The House of Lords Select Committee has released its report into the impact of the Equality Act on disabled people. It does not make comfortable reading. The Committee has found, amongst other things that:
- The Government has used the Red Tape Challenge to remove hard-won protections
-The Public Sector Equality Duty is fatally flawed and should be amended;
- There has been years of inertia in bringing into force provisions (such as those relating to the carriage of wheelchair users in taxis) which could make a positive difference to the lives of many;
-Leisure and housing facilities are too often inaccessible.
The Committee asked that Government give due consideration to the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities when formulating new policy and legislation which may have an impact on disabled people.
The Committee expressed concern over access to justice. Recent changes to court fees, legal aid and costs reforms have hindered rather than helped. The Committee recommended that the Government should consider changing the law to allow charities and other bodies which do not themselves have a legal interest to bring proceedings in the interests of classes of disabled people who are not themselves claimants. This would enable them to remedy action already taken by a public authority or to prevent anticipated action.
Post-legislation scrutiny provides an essential reality check on the extent to which the rhetoric of legislation translates into positive change. It will be interesting to see the response from Government.
Our evidence has demonstrated that there is a fundamental flaw in the current Public Sector Equality Duty, namely that a public authority can make no progress towards the aims of the general duty and yet be judged compliant with it by the courts. We have heard convincing evidence that an amendment is needed to remedy this. 346.We recommend that a new subsection should be added to section 149: “To comply with the duties in this section, a public authority in the exercise of its functions, or a person within subsection (2) in the exercise of its public functions, shall take all proportionate steps towards the achievement of the matters mentioned in subsection (1).”