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The Bevan Foundation’s evidence has shaped the conclusions of an inquiry by the National Assembly for Wales’s Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee into the future of equality and human rights.
The report, amongst other matters, looks at whether a duty for public sector bodies to take socio-economic inequalities, as well as ‘protected characteristics’ into account. The report says ‘The Bevan Foundation provided research showing that in the UK all protected groups except pensioners were more likely to live in low income households than the population as a whole. The written evidence notes that:
“Relative income poverty is twice as high amongst lone parents and people from Pakistani/ Bangladeshi and Black NonCaribbean ethnic groups than amongst the rest of the population. […] Recent reports for the EHRC show that in Wales socio-economic status sometimes has more impact on outcomes than protected characteristics, e.g. in educational attainment, life expectancy.”
It goes on to say ‘The Bevan Foundation also stressed that the basis for such a duty already exists in Welsh law:
“The National Assembly for Wales already has legislation on an aspect of socio-economic inequality, in the form of the provisions on child poverty in the Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010. However the socio-economic duty is both broader in scope and arguably more powerful than this Measure in that it applies to the whole population not just children, it refers to inequality rather than just income poverty, and would require public bodies to have “due regard” to reducing inequality in their policies and decisions rather than publish a strategy.”
The Committee recommended that the Welsh Government should seek advice from a policy group to look at how the duty can best contribute to addressing the causes of persistent poverty. Within this research, consideration should be given to re-drafting the socio-economic duty from how it currently stands in the Equality Act 2010, and whether such a duty could be integrated into the existing specific duties or as a standalone duty. They also recommended that the Welsh Government should clearly align its anti-poverty and equality strategies ahead of the introduction of any new socio-economic duty.
You can also read Kate Bennett’s blog post on equality and poverty here.