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Archive for November 2008

The Single Equality Challenge

The Queen's Speech in late autumn marks the beginning of each new Parliamentary term. It's a time when the Government reveals its' legislative plans for the coming year. This year's event is on December 3rd. However, these days, the speech seldom contains any big surprises, as so much about the agenda is extensively trailed beforehand.

One item expected in this new term will be the new Single Equality Bill -- the most radical attempt to overhaul Britain's equality law framework in forty years. To mark that watershed this episode looks back on that forty year history, discusses some of the issues about equality legislation, how the Government has developed the new Bill, and what it is expected to contain.

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The three statutory equality duties in Britain - covering Race, Disability and Gender - all demand consultation or involvement with expert community stakeholders if problem identification and action planning is ever to be more than a token affair. The problem lies with how to organise that kind of engagement effectively.

Consider North West England. The region has over 30,000 voluntary sector organisations. Yet the number with sufficient capacity and skills to take part in strategic consultation work hardly exceed single figures. With well over 120 separate public authorities all needing to organise the same kind of consultation, there's the potential for meltdown unless a practical approach is adopted.

Sefton is a diverse coastal borough which stretches from Liverpool in the south and almost up to Blackpool. Along its coast lies Southport, a distinguished old-style holiday resort which is reinventing itself for a new generation. I was invited there recently to give a speech as part of the borough's annual diversity week. And whilst I was there I had the chance to speak with the people behind the borough's 'joined-up' partnership approach to collective consultation and strategy-making...

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