by Dr Lesley Sawers, Scotland Commissioner
Published: 03 Apr 2017
This week the Equality and Human Rights Commission launches our business plan and key objectives for 2017 to 2018.
We recognise that the social, political, economic, technological and cultural context of our work is evolving and that the equality and human rights challenges we seek to both regulate and tackle are persistent and pernicious.
This year, with the UK’s decision to leave the EU, ongoing debates about the legal framework for human rights and the continued evidence of entrenched inequalities facing some in our society mean that our need to act strategically to achieve improvements and to protect individuals and communities is greater than ever. Therefore, we plan to focus our efforts and energies and work on fewer, bigger issues, delivering in a more sustained way. We have prioritised those issues where there are opportunities for the EHRC to use our unique powers to make a real difference to individuals and communities in Scotland and across GB.
We will ensure that vital equality and human rights protections are not weakened by our departure from the EU and that opportunities to strengthen the law and infrastructure protecting everyone’s rights are taken. We have already moved swiftly to issue our 5-Point Plan on how we believe Britain’s status as world leader on equality and human rights can be maintained and strengthened in a post Brexit world.
We want to ensure that the UK is a global leader on equality and human rights, that we protect our existing equality and human rights infrastructure and that the UK is a fair place to live, work, study and do business.
This year we will also complete our formal inquiry on the extent to which the right of disabled people to independent living is supported by the provision of accessible and adaptable housing and tenancy support services. And we will also begin our preparation for our next ‘State of the Nation’ review analysing progress on equality and human rights in Scotland, Wales and England and ensuring that our findings and recommendations influence the work of Government, Parliament and public service providers.
Within Scotland, our work also remains firmly centred on tackling the inequality and injustice highlighted in “Is Scotland Fairer”.
Specifically, we will continue to focus on improving access to justice by sharing advice and intelligence with the advice sector and others dealing with discrimination complaints. And we will work closely with partners from across civil society, law enforcement, the Scottish Government and Scotland’s newly appointed Race Advisor to tackle race inequality, hate crime & identity- based bullying tackling the issues identified in ‘Is Scotland Fairer’, the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey and from the 'Morrow Report'.
With new powers enacted in Scotland on Social Security we will work with GB colleagues and stakeholders to build the evidence base to allow appropriate scrutiny of the UK Government’s welfare and social security policies and we will publish our analysis of whether reforms have infringed people’s right to an adequate standard of living or disproportionately disadvantaged some groups. And we will work with the Scottish Government as it develops its own proposals for delivering these newly devolved powers. This will allow the Commission, civil society and Government to assess whether social security policies are doing enough to uphold people’s rights.
Continuing our focus on fair employment, we will work with the Scottish Government and employers to adopt the recommendations set out in our strategy for reducing gender, disability and ethnicity pay gaps, and work with the “Fair Work Convention” as we also continue to support the private sector to make a real difference to the working lives of pregnant women and new mothers.
Recognising the innovative work being done in Scotland linked to Inclusive Growth and City Region Growth and their importance to the economy of Scotland, we will work with the Scottish Government, local authorities and the private sector to ensure equalities is at the heart of all major investment and infrastructure programmes focusing on housing, skills, training and job opportunities for women, ethnic minorities and disabled people not just in the seven Cities or Growth Regions but across Scotland.
The scale of the challenge ahead and the need for strong delivery, mean that it is more important than ever that we work in partnership and collaboration with others who share our vision and commitment to a Fairer Scotland. We believe our plan will help correct the injustices and tackle unfairness to create a country that works and is inclusive for everyone.