Legislative Scrutiny: Equality Bill - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by the Children's Rights Alliance for England


  1.  CRAE seeks the full implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC); and coordinates the Young Equals campaign, which has made a separate submission on the issue of age discrimination against children. Please also refer to the Young Equals report: Making the case: why children should be protected from age discrimination and how it can be done (http://www.crae.org.uk/protecting/age-discrimination.html).


Please explain how, in practice, the proposed new duty will enhance human rights for individuals.

Please explain why immigration measures are exempt from the socio-economic duty.

  2.  CRAE welcomes the new duty on reducing socio-economic inequalities, but notes its incompatibility with provisions only recently set out in the Childcare Act 2006. "Desirability" provides a much weaker commitment than requiring English local authorities to "… reduce inequalities amongst young children in their area".

  3.  CRAE finds it inexplicable as to why immigration measures are exempt from the socio-economic duty. This fails to promote the rights of all children without discrimination (under Article 2 of the UNCRC); and goes against the intentions of government policy elsewhere, as signified by the UK Government's recent withdrawal of reservations under Article 22 of the UNCRC (on refugee children).



Is the definition of direct discrimination in Clause 13 sufficiently clear to ensure compliance with the decision of the European Court of Justice in C—303/06, Coleman v Attridge Law?

Why is discrimination on the basis of association and perception not explicitly prohibited on the face of the Bill, in order to provide greater clarity for employers and service providers?

Was consideration given to including carer status as a protected characteristic, or to giving carers a legal right to seek reasonable accommodation? If so, why was it rejected?

  4.  CRAE is concerned about the lack of regard, within the provisions of the Equality Bill, to the particular needs of young carers. Without attention to the reasonable protection of young carers from discrimination many will continue to (1) have their needs subsumed within those of the adults they are caring for, and be denied assessment for or entitlement to services in their own right under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 as "children in need"; (2) be denied significant opportunities for play and learning; and, (3) may lose out on essential developmental aspects of their childhood. We would commend a recent Ofsted report: "Supporting young carers: Identifying, assessing and meeting the needs of young carers and their families" (June, 2009).

  5.  All under 18s should have protection from age discrimination on the basis of association and perception, which measures in Clause 26 would exclude them from.

  6.  Eliminating discrimination by association is of particular relevance to young carers. In protecting the rights of their parents, against less favourable treatment, the child's own rights are more likely to be respected; including their rights under Articles 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 and Articles 16 and 27 of UNCRC to family life, privacy and adequate standards of living (as exemplified in the recent Coleman v Attridge Law [2008] case).


Does the Government accept that if multiple discrimination is confined to two protected characteristics, some individuals subject to other forms of multiple discrimination may be denied legal protection against unfair and unequal treatment?

Why does the Government consider that it is unnecessary to prohibit indirect discrimination or harassment which is based on multiple grounds?

  7.  Children are not only discriminated against on, for example, the typical equality grounds of gender, race, disability and sexual orientation but they are also discriminated against in British society for simply being children. That places children highly in the category of people most likely to experience multiple discrimination. The failure of government to include children, in all aspects of its measures to provide for a more equal society, only goes to exemplify the lack of worth that the State seemingly places on the value of our children.

  8.  Either it is wholly right to discriminate against people or it is not. Surely, there can never be a rational argument for an Equality Bill seeming to justify exclusion from protection against certain aspects or characteristics of discrimination.


What exceptions are intended to be introduced in respect of age discrimination outside the workplace?

Why are children excluded from discrimination on the grounds of age in the provision of services and the performance of public functions?

Does the Government consider that this may prevent children from enjoying full protection of the rights set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child? If not, why not?

  9.  CRAE believes that any exceptions should be based solely on objective justification, which must be proportionate and necessary.

  10.  Children should not be excluded from discrimination on the grounds of age in the provision of services and the performance of public functions. We have set out our detailed evidence in the Young Equals report: Making the case: why children should be protected from age discrimination and how it can be done referred to in paragraph 1. This report highlights the systemic nature of age discrimination against children in both public and private spheres, including healthcare, child protection, access to justice, public leisure facilities, shops and restaurants, and public transport. Age discrimination against children is a neglected problem, often unrecognised and often not taken seriously. The evidence we have gathered comes from a wide range of sources; including statutory inspectorates, regulatory bodies, government research, children, parents and carers.

  11.  CRAE recognises that children require protection against unfair age discrimination that should be provided to them in the provision of goods, facilities and services. We are not, however, arguing that they should be treated the same as adults or, indeed, necessarily the same as children of differing ages. Equality laws should not be about treating everyone the same, but about treating everyone as having equal worth and value. We are opposed to any treatment of children and young people, including on grounds of age, that is unfair because it cannot be objectively and rationally justified.

  12.  There has been much recent focus on child protection arising from the Baby Peter case and the Lord Laming report. However, one point CRAE would wish to emphasise, in trying to encourage government to think again about the issue of age discrimination as it impacts on children, is that child protection services are disproportionately provided to children in this country on the grounds of age, as too are a number of other so-called "children's" services. That is not only discriminatory, but it is potentially harmful to a significant number of children, particularly older children.

  13.  Excluding children from discrimination on the grounds of age in the provision of services and the performance of public functions prevents children from exercising their rights under UNCRC. The Government has yet again missed an important opportunity to ensure that legislation affecting children in this country is compliant with meeting our international obligations. The measure of its miscalculation in this regard is that unfair treatment for children not only impacts on children themselves, but also, inevitably, on many parents and other adults responsible for their welfare.



How is maintaining the legal requirement that collective worship in schools must be of a broadly Christian character consistent with the Government's commitment to "a plurality of provision" and is this justifiable in view of the religious diversity of the UK today?

Please provide a more detailed explanation of why collective worship should continue to be exempt from the duty not to discriminate on grounds of religion or belief?

  14.  In accordance with Articles 12 (right to be heard) and 14 (freedom of thought) of UNCRC, children with sufficient understanding to make an informed decision should be able to opt in or opt out of collective religious worship in schools. Currently the law only allows for sixth form students to opt out of collective worship. However, children with sufficient understanding may also wish to exercise the "opting out" right or, alternatively to opt themselves into collective worship following a previous withdrawal either by themselves or their parents.

Why is it justifiable to exclude discrimination on grounds of (1) pregnancy and maternity (2) age and (3) marriage and civil partnership from the scope of the Bill's protections in the field of education?

  15.  CRAE is concerned about these exclusions and believes that these are bound to lead to the unequal treatment of certain children in schools.


Please explain why each exception to the public sector equality duty is necessary and proportionate.

  16.  The omission of the age element of the public sector equality duty from children's homes may exacerbate age restrictions that can conspire to unnecessarily separate siblings in care and force children to leave settled children's home and foster care placements.

  17.  The public sector duty will not prove to be a burden to the many good schools and children's homes, up and down the country, that are already fostering "good relations". Its omission, however, will succeed in providing solace to some of our poorest services.

  18.  The Equality Bill would benefit from being subjected to a "compatibility test". Government has introduced other legislation that would be conflicted by the introduction of this. For example, the Childcare Act 2006 requires local authorities to: "reduce inequalities between young children in their area" whilst the Equality Bill expressly excludes children from certain safeguards necessary to achieve this.

  19.  In relation to children's homes, Government is commendably trying to encourage greater stability in placements for children in care and more placements with siblings in care together. That could, however, be undermined if children's homes remain exempt from applying protections against age discrimination. Age is one of the main criteria upon which children's homes are registered. In practice, this means that once a child becomes "too old" to live in a particular children's home they are required to move on.

  20.  Fostering good relations in children's homes has been the bedrock upon which all guidance on "permissible forms of control" and good behaviour management has been based ever since the Community Homes Regulations 1972. Doing so, therefore, is not a burden on children's homes, but a pre-requisite to their meeting national minimum standards and regulations.

  21.  It is perhaps most difficult to justify the exclusion of schools from the public sector equality duty to foster good relations amongst people of all ages. Surely, if there is one thing that we would wish to promote in schools it is respect and tolerance for others and, as previously inferred, it is hard to envisage how a school can possibly hope to function without having regard to promoting good relations with, and amongst, its pupils. Quite contrary to government concerns about this being a burden on schools, promoting good relations is recognised widely as prerequisite to managing them well. We would encourage government to look seriously again at how a public sector equality duty applied to schools could encourage children as citizens in their own right, and also as aspiring adults, to grow up having regard for each other, for others of different generations, as well as for others of different backgrounds, in terms of their equal worth and value.

  22.  There is an inherent contradiction in schools rightly being encouraged to address bullying whilst, at the same time, being given a legal dispensation from having to provide children entrusted to their care with equal protection from discrimination, harassment and victimisation. Government believes this problem can be addressed without recourse to legislation. In respect of good schools we would have no reason to disagree. However, it is beyond the powers of any government to guarantee that only good schools will prevail, and it is therefore wrong to deny children the protection that it takes for granted for persons who are over the age of 18, including those who work in schools.

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