Today, (31st March) the Welsh Government joins Scotland in implementing the “Socio-Economic Duty”: a requirement that public bodies, including government departments, assess how their strategies and policies can be used to reduce inequalities that result from differences in socioeconomic status, such as poorer health and fewer employment opportunities. The UK Government should now follow suit.
The Socio-Economic Duty was enshrined in law by the 2010 Equality Act but has never been commenced in England or Northern Ireland. By finally introducing the Duty the UK Government would take a major step towards achieving its own “levelling up agenda.” It would give it the information it needs to tackle inequality and the means – through the work of public bodies – to do so. The Duty could not be more pertinent to our present-day challenges: as we reopen the economy after Covid and face a probable recession, it is vital that we work to reduce social and economic inequality and protect those in or at risk of destitution.
Implementation of the Duty would also be popular: polling by Opinium for Compassion in Politics found that over half (56%) would like the UK Government to enact the Duty and a British Social Attitudes survey in October 2020 showed that two in three (65%) of the English public believe the current income distribution is unfair. Moreover, polling by Equally Ours in September 2020 found that 67% wanted society to be more equal after Covid and 63% thought the government should do more to address inequality.
We are glad that Scotland and Wales have recognised the importance of this clause. It is high time our UK Government did the same.
Matt Hawkins, Co-Director of Compassion in Politics
Dr. Wanda Wyporska, Executive Director, The Equality Trust
Jess McQuail, Director, JustFair
Allan Hogarth, Head of Advocacy, Amnesty International UK
Graham Whitham, Chief Executive, Greater Manchester Poverty Action
Professor Andrew Goddard, President, Royal College of Physicians, on behalf of the Inequalities in Health Alliance
Tansy Hutchinson, Head of Policy, Equally Ours
For more information about Just Fair’s work on the socio-economic duty in England, click here.