26 Nov 2007

Discrimination paper to dilute equality duties

The new equalities watchdog - see previous blog re concerns about one appointment - begins work just as the government proposes to sweep away some of the most important advances in recent years.

Photo: Randwick woods before the winds have blown the leaves off this last week

It seems the green paper on discrimination law looks set to dilute duties on public bodies to promote race, disability and gender equality, in spite of - or perhaps because of - the fact that they have begun to prove effective.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission also rightly worries about the green paper's failure to back a new duty covering age, religion and sexual orientation. Age discrimination has been outlawed in the workplace and extending the same principle to services would have huge implications for social care.

Then the government really would have to invest in its future....take dementia as one example - the UK was in the bottom third of Europe in delivering high quality dementia care. This indictment of past failures is set against rising need as the number of people with dementia soars from 700,000 today to over one million by 2025 - the situation is severe. Only a third of people ever receive a formal diagnosis, while those who do, go on to navigate a confusing system characterised by overstretched services, poor carer support and a lack of awareness and training. At least now a strategy on dementia is planned but this will not be helped by this green paper - or for that matter the squeeze on public funds.

And how will we pay for it I hear some as? Well I saw recently a blog entry that asks: "When will Britain accept that it is no longer a colonial power that can organise the world along its own lines and instead start looking after the people who live here?" See blog entry here which includes:

"Earlier this year, MPs on the House of Commons defence select committee were told that the cost of the Iraq war was set to exceed £1bn in 2007. The NHS debts totalled £512m. Make up your own mind where the money would be better spent. While we are on it, the remaining £500m could go towards social care. Practically every single social services department in the land is calling for financial help. Granted, that £500m would be a drop in the ocean.However, when the independent Iraq Analysis Group estimates the cost of the entire campaign in Iraq at nearly £7.5bn so far, there is a feeling that this is the sort of sum that could be invested more wisely. And that doesn't even take into account the new Trident system that has been estimated to cost £76bn over 30 years."

And of course there were calls at the weekend for more dosh for 'defence' - see BBC report here.

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