Jobcentre Plus needs to do more to promote equality

Commission Assessment finds Jobcentre Plus needs to do more to promote equality

08 July 2009

The first formal Assessment carried out by the Equality and Human Rights Commission has found that the Department for Work and Pensions’ Jobcentre Plus agency is not meeting all the expectations of its public sector duties on equality. It also found unnecessary duplication between the work of the Department and its agency on equality policies.

The findings are released today after a year-long review by the Commission of how the (DWP) and its agency are working together to promote equality. In response to the Assessment, Jobcentre Plus has indicated that it is planning to address all of the concerns raised by the Commission in due course.

Some specific areas of concern were the limited focus of diversity impact assessments (DIAs), a lack of transparency in consultations with stakeholders, prioritising volume of assessments rather than the quality of outcomes, and misconceptions that equal treatment automatically leads to equal outcomes.

In its Assessment the Commission makes a number of recommendations to address these concerns, including:

  • Improving Diversity Impact Assessment (DIA) guidance, tools and training for staff so that efforts to promote equality are more integrated and effective.
  • Making DIAs more transparent so that it is clear how groups likely to be affected by these policies have been involved and what consultation process has been used.
  • Changing the way that Jobcentre Plus measures its own compliance with the public sector duties so that it focuses on outcomes as well as outputs.
  • Taking a more strategic and joined-up approach to DIA so that duplication of effort is avoided.
  • Ensuring that equality considerations are factored in at the policy development stage.

A number of examples of good practice were also identified in the Assessment process.

The introduction of Pathways to Work and the Employment Support Allowance were singled out as two examples of good practice in consulting stakeholders. For both these policies it consulted widely and took steps to address stakeholder concerns.

Steps were also taken in the approach to Pathways to Work and the Employment Support Allowance to try to promote positive attitudes towards disable people and encourage their participation in public life. There were also aspects of the DIA toolkit that were good and their Diversity Challenge seemed to be a useful model

In response to criticism that evaluations were not outcome focused, Jobcentre Plus is currently reviewing all of its equality evidence. It will then make better use of this in developing policies that meets the needs of all of its service users and staff.

Susie Uppal, Director of Legal Enforcement for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

This power allows us to assess performance against the duties in an innovative and constructive way. It seems to be working well in principle with Jobcentre Plus as it is already taking into account many of our recommendations. They now have a year to show that it is working in practice, after which we’ll consider if any further action is required."

The Commission will shortly publish new non-statutory guidance on meeting all three duties in a holistic way, which will replace the separate guidance from the legacy Commissions. This will include EIA guidance and the Commission's EIA audit tool, which public authorities should find useful in understanding what the Commission looks for in effective EIAs.

Ends

For more information contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission Media Office on 02031170255, out of hours 07767272818.

Noted to editors

  • The Assessment of the Department for Work and Pensions through Jobcentre Plus is the first formal Assessment carried out by the Commission under powers it was given in section 31 of the Equality Act 2006. A copy of the report can be downloaded here (PDF).
  • Jobcentre Plus is a government agency which aims to get people of working age into work and to help employers fill staff vacancies. It is subject to public sector duties as it is part of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). As a public authority and central government department the DWP has overall legal responsibility for promoting equality and meeting the duties.
  • The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission. It is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain. It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights. The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender status, and encourage compliance with the Human Rights Act. It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.