We are often asked about the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED). A typical question would be “My local hospital has done X and this puts me at a disadvantage as a person with autism. I thought they couldn’t just make changes without first considering their impact”.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission describes the duty as follows:
“The broad purpose of the equality duty is to integrate consideration of equality and good relations into the day-to-day business of public authorities. If you do not consider how a function can affect different groups in different ways, it is unlikely to have the intended effect. This can contribute to greater inequality and poor outcomes. The general equality duty therefore requires organisations to consider how they could positively contribute to the advancement of equality and good relations. It requires equality considerations to be reflected into the design of policies and the delivery of services, including internal policies, and for these issues to be kept under review”.
In summary the PSED requires public bodies to be continually aware of the need to organise themselves and provide services in a way that promotes equality and therefore avoids discrimination because of any protected characteristic – which includes disability.
Without being excessively critical, it would be reasonable to say that the beneficial effects of the PSED have been limited.
One limited but very positive development is the publication by The Equality and Diversity Forum (EDF) of four leaflets designed to help voluntary and community sector organisations use the Equality Act 2010 and the Public Sector Equality Duty in their work. These can be found HERE
The leaflets are well worth reading. The coverage of the meaning of “due regard” is particularly welcome. This is significant because section 149 of The Equality Act 2010 says that public bodies, when carrying out their functions, must have due regard to three needs.
These are the needs to:
- eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct prohibited by the Act;
- advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it; and
- foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it.
The EDF helpfully gives examples of what this means:
Due regard is ‘…more than simply giving consideration’ and ‘it is important that Councillors should be aware of the special duties the Council owes to the disabled before they take decisions. It is not enough to accept that the Council has a good disability record and assume that somehow the message would have got across’. R (Chavda) v Harrow LBC  EWCA 3064 (Admin)