What the Equality and Diversity Forum does:
- Draws together a wide range of information about all aspects of equality and human rights, providing its users with the information, expertise and understanding they need to tackle discrimination.
- Provides a space for developing dialogue, trust and working relations between organisations tackling discrimination, social and economic disadvantage and human rights abuse, so that they can, in turn, provide better services that recognise the multiple identities of individuals and their circumstances.
- Strengthens the contribution of the third sector to public policy by sharing expertise and advancing shared views.
- Commissions research and runs seminars about equality and human rights to advance knowledge and increase understanding between different sections of society.
- Holds regular meetings to share information and encourage good practice in service delivery and in the development of public policy on equality and human rights.
EDF’s current projects are linked to the three goals of our strategy:
1. To build greater consensus on the value of equality and human rights in Britain.
Human Rights programme
In 2011, EDF began a major new programme of work designed to build greater support for the value of equality and human rights. The programme has two inter-linked goals:
- Mobilising equality and social justice NGOs to advocate for human rights and in particular for the Human Rights Act; and
- Developing an evidence-based long-term approach to changing the terms of public debate and understanding about human rights and about how they apply to minorities.
As part of this programme we have:
- Encouraged a very wide range of mainstream NGOs to respond to the Bill of Rights Commission’s consultation paper, in addition to submitting our own response on behalf of EDF members. We worked with the Migrants’ Rights Network to encourage migrant NGOs to respond by providing a briefing and template response that was downloaded from EDF’s website more than 100 times.
- Engaged directly with the Bill of Rights Commission and met the Commission’s Chair, Sir Leigh Lewis.
- Commissioned a research programme exploring public attitudes to human rights and the values and beliefs that lie behind these attitudes. The research programme consists of: a synthesis of existing data about public attitudes to human rights; a review of the literature about what forms attitudes to human rights; an analysis of media discourse about human rights; focus groups and a nationally representative poll to explore what values and beliefs lie behind attitudes to human rights.
- Held a successful two-part US/UK human rights learning exchange with two US partners: The Opportunity Agenda and Muslim Advocates. Year one of the exchange involved a series of meetings with parliamentarians and opinion makers, a dinner discussion for CEOs from some of the larger EDF member organisations to engage them with the issues and a learning event for NGOs. In the second year, our colleagues from the US returned to help us use our new evidence base to develop a human rights strategy and narrative.
- Supported initiatives led by others to engage with reform of the European Court of Human Rights during the UK Council of Europe Presidency.
- Hosted an event in December 2011 with Thomas Hammarberg on his final UK visit as the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner. A VIP audience heard Mr Hammarberg address the value of human rights at a time of austerity and discuss the particular significance that UK human rights developments can have across Europe. His speech, which received national and international media coverage, was well received and audience members were able to engage in a lively discussion.
EDF’s human rights work is led by Emma Hutton, our Human Rights Programme Director. An expert Advisory Board chaired by Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind, is supporting the programme. The Human Rights Advisory Board consists of a range of people — all senior, respected experts in their field — who have volunteered their time to help make EDF’s work on human rights as effective as possible. The Board provides strategic advice and guidance to EDF’s staff team, helping to steer the direction of our work and providing tactical support. Click here for details of Advisory Board members.
Our next steps are to use the results of our human rights research programme to develop a strategy and narrative for shifting the terms of public debate about human rights that will achieve widespread support.
Supporting the Equalities All Party Parliamentary Group
EDF provides the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Equalities, which supports parliamentarians to advance equality in their work. The group’s purpose is ‘to address discrimination based on all equality grounds and seek to advance equal opportunities for all’. It is chaired by Sandra Osborne MP and holds regular meetings, often in partnership with Parliamentary Groups working on different areas of equality. Click here for more information.
2. To make a reality of equality and human rights by informing policy and practice.
Engaging with Government proposals for changes to legislation, policy and the statutory framework
Our work here is focussing on proposals for changes to the Equality Act 2010, proposals to reform the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and the equality and human rights impact of other legislative and policy proposals.
EDF has worked to protect the measures in the Equality Act 2010, expressing concerns about the threat of reduced legal protection through correspondence with ministers and officials, in bilateral and EDF meetings and through our responses to consultations including our response to the consultation on the specific duties.
EDF played a leading role in helping voluntary organisations to respond to the Government’s Red Tape Challenge, a website set up by the Cabinet Office to solicit public views on deregulation. Initially the website sought views about scrapping the hard-won 2010 Equality Act but following strong concerns expressed by EDF and others, including a letter to the Prime Minister, commitments were given in Parliament that there was no question of scrapping the Act. EDF briefed equality and human rights NGOs on contributing to the Red Tape Challenge website and provided material on our website for others to use, as well as sharing our views with officials in more traditional ways.
EDF supports the Compact on the conduct of public/voluntary sector relations and we therefore expressed concerns about the consultation approach underpinning the Red Tape Challenge. The website solicited views on scrapping the whole of the 2010 Equality Act, despite the fact that the majority of the Act’s provisions are underpinned by EU law and therefore could not be scrapped without the UK being in breach of EU law. Guidance on meaningful engagement makes clear that views should only be sought on viable options and official websites should not contribute to misinformation.
EDF has had a longstanding interest in Britain having a robust and effective statutory equality and human rights institution. We are therefore giving a high priority to engaging with the Government about its proposals for reform of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), and have expressed our concerns that these proposals threaten the EHRC’s independence and limit its ability to promote the value of equality and human rights.
EDF members expressed strong concerns about the Government’s proposals to cut civil legal aid by reducing the types of cases for which legal aid would be available and by imposing a telephone gateway before people can access a qualified legal adviser. The Government’s own impact assessment showed that the proposals would have a disproportionately severe impact, particularly on disabled people and people from ethnic minorities, and we were not persuaded that appropriate mitigating actions were in place. EDF worked with a wide range of other organisations, particularly the Justice For All campaign, to explain the issues to parliamentarians during the passage of the legislation and some improvements were made. Nonetheless, we remain deeply concerned about the impact that these changes will have on access to justice and in May 2012 published an update on discrimination provision under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act.
In the coming months we will continue to seek to protect the gains of the 2010 Equality Act and endeavour to build support for it as part of the framework of a fair and modern Britain.
EDF Research Network
Established in 2010, the Equality and Diversity Forum Research Network is a multi-disciplinary equality and human rights network bringing together academics, policy makers, NGOs and funders to inform and improve UK policy and legislation. The Network is chaired by Professor Sandra Fredman and Dr Tania Burchardt and secured funding from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation at the beginning of 2012. It is now recruiting members, developing a website and planning an agenda of events for 2012/13.
3. To build the capacity of the voluntary and community sector to advance equality and human rights
Website and eNewsletter
The EDF website and free fortnightly eNewsletter, together with the monthly member meetings are the heart of EDF’s work towards this strategic goal. Both the eNewsletter and the website provide information across a wide range of activities, publications, events, vacancies and funding opportunities for organisations and individuals concerned with equality and human rights.
Voluntary Sector Equality and Human Rights Performance Framework
This multi-year project aims to develop a tool that a wide range of voluntary and community organisations can use to assess their own human rights and equality performance, to benchmark with others and to plan how to improve further. Existing tools are aimed at either the private or voluntary sectors and do not address key voluntary sector issues, such as volunteering or advocacy and campaign work. In addition, research has shown that NGOs would value a framework designed specifically for their sector.
This is a challenging task – few other frameworks attempt to address wider human rights issues as well as equality – and to achieve it EDF is working in partnership with Action for Children, Age UK, Campaign for National Parks, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Macmillan Cancer Support, Shelter and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations. The project steering group commissioned Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector to prepare a draft framework, which was unveiled in March at an event at which the Human Rights Minister, Lord McNally, spoke. The framework will be piloted in 2012/13.
Supporting the Voluntary and Community Sector in use of the Equality Duty
In addition to a range of materials on the EDF website, in 2012 we created an equality duty micro-site within the EDF website that is home to a wide range of resources including guidance, a case law digest, research and examples of how NGOs have used the equality duty in practice. Moreover, this microsite hosts a toolkit which we designed with Citizens Advice to help Voluntary and Community Sector Organisations use the Equality Duty and specific duties effectively.
Details of many of the above projects and links to publications and consultation responses can be found on the EDF Resources section of this site.
EDF’s work benefits EDF member and observer organisations (see members page for details). It also benefits the wider public, including individuals experiencing discrimination directly and employees of organisations providing services and support to vulnerable and marginalised members of society.
EDF does not provide advice to individuals but many of its member and observer organisations do.
Click here for Equality and Diversity Forum three-year strategy (pdf)