Unison urges sector to push for equality tests

Trade union says local authorities should be pressed into completing equality impact assessments when they are cutting funding

Voluntary organisations should press councils to complete equality impact assessments if their funding is cut, according to trade union Unison.

The assessments analyse the likely equality repercussions of implementing new policies or initiatives.

Mike Short, the national officer for the community and voluntary sector at Unison, said: "Councils are bound by law to assess the impact of their actions on grounds of race, gender and disability. Recent legal cases show how important it is for this to happen before councils make changes to the funding they provide to organisations running services on their behalf."

The progress on equality impact assessments by councils that are making funding cuts varies considerably. Hampshire County Council carried out an assessment before deciding to make cuts, but the only publicly available documentation of this is one sentence in its decision report on grant reduction and the emergency Budget. This says equality is not adversely affected. The council intends to do further assessments as it implements the cuts.

Lambeth Council, which will cut funding from January for voluntary organisations, will not be completing an assessment of the impact of this decision until next month.

A Local Government Association spokesman said councils should carry out assessments before making any relationship-changing decisions. He said this advice was likely to be reviewed in the autumn, after the implementation of the Equality Act 2010 and the comprehensive spending review.

A spokeswoman for the Equality and Human Rights Commission said this kind of assessment was essential: "It helps public bodies ensure that what they do is fit for purpose and free from unforeseen consequences."

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