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Cambridgeshire County Council has become the most recent council in England to commit to tackling inequality by unanimously backing a motion to voluntarily adopt the socio-economic duty on 15 March 2022.

While the council recognised that the ‘general equality duty’ (as required by the Equality Act 2010) drives sound decision-making in relation to equalities, they noted that it does not require public bodies to consider the impact of these decisions on those individuals who experience socio-economic disadvantage.

The council recognised in particular the COVID 19 pandemic has exposed inequalities in their communities. They agreed that one powerful action they could take to tackle this would be the voluntary adoption of the socio-economic duty including:

  1. adopt the Public Sector Duty regarding Socio-economic Inequalities so that when the County Council is making decisions of a strategic nature, about how it exercises its functions, it has due regard to the desirability of exercising these functions in a way that is designed to reduce the inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage.
  2. adapt their equality impact assessment tools and processes to take account of this duty so that Members and Officers are assisted in their decision-making and assured that changes in Council policy and practice take into account the impact of decisions on those with protected characteristics as well as the impact of those decisions on those who experience socio-economic disadvantage.
  3. regularly review and update the data we have about socio-economic inequality across the county, including as it relates to the experiences of our communities living in rural isolation and/or poverty/deprivation, working with our communities and our partners to publish this data in an accessible and transparent way through the website Cambridgeshire Insight.
  4. review, develop, and implement training and communications for staff and Members to raise awareness of this duty within our wider Equality, Diversity and Inclusion work, and to develop our understanding of how it applies to our policies and practices, in the services we deliver, and in the services we commission from others.

Councillor Cox Condron, who put forward the motion stated:

 “We know that many residents across the county are facing hardship, stress, ill health, isolation, higher crime rates, lower educational achievement, and low paying jobs because of poverty and engrained socio-economic inequalities. We have to make fundamental cultural shifts to shield and support our most vulnerable residents and actively consider the way in which our policies and strategic decisions can increase or decrease inequalities.

“Adopting the Public Sector Duty regarding Socio-economic Inequalities is an incredibly powerful tool to help us address and reduce socio-economic inequalities in our communities. It would support inclusive approaches to strategic decision-making across the council, reducing the most pressing inequalities of outcome exacerbated by the pandemic, the cost of living crisis and ingrained socio-economic inequality.

“The Socio-economic Duty relates to everyone – residents with all protected characteristics and none, and will benefit all people on low incomes. Adopting this Duty will complement and strengthen our existing commitment and activity around all protected characteristics.”

Congratulations to the County Council for taking this impactful approach!

To find out more about the 1ForEquality Campaign, check out our webpage.

Image by Dumitru Ochievschi