Commission calls for a new agenda in the downturn

Kate Bennett, National Director for Wales at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, today said that equality issues need to move up the public agenda during the current economic downturn.

Kate Bennett said: “The lives of many people in Wales are still blighted by discrimination, prejudice and social exclusion. We are concerned that during the downturn the gap between the haves and the have nots will widen. For example, young people out of work for two years can suffer a financial and social penalty lasting twenty years.”

Kate Bennett’s comments come as the Commission in Wales launches Setting a new agenda - a report looking back at the Commission in Wales’ first 18months and forward to the work the organisation will be doing this year.

The Commission has used the publication of this report as an opportunity to take stock of the equalities agenda in Wales. Snapshot findings include:

  • Around 60% of calls to the EHRC in Wales’ helpline are related to disability issues. A particular area of concern is workplace practice.
  • The Commission in Wales’ attitudinal survey Who do you see? found particularly negative attitudes towards people with mental health conditions, Gypsy Travellers and transgender people.
  • The pay gap between men and women in Wales has risen to 13%.
  • In Wales 1 in 4 people are aged over sixty. Wales has the highest proportion of people aged over sixty in Britain. 94% of people in Wales think that everyone should be allowed to work beyond retirement age.
  • 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. In Wales, 97% of Welsh adults say it is never acceptable to bully or hit a partner, but 19% of people in Wales believe domestic violence is best handled as a private matter.
  • Just over a quarter of the adult population have impairments or long term limiting health conditions - a higher proportion than both England and Scotland.
  • Wales has 340,000 carers. Nearly 7000 of these are young people under the age of 16.
  • 45% of unemployed people in Wales are under 25.

Kate Bennett said:

“Our report highlights the tremendous work that is being done by people across Wales to create a place where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. But there is still much more to be done.

“The year ahead provides us with real opportunities to build on these foundations and drive forward the equalities agenda - not least the Equality Bill, which offers a once-in-a-generation chance for major legislative change.

“We need to seize this opportunity, and not let equality slip down the agenda. At all costs we must avoid using the economic downturn as an excuse for not tackling the most entrenched inequalities in Wales.

“We are determined to ensure everyone has a fair chance in life. And we want to work with Government, local authorities, trade unions, and other organisations and individuals to achieve this.”

Commissioner for Wales Neil Wooding said:

“Bringing people together has been the focus of our work since the start of the Commission in October 2007. We have benefited from the passion and expertise of those engaged in the day-to-day work of advancing equality and human rights in Wales. These contributions have enabled us to lay firm foundations and set ambitious priorities for the year ahead.

“Our objective for the next year is to set a new agenda on equality and human rights We are living in turbulent times and this makes it so important that we, and the widest possible range of partners, have confidence in promoting fairness, dignity and respect. Together we believe we can build confidence and win the hearts and minds of the public to an agenda that delivers for everyone.”

Setting a new agenda lays out an ambitious work-plan for the Commission in 2009/10. Key projects include:

  • Making the Equality Act deliver for the people of Wales. This will include advising the Welsh Assembly Government on securing public duties that will deliver fairer, and better, public services.
  • Tackling the ‘advice desert’ in Wales so that people are aware of their rights and how to challenge discrimination.
  • Working in partnership with the Welsh Assembly Government and Wales TUC to narrow the gender pay gap in Wales.
  • Working with others to address hate crime and violence against women and campaigning to break down the myths peddled by extremists.
  • Promoting the business benefits of managing the downturn with equality in mind - to the private and public sectors.
  • Building on the work of our schools project to tackle prejudice amongst young people.
  • Making sure local authorities, health trusts and others build a human rights approach into services such as care homes, public transport and education.

Notes

For more information, copies of the report and interview requests, please contact Jamie Westcombe (029) 2044 7710 or mobile 07843325231 or Sue Dye on 07976 325863.

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