislative 'right to request' funding through an individual budget. The Department will shortly be announcing how this proposal will be taken forward. In developing our policy, we are considering how we might enable more effective integration of Access to Work into the individual budget approach.

 

5.15 The Prime Minister's Strategy Unit Report 'Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People' (2005) said that 'there are strong arguments for requiring central Government Departments - and potentially the wider public sector, in due course - to make provision in their expenditure baselines for the costs of employing disabled employees.

 

5.16 When the Access to Work scheme was withdrawn in central government departments in October 2006, the Department said that disabled staff working in Ministerial Government Departments would continue to receive the same support they would have received from Access to Work. The only difference would be the source of the funding, which would be from Departments' running costs. Staff working for central Government Departments have continued to be entitled to an assessment from Access to Work, and they and their employers have also continued to be entitled to information and advice from Access to Work Advisers. DWP brokered an agreement through which Access to Work support would be provided to any staff who would have been eligible and whose employing Department refused to fund the adjustment. The Government is pleased that this safety net has not been invoked.

 

5.17 An independent qualitative evaluation of Access to Work has specifically looked at the impact on staff of the decision that Ministerial Government Departments should fund the Access to Work adjustments of their staff from October 2006. The findings from this evaluation are expected to be published in spring 2009.

 

5.18 Any decision on whether the changes made in Ministerial Government Departments since October 2006 will be extended to other parts of the public sector will be made in light of the findings of the independent qualitative evaluation of Access to Work, along with responses to the public consultation 'Improving Specialist Disability Employment Services' in which the Department specifically included a question about views on other public sector employers paying for the workplace disability adjustments required by their staff.

 

6. The new Equality Bill

 

6.1 Discrimination law has developed over a number of years and is set out in nine major pieces of legislation, including the DDA, and various ancillary pieces of legislation. There is widespread agreement that those who need to understand this law would benefit from having it in a single Equality Act.

 

6.2 In the process of harmonising and simplifying the law the Government will make a number of improvements to discrimination law for disabled people in the Equality Bill. These were set out in the Government's response to the consultation[15]. The Equality Bill will:

make it more straightforward for disabled people to show that they are disabled;

simplify the definitions of discrimination in accessing goods, facilities and services etc.;

introduce direct discrimination to the supply of goods, facilities and services etc.;

introduce a common threshold for the duty to make reasonable adjustments;

introduce a new duty on landlords to make disability-related alterations to the common parts of let residential premises;

remove the possibility of justifying a failure to make a reasonable adjustment outside of employment.

The Equality Bill will be easier to understand and use and will help improve the life chances of disabled people.

 

6.3 The Government's overall strategy on disability equality is strongly influenced by the social model of disability. For the purposes of anti-discrimination legislation, the Government considers that it is appropriate to maintain the current approach to models of disability, which draws on different models for different purposes. The basic principle of the legislation is that it is asymmetrical, in that generally it protects only disabled people[16]. Consequently, it is necessary to define who is a disabled person for the purposes of the Act and the Government considers that an essentially 'medical' model provides the most appropriate means of doing so.

 

6.4 However, a key principle underpinning the protection provided by disability discrimination legislation is the duty to provide reasonable adjustments, which is clearly based on the social model of disability. The reasonable adjustment provisions take account of the barriers that disabled people face in a wide range of aspects of day-to-day life, including employment, goods, facilities and services, private clubs and the functions of public bodies. They require duty holders to take reasonable steps to overcome those barriers.

 

6.5 The role of the EHRC is set out in Part 1 and relevant Schedules of the Equality Act 2006.  The Government will look to the EHRC to issue appropriate codes of practice and guidance on the new Act and to carry out its various enforcement, supportive and promotional activities. The EHRC is planning to launch a series of inquiries into inequality in a number of sectors.

 

6.6 Within the Discrimination Law Review's remit of creating a more streamlined legal framework for equality, the Office for Disability Issues is working to ensure that disability is properly reflected in that new framework, and that opportunities are taken to harmonise approaches where possible whilst also ensuring that there are distinct provisions for disability within the Equality Bill where appropriate. It is also working to ensure that the commitment that there should generally be no erosion of existing levels of protection for disabled people is delivered. The ODI's role regarding the Equality Bill after it has received Royal Assent will be decided in due course.

Annex 1

 

Representation rates of ethnic minority staff: DWP

Grade

Ethnic minority staff %

Sep 08

2008 DWP Target

SCS

4.4

5.0

 

G/G6-F/G7

4.0

4.0

 

E/SEO

4.3

4.0

 

D/HEO

6.2

5.5

 

All DWP

10.2

n/a

 

 

 

Representation rates of disabled staff: DWP

 

Grade

Disabled staff %

Sep 08

2008 DWP Target

SCS

4.0

6.0

 

G/G6+F/G7+E/SEO

4.2

4.0

 

D/HEO+C/EO

6.5

7.0

 

B/AO+A/AA

5.2

6.0

 

All DWP

5.7

n/a

 

Representation of women: DWP

 

Grade

Women %

Sep 08

2008 DWP Target

SCS grade PB2 and above

24.2

30.0

Total SCS

34.1

39.0

G/G6

42.8

45.0

F/G7

45.2

45.0

All DWP

68.5

n/a

 

 

December 2008



[1] Comparable figures are not available for all of these groups prior to 2001.

[2] Cm7363, July 2008

[3] The Impact of Pathways to Work, The Policy Studies Institute, DWP report no.435, 2007

[4] Carers at the heart of 21st century families and communities: a caring system on your side, a life of your own (June 2008)

[5] The Equality Bill - Government Response to the Consultation Cm7454 (July 2008)

[6] Landlords' responses to the Disability Discrimination Act (2007)

[7] A Framework for Fairness: Proposals for a Single Equality Bill for Great Britain, June 2007

[8] Department for Work and Pensions Race, Disability and Gender Equality Schemes 2008-2011 (www.dwp.gov.uk/aboutus/equalityschemes/progress.asp)

[9] Labour Force Survey 2008, Quarter 3;

[10] Buy and make a difference: How to address social issues in public procurement (June 2008)

[11] DWP Research Report 410: Organisations' Responses to the Disability Discrimination Act

 

[12] No one written off: reforming welfare to reward responsibility (Cm 7363), July 2008

[13] A report on in Control's Second Phase: Evaluation and learning 2005-2007 (June 2008)

[14] Evaluation of the Individual Budgets Pilot Programme: Final Report (October 2008)

[15] The Equality Bill - Government response to the consultation, July 2008

[16] Although, there may be some extension of coverage following consideration of the ECJ judgment in Coleman v Attridge Law.