Friday, 16 March 2012

SAVE the Equality and Human Rights Commission

PCS Members at the EHRC were on strike on the morning of Thursday 23rd February to protest about government cuts of 63% to its budget and 72% cut to staffing, compared to 2007 levels. This was followed up by a leafleting exercise on Tuesday13 March to seek further support from members of the public.

In Scotland, a properly resourced EHRC which maintains its core functions is necessary to address the equality agenda, given the very different political, legal and economic landscape. The proposed cuts would threaten high profile work in Scotland – such as the Disability Harassment Inquiry, Human Trafficking Inquiry, guidance to public bodies on their obligations under Equality Law and the EHRC hosting of Independent Living Scotland.

Their Scottish Helpline deals with over 5000 calls per annum from service users who feel they have been discriminated against; the largest proportion from Scots who have been subjected to disability discrimination. The Scottish Helpline also provides a UK wide service, taking tens of thousands of calls more on a UK wide basis. Many more Scots receive specialist advice in writing

The nature of the advice provided by the EHRC is highly technical; there is no other organisation with an equivalent level of experience and knowledge who can fill this gap and provide a similar quality and level of service. The cuts would also jeopardise the ‘transfer of expertise’ services and events ran by the casework team for other organisations advisors and employees, whilst Public Sector Equality Duty enforcement would be less vigorous.

The Commission losing its funding function is already leaving a gap in the finances of well respected organisations such as Govan Law Centre, Glasgow Disability Alliance, Equality Network and Central Scotland Racial Equality Council, to name just a handful. The effects of these cuts will be felt sharply by the most vulnerable sections of Scottish society. In addition the reductions in funding currently being experienced by charities and other 3rd sector organisations will create an equality and human rights advice desert in Scotland.

The STUC would urge all trade union members and the wider general public to show your support now by signing the No 10 petition to save the EHRC  to protect not only a valuable public service but also our human rights that are under constant attack by the coalition Government.

Ian Tasker