Is Britain Fairer?
Joe Whittaker comments on the recently produced Equality and Human Rights Commission report on the state of discrimination in the UK.
For people subject to discrimination and reliant upon human services, the short answer to this question would be a clear, No.
When a government cuts billions of pounds from local authorities and human services, it is naive to think this would not adversely affect those people reliant on human services. What is unforgivable is that the systematic reduction of services, as a political strategy, is resulting in the segregation of greater numbers of people away from ordinary living and presenting those people as “less than”.
It is important, however, to recognise that the majority of people in Britain do not feel discrimination and are not reliant upon statutory services to live their lives. It is this population who need persuading that particular groups of people in Britain are indeed treated unfairly, by one of the richest countries in the world.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) reports every three years on how different groups of people are treated in Britain. This report is underpinned by carefully analysed data, providing evidence of unfairness and discrimination against particular groups of people. Although there were some improvements in some areas for some groups of people, there continues to be worrying evidence of discrimination, which for some groups has significantly increased in recent years.
The report included data on equality and human rights across society: in education, work, justice, security and the living standards of its citizens. It was disturbing that child poverty in Britain is increasing; this one indicator alone will have corrosive consequences for many children now and in their future. This trend is even more troubling for disabled children and those from ethnic minorities.
Poverty for disabled people is also increasing, which is made worse as disabled people are denied opportunities of paid employment, and denied access to ever diminishing statutory supports and benefits. Poverty results in worsening of living conditions and poor health. Even when people have been denied benefits unfairly, or have been maltreated, their right to a remedy through the judicial system has also been blocked by severe restrictions to legal aid.
Women and girls continue to be disproportionally affected by sexual and domestic violence. Gypsy, Roma and Travelling people experience discrimination across all areas of living. The level of hate crime for these groups of people and other “identity-based” groups is an increasing concern and further evidence that equality and human rights are being eroded in Britain today.
The EHRC made a number of recommendations to remedy discrimination and in particular for disabled people and education: “Government should remove its reservations to Article 24, the right to inclusive education, of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”
The evidence that exposes inequalities will continue to be contested. It is, however, our institutions, the professions, the statutory and voluntary services of Britain who are, by association, implicated in the deterioration of equality and human rights in Britain.
Britain is debasing human rights, selling them to the highest or lowest bidder as if they were commercial transactions. This disturbing analysis of discrimination requires those who reject a segregated and a “less than” model of society to use their collective power, ingenuity and reason to work for an inclusive society that will serve to enhance us all.