Equality Act and Disability – House of Lords report

March 24, 2016

The House of Lords’ Select Committee on the Equality Act and Disability has been examining whether the Equality Act 2010 ‘adequately supports the fight against disability discrimination’.

The report The Equality Act 2010: the impact on disabled people states that there are over 11 million disabled people in the UK, and it is the responsibility of everyone to remove the barriers that prevent some people with a disability from participating fully, and equally, in society.

During the Committee’s examination of the Equality Act and whether it is sufficient in combating disability discrimination, it concluded that much more needs to be done.

The Committee’s witnesses, who included wheelchair users, blind and deaf people, and some with learning difficulties, felt that life for them had been easier with ‘a dedicated Disability Discrimination Act and with a single Disability Rights Commission, rather than a Commission covering all inequalities and human rights’. They thought it was a mistake to have ‘attempted to deal with discrimination on grounds of disability, sex, race and other protected characteristics in a single Equality Act’.

As a result the Committee has been looking to see how the Equality Act ‘can be made to work better for disabled people’.

It found:

  • Red tape increases problems for disabled people.
  • A fundamental flaw in public sector equality duty allows public authorities to ‘consider all the evidence, but still to pursue plainly discriminatory policies’.
  • Issues with public transport create a burden for disabled people.
  • Inaccessible leisure facilities and housing deny disabled people the opportunity to access, utilise and enjoy.
  • Restrictions to accessing justice, including tribunal fees and the withdrawal of legal aid are hindering disabled people.
  • The removal of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s helpline and conciliation should be restored.
  • There is little awareness of the communication needs of disabled people, especially among Government departments and public bodies.

The Committee also acknowledged that in times of austerity there are not the additional resources to make significant changes. As a result, many changes it proposes are simple and cost-free to the taxpayer.

The full report and recommendations are available on the Parliament website here.

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