Action for Equity Award from the International Inequalities Institute

London School of Economics LSE

Nominations are now open for the Action for Equity Award from the International Inequalities Institute. The award is an exciting new prize from the LSE to recognise and reward civic organisations for their excellent work in combating inequalities, providing GBP 50,000 toward the winning organisation’s ongoing activities and connecting them with the Atlantic Fellows programme. In the inaugural year the award with focus on smaller teams addressing inequalities in the UK.

Complete a nomination form online before the deadline of 28 February 2017.

The eventual winner will be announced at the III Annual Conference on 14 June 2017.

Cloisters column part two – ‘Premature Labelling? A child-centred approach to questions of gender identity’

Cloisters

Cloisters: Equality and Human Rights in Practice

This is part two of a two-part series on trans rights from leading equality and human rights barristers at Cloisters. Part one explores toilets and gender identity.

Toilets have not been the only battleground. In fact, hardly a week goes by without a news story about transgender and gender identity issues.

On 21 October 2016, a ruling in the Family Division was widely reported.  Mr Justice Hayden made a Care Order in respect of a 7-year old boy (known as “J”), concluding that his mother had caused him significant emotional harm by making him live as a girl.  The Judge criticised social workers who had been responsible for J’s welfare for their “wholesale acceptance that the boy should be regarded as a girl”.  He recommended the local authority involved to undertake a review of the social work response to the case.

The case was a difficult and complex one, as is clear from the Judge’s observation that the mother was “absolutely convinced that J perceived himself as a girl” and that his “overwhelming impression” was that she “believes herself to be fighting for her son’s right to express himself as a girl”.

However, the Judge concluded that, whilst J’s mother “offered an impressive, intense and highly articulate evaluation of the problems faced by children with gender dysphoria”, nevertheless, “she conveyed no sense of J’s personality, temperament or enthusiasms, notwithstanding frequently being encouraged to do so.  Repeatedly, she struck me as a professional witness giving evidence about somebody else’s child”.

Subsequent to an interim Hearing (after which J had been temporarily removed into his father’s care) and before the Final care hearing, it was recorded by the Judge that J had settled down well, and flourished away from the home education which had been provided by his mother.  His new school reported there had been “no gender issues” and that J had started showing interest in “boys’ games and toys”.

The Judge concluded that the mother had caused her son significant emotional harm, above all by her active determination that J should be a girl:

“I find that she has overborne his will and deprived him of his fundamental right to exercise his autonomy in its most basic way.  Whether he chooses to present as a girl or not, ought to be his choice.  This is not a case about gender dysphoria, rather it is about a mother who has developed a belief structure which she has imposed upon her child.”

But the Judge’s experience in the Family Division had left him with little doubt that young children may identify strongly with the opposite gender:

“Such children can experience rejection and abuse arising from ignorance both on a personal and institutional level….It is important that such children are listened to and their views afforded respect but, to my mind, they are ill-served by premature labelling.  What they require…is the opportunity to develop their identity in whichever way it evolves.  J. was not only deprived of that space and opportunity by his mother, he was pressed into a gender identification that had far more to do with his mother’s needs and little, if anything, to do with his own.”

The Judge rightly emphasised that proper respect should be afforded to a child’s own sense of identity, observing that children are not well-served by “premature labelling”.  There are some who lobby for earlier clinical and legal intervention to enable children to reassign their gender.  But others might view the Judge’s comment as pertinent, particularly at a time when schools and, indeed, society more widely are being encouraged to take a flexible and child-centred approach to questions of gender identity; and early “labelling” may not assist such an approach.

Perhaps, though, it was an awareness that issues of gender identity are not always properly respected that led social workers in the case of “J” not to question the mother’s assertions about her son more carefully?  It may well have been the character and sensitivity of the transgender issues raised by J’s mother which apparently blinded a number of professionals from applying their training, skills and common sense.  In other words, according to the Judge, they failed properly to investigate the mother’s assertions, in part because they did not wish to appear to be challenging an emerging and increasingly prevalent orthodoxy (generally to be applauded) that gender identity demands respect.

Last month’s bathroom battles and cases such as that of “J” may well indicate that – as a society – we do not yet always feel comfortable about gender and gender identity:  some of us do not find it as easy as we should to respect and accept each individual’s own experience of gender; whilst others are reluctant to question or probe for fear of being accused of not taking trans issues seriously.  There is a balance to be struck.

You can also read this article as a PDF, or read more articles from Cloisters.

Praxis report: ‘Industrial relations and workplace adaptation’

Praxis Centre for Policy Studies in Estonia, in conjunction with Cardiff University, produced a report on industrial relations and workplace adaption, ‘Supporting industrial relations in the field of workplace adaptation to enable the employment of older or disabled populations: Literature review‘, in February 2017.

The abstract says: “For persons with reduced work capacity, including disabled and elderly people, employment opportunities are influenced by access to work accommodation. This project aims to improve social partners’ expertise through industrial relations in the field of workplace accommodation, and as a result promote the inclusion of disabled and older people in the workplace. The purpose of this retrospective desk study analysis will, therefore, be to lay the foundations for transnational action research with social partners in Estonia, Poland, and Hungary, with the aim of documenting what practices already exist and looking forward, how these might be improved, drawing on best practices from other EU countries.”

Ministry of Justice Consultation and Government Response – Transforming our Justice System

Ministry of Justice

The Ministry of Justice published a policy paper and launched a consultation on the future of the courts and tribunal service in September 2016.  The Government responded in February 2017.

In particular, views were sought on:

  • assisted digital facilities;
  • automatic online conviction and statutory standard penalty; and
  • panel composition in tribunals.

Read about the related consultation on Employment Tribunals, including our response.

Responses from EDF Members and Associates

Summary of Age UK’s Index of Wellbeing in Later Life

Age UK

Age UK published a summary of their index of wellbeing  in later life in February 2017. The summary identified a wellbeing gap across health, engagement, education and resources for people aged 60 and over.

The index gathered information from 15,000 people, and focused on:

•         What is important in later life;
•         How older people are doing;
•         Where and why wellbeing is low; and,
•         What effect policy and projects might have in improving wellbeing.

Read more about the report, including indicators and methodology.

IFS Green Budget 2017

The IFS logo.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) Green Budget is published every year before the Chancellor’s Budget statement.  The 2017 Green Budget was published in February 2017.

The report considered:

  • The global economy;
  • The UK economic outlook;
  • Challenges for the UK public finances;
  • Public sector liabilities in the whole of government accounts;
  • UK health and social care spending;
  • Working-age incapacity and disability benefits;
  • Tax, legal form and the gig economy;
  • Reforms to apprenticeship funding in England; and,
  • Debt.

 

DWP policy paper: ‘Fuller Working Lives: a partnership approach’

The gov.uk logo.

The Department for Work and Pensions published a policy paper, ‘Fuller Working Lives: a partnership approach‘, in February 2017, encouraging businesses to retain, retrain and recruit older workers and presenting the benefits of a fuller working life.

The DWP says that they intend to take the following actions to support older workers:

  • empowering change through others – developing an evidence-based case for action
  • supporting those who need more help – including women, carers, people with long-term health conditions and disabilities and black and minority ethnic groups
  • reforming the Adult Skills system
  • improving the Jobcentre Plus offer for older workers

APPG on Migration inquiry on Brexit and immigration

The Houses of Parliament logo.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration launched an inquiry in February 2017 into the experience and concerns of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and public sector organisations in the area of migration, as the UK seeks to withdraw from the European Union and the Single Market.

The inquiry will take written and oral evidence throughout February and March with the intention of producing a published report in late April. The inquiry committee is seeking submissions from representatives of SMEs and industry sector bodies (in particular technology, pharmaceuticals and life sciences, social care, and food production and processing). It is also looking for submissions from regional chambers of commerce and equivalent bodies, the trade unions, and organisations that represent migrant community interests.

The deadline for the submission of written evidence is 28 February 2017. Oral evidence sessions are yet to be confirmed but likely to be held on the 20 (Manchester) and 21-22 March (London).

Work and Pensions Committee report – the Disability Employment Gap

The House of Commons logo.

The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee published their report on the disability employment gap in February 2017.  The report noted that “Recent years have seen an increase in the number of disabled people in work, but too many disabled people are still being left behind in the labour market,” along with a series of recommendations.

The report aimed to address:

  • To what extent are the current range of proposed measures likely to achieve the Government’s ambition of closing the disability employment gap?
  • How effective is the Disability Confident campaign in reducing barriers to employment and educating employers?
  • What should support for people with health conditions and disabilities in the proposed Work and Health programme look like?
  • What are the likely impacts on disability employment of the abolition of the Employment and Support Allowance Work Related Activity component?