- 2012 National Women's Conference
- 20 October 2011
Conference on 2 September 2011 Eric Pickles, the Secretary for Communities and Local Government new guidance called ‘A fair deal for the community and voluntary sector’. The guidance states councils should not carry out equality questionnaires and use the money saved to fund the community and voluntary sector. They claim that the questions asked about gender, disability, ethnicity and sexual orientation duplicate information collected in the Census. Pickles himself said “Local residents shouldn’t be asked to reveal detailed personal information just because they’ve enquired about getting their bins emptied or how to join their local library. Clamping down on such town hall activity will save taxpayers’ money and protect the privacy of residents of all backgrounds”.
Although councils have a statutory duty to collect information on how their policies affect protected groups Pickles says equality questionnaires are not necessary. This clearly comes from a man who has never suffered from prejudice or discrimination.
Gender discrimination most commonly affects women. This can be because of negative attitudes, stereotypes or because some policies and practices disadvantage women, for example, we are more likely to have caring responsibilities. Sixty five per cent of public sector workers are women but we are still under represented at the highest levels with the vast majority working in low paid or part time jobs. Women are less likely to feel safe when they are out, particularly at night. There is evidence to show that women are less likely to access welfare benefits, are more likely to be living in poverty and have less access to sport and leisure facilities.
Councils point out that equality monitoring forms are voluntary and are used to make sure they are properly serving all parts of the population. It is important to know whether service users reflect the make up of the population so that services can be targeted effectively. Equality monitoring helps councils make effective use of very limited resources. It is based on the basic principles of knowing your staff and your customers.
Conference notes that many organisations have already failed to take on the full value of monitoring. Monitoring in isolation keeps the emphasis on under represented groups rather than institutions as a source for change. Sometimes the sole purpose of monitoring is a way of ‘record keeping’ rather than collecting evidence to implement positive action.
As the Tory led Coalition continues to cut regulation and Eric Pickles encourages councils to stop equality monitoring in employment and service provision we need to make sure employers and service providers are aware of the benefits of carrying out equality monitoring. This conference calls on National Women’s Committee to work with the NEC to:
1)Campaign for equality monitoring to be continued in employment and service provision.
2)Produce guidance for branches and regions on promoting the benefits of equality monitoring; and
3)Lobby government and councils to maintain equality monitoring.