There are calls for the Government to strengthen the role of the Equality and Human Rights Commission in tackling disability discrimination.
Business Disability Forum, which works with businesses, disabled people and the Government to improve the life chances of disabled people, made the recommendations in response to the Commission’s recent consultation on its future strategy.
The membership organisation highlighted the vital role the Commission plays in upholding the rights and duties contained in the Equality Act (2010) but called for it to be given greater powers and the necessary resources to allow it to carry out its statutory function effectively.
Business Disability Forum recommended that the Commission be given a greater role in challenging Government policy. In particular, it called for the Commission to be allowed to undertake equality analyses, acting as a ‘critical friend’ to public policy makers, and advising on areas of policy development or review which could negatively impact the lives of disabled people.
It also highlighted the need for the public to be better educated on the function and authority of the Commission, after a survey conducted by Business Disability Forum revealed a lack of knowledge. One hundred business members and employee networks took part in the survey. Their responses showed the following:
Only five percent of disabled people had used the Commission (either contacting the Commission for advice or using the website and resources) when making a claim of discrimination against an employer or service provider.
A further 75 percent said they would not know how to bring a claim or who to go to for support and advice. A generally low understanding amongst businesses about the role and authority of the Commission.
Diane Lightfoot, CEO, Business Disability Forum, said: “We fully support the Equality and Human Rights Commission and its role upholding equality. Far too many disabled people and people with long-term conditions continue to face discrimination within the workplace and in society more generally. The Commission must be given the remit and the necessary resources to be able to change this and to achieve its aims.
“We want to see the Commission ‘at the table’ and fully involved in the policy making process of any public policy being developed or reviewed, which could affect the lives of disabled people.
“We also want to see a greater public awareness of the function of the Commission and disabled people knowing about the help and advice on offer to them, should they experience discrimination. Equally, organisations having a clear understanding of the consequences of actions brought against them, should they act in a discriminatory way.”
“Strengthening the role of the Commission will help to give out a clear message that disability discrimination is unacceptable and will be challenged.”