These are the words of Baroness Doreen Lawrence, in the recently published report ‘An Avoidable Crisis: The disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities’.
The report, more commonly known as the ‘Lawrence Review’, investigates the reasons why, in the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, Black, Asian and minoritised ethnic (BAME) communities were dying at a disproportionate rate.
Baroness Lawrence said that “Despite being aware of the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on the UK’s Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, the Government has not done enough to protect people ahead of the second wave.” To tackle structural racism, the Lawrence Review recommends that the UK Government enacts Section 1 of the Equality Act 2010 which covers socio-economic disadvantage.
It has been ten years since the Equality Act 2010 came into force. This Act brought together 116 pieces of anti-discrimination legislation in order to tackle disadvantage more effectively. The socio-economic duty contained in Section 1 of the Equality Act 2010 would require public authorities to pay due regard to the way in which their decisions increase or decrease inequalities that result from socio-economic disadvantage.
Just Fair has been campaigning to have the duty contained in Section 1 of the Equality Act 2010 brought into force since 2015 and 2016 when it submitted to the expert body UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as part of the Committee which monitors economic and social rights enjoyment at the country level.
As part of the UN Committee’s 6th Periodic Review of the UK’s performance under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Just Fair Consortium urged the Committee to recommend that the UK Government bring the duty into force in order that it improve its human rights record.
The UN Committee acceded to these submissions and in 2016 recommended that the UK Government “bring into force the relevant provisions of the Equality Act that refer to the public authorities’ duty on socio -economic disadvantage … in order to enhance and guarantee full and effective protection against discrimination in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.”
In 2017 Just Fair, with its partner The Equality Trust, launched the #1forEquality campaign. The campaign has attracted a high number of supporters from academia, the law and other areas of public and private life. An Early Day Motion on the commencement and enforcement of the socio-economic duty in the 2017-2019 UK Parliament received support from 83 cross-party MPs.
Meanwhile, in April 2018, the Fairer Scotland Duty came into force as Section 1 of the Equality Act 2010 in Scotland. After extensive consultations, the Welsh Government also plans to enact the duty in 2021 as part of its programme to help public bodies deliver A More Equal Wales. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has worked with the Scottish and Welsh Governments on their interim guidance and supports implementation of the socio-economic duty in England.
Just Fair has been increasing public awareness and capability to implement the socio-economic duty. Together with partners and guest speakers we have hosted informative workshops on the socio-economic duty for North East of England, London, and Greater Manchester local authorities, Combined Authority councillors and officers, and politicians.
“It is for the good of everyone, not just those living in the most vulnerable circumstances, that the [UK] government must introduce one of the potentially most transformative – and yet wonderfully simple – recommendations from the Lawrence report: to enact Article 1 of the Equality Act, the so-called socio-economic duty.” said Debbie Abrahams MP in the Independent (Oct 2020).
Momentum is building. Debbie Abrahams MP recently said that in the New Year she will be presenting a private members’ bill aimed at introducing the socio-economic duty into law. Debbie Abrahams MP is co-Chair, with Baroness Warsi, for the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Compassionate Politics. Writing in The Times Christian Wakeford MP has also declared his support for enacting Section 1 of the Equality Act. The Inequalities in Health Alliance (IHA), launched by the Royal College of Physicians with nearly 80 other organisations in October 2020, also urges the UK Government to use the duty to address health inequalities.
The socio-economic duty offers a powerful tool for public authorities to actively consider the way in which their policies and decisions can address inequalities.
In recovering from COVID-19, we can rebuild a more equal society.
If you are a local authority officer, councillor, or politician and would like to find out more, you can get in touch with us and:
- Sign up to attend a workshop on the socio-economic duty. Check our Latest News to find out when the next event is.
- Read our report on ‘Tackling Socio-economic Inequalities Locally: Good practices in the implementation of the socio-economic duty by local authorities in England’. We set out findings from our interviews with 20 individuals and seven local authorities who are acting in the spirit of the socio-economic duty.
- Showcase your implementation of the socio-economic duty by sharing the hashtag #1ForEquality or #SocioEconomicDuty when you Tweet.