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Single equalities body still a dogs dinner

by Karen Chouhan, Chief Executive – The 1990 Trust

DESPITE LIMITED changes to the government&#39s proposed single equalities body, it remains unacceptable to black communities, writes Karen Chouhan, head of The 1990 Trust.

Concerned: Karen Chouhan
Concerned: Karen Chouhan

What are we to make of the DTI’s amendments to their plans for a Commission for Equality and Human Rights?

If I were easily pleased I would welcome changes to strengthening the new body&#39s enforcement powers. It is indeed a step forward. The trouble is when you look at what is being put forward and compare it to what needs to be done, one step is not nearly enough.

The issue is not that the government have put a few more deckchairs out, or that the odd musician has started playing a tune on the deck. It is that the new body will sink if it is not equiped to tackle racism in society.

 - quote - The danger is that if we go ahead as planned we could undo thirty years of establishing the principle that racism will be effectively and loudly challenged wherever it rears its ugly head  - unquote -
Karen Chouhan

It was BME communities that were resolutely against the proposals for a number of very real and legitimate reasons.

History has shown us that any equality merger has meant the watering down of race issues.

Mergers more often mean cutting of budgets and loss of independence, something that is totally unacceptable to us.

The new changes make to mention of resources. The fear remains that this is a cheap option which will not bring black communities cheer.


We made a strong case for any equalities merger to be twinned with an alignment of equality law. The DTI have acknowledged specifically the levels of concern that BME communities raised.

We at the 1990 Trust were proud to have encouraged and facilitated a BME response that numbered more than 370. We are also proud of the fact that organisations such as the CRE, who were part of the task force that put the proposals together for the DTI’s white paper, came around to the majority thinking and stood firm in rejecting the proposals.

And although it is true that the DTI have responded positively to a number of key concerns that we raised eg strengthened enforcement powers there are too many other areas left unanswered for us to fully endorse these new proposals.
We are not convinced that the substantive grounds for initial objections have been sufficiently addressed. 

BME communities were concerned about around a lack of a single equalities law to underpin any new body. They asked how you have an effective harmonisation of the different equality strands when the law radically differs for each one?


They wanted to know why there were no champions for individual equality subjects. Representation for unique areas of discrimination was rejected by ministers in favour of one big equalities mush – a one-size-fits-all approach. Even now there are no champions of any particular area – except  a disability commissioner and a disability committee and reps for Scotland and Wales.

And while enforcement powers have been strengthened, if it needs resources in order to make a difference. Quite simply, there is no point upgrading from a 1.2 litre to a 1.4 litre engine if you haven&#39t got any petrol.

BME views have been heightened by the other legislation and policy on immigration, terrorism, cohesion, citizenship and integration, crime and ID cards. This creates a context which &#39problemises&#39 Black communities.

With the rise of the British National Party; increased attacks on Muslims; xenophobic slants in the tabloid press; rising incarceration rates for Black men; spiralling disproportionality in stop and search, now particularly for Asians,  and persistent racial disparities in employment, education and health areas make it clear that no retreat in government attention to race equality can be tolerated.

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Responses to the Equalities Review Interim Report

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pdf Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society: The Government's race strategy

CRE response to DTI Statement on Commission for Equality and Human Rights

Equality and Diversity Forum welcomes the progress on a Commission for Equality and Human Rights

Summary of Changes to the CEHR

The 1990 Trust’s response to the CEHR White Paper

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