Women and Equalities Committee report: The Role of Minister for Women and Equalities and the Place of GEO in Government

The rate of change in the positions of the Minister for Women and Equalities and the Government Equalities Office (GEO) is unsatisfactory and unsustainable. It is a source of disruption and confusion, both within the Civil Service and among stakeholders.

This is from the June 2018 report (pdf) from the Women and Equalities Committee on the role of Minister for Women and Equalities and the place of GEO in government.

The report finds:

  • Since 1997, the policy function for women and equalities issues has been located in eight different government departments. In the last two years alone, four different Ministers based in three different departments have held the brief for Women and Equalities
  • There is no getting away from the fact that the way the job is allocated makes the role look like an afterthought, and that any postholder with a demanding ‘day job’ will understandably struggle to give it the attention it needs
  • This level of movement and fragmentation is unsatisfactory and unsustainable if we want the Government Equalities Office (GEO) to be an effective engine of change towards a more equal society across government.

The Women and Equalities Committee recommends:

  • A long-term solution is needed, however. The Government Equalities Office must be allowed to bed down in an arrangement that promotes stability and continuity, but that also gives it a platform to build capacity for exerting influence across Whitehall. A place at the heart of government, in the Cabinet Office, is the natural solution
  • The next Minister for Women and Equalities should have the job on a full-time basis and be part of the Cabinet Office team, with the right to attend Cabinet. Junior ministerial roles should also be based in the Cabinet Office, but could be jointly held with departments whose remits reflect the Government’s top equalities priorities at the time, such as the Home Office, Department for Work and Pensions or the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
  • The GEO needs resources, ministerial time and authority for a truly cross governmental role that should encompass all equalities issues including race, age and disability.

In response to the report, Ali Harris, our Chief Executive states:

‘EDF warmly welcomes this report and its sensible recommendations. Tackling the inequality and injustices experienced by millions of people is fundamental to building a country that works for everyone. Having a full time minister for Women and Equalities, and basing them and the Government Equalities Office in Cabinet Office, would give the clarity and clout we need to drive progress across government’.

Read the report in full (pdf).