Creating a fairer Britain
20 July 2009
The Government Equalities Office has today published the Equality and Human Rights Commission's first Annual Report and Accounts. The Report covers the period 18 April 2006 - 31 March 2008 and both the transition period of the Commission and its first six months of full operations.
Launching the report, Commission Interim Director General Neil Kinghan said:
'The Equality and Human Rights Commission has made a real difference for millions of people in its two year life. We have undertaken more than 330 enforcement and litigation actions across the areas of our mandate, the majority of which have been resolved without the need to go to court; the £10m distributed through our grants programme has helped hundreds of organisations deliver frontline services and our helpline helps thousands of people every month; our reports on areas such as social housing, the impact of the recession on vulnerable groups and on young people's attitudes to education and careers show us taking an evidence-based approach to provide the facts in areas often dominated by myths and misconceptions.
'Our parliamentary work has led to an Equality Bill which will make Britain a fairer place for all; and our Inquiries into areas such as gender discrimination in the finance sector and racism in the construction industry will highlight issues and offer solutions to improving the workplace.
'Looking forward, we have just launched an ambitious three year plan which will help us deliver on our objective of helping create a fairer and more equal society for the sixty million people in Britain, while at the same time delivering the best public value for the funds we receive.'
The Annual Report covers the Commission's delivery of four strategic objectives it set out as part of an interim business plan in 2007. These were:
The Commission's work in gathering evidence for its Inquiries and reports includes: building up knowledge on the new strands on sexual orientation, age and religion and belief; research on emerging issues such as immigration, gypsies and travellers, and refugees and asylum seekers; and research to expand data on “gaps” such as pay gaps relating to age, ethnicity and disability and gender.
The Commission launched its Human Rights Inquiry and Social Housing Inquiry; and worked closely with the Government on initiatives such as the Independent Living review.
The Commission completed many of the cases inherited from previous Commissions and took on its own strategic legal cases and enforcement work, many with positive outcomes affecting millions of people. The Commission's helpline provided continued support to thousands of callers every week; and together with the End Violence Against Women Coalition, the Commission published a groundbreaking study into services for women affected by violence.
The Commission developed a set of legal policy priorities which it wanted to see in the Single Equality Bill; It gave evidence to the independent review of flexible working; worked closely with the Civil Service to encourage public authorities to use the Public Duties to deliver better services for everyone; consulted on its first Single Equality Scheme; and monitored government proposals on 'stop and search' and 'stop and account' powers
The Commission's Annual Report and Accounts have been reviewed by the National Audit Office (NAO), which has qualified them due to the Commission not securing approval from its sponsor department, the Government Equalities Office, for expenditure relating to the re-engagement of staff from the former Commissions. The NAO recognises that this failure to follow proper processes should be viewed in the context of a 'difficult and convoluted' process of setting up a new body. The NAO also recognises that the Commission has since improved its financial and performance reporting; strengthened its governance and procurement arrangements and delivered a programme of internal audit reviews.
The Commission accepts that it did not follow the right procedures in re-engaging the staff referred to by the NAO. This does not imply any criticism of the staff concerned. The Commission is grateful for the work carried out by those staff on its behalf.
For more information contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission Media Office on 02031170255, out of hours 07767272818.
For a copy of the Commission's strategic plan, please visit:
The 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.