Theresa Mackey reports…

Theresa giggle cLabour Conference 2019    

The Do Your Duty For Equality seminar was the most inspirational of the policy sessions and fringe meetings I attended at conference. It showcased the work of Poverty2Solutions – a coalition of three grassroots groups rooted in their communities and led by people with direct experience of poverty. The groups, ATD Fourth World, Dole Animators and Thrive Teeside work together to develop policy solutions to poverty and insecurity, lobbying for change, and building links with other anti-poverty groups.

A major focus of their activity is working tirelessly to address the absence of socio-economic status from the 2010 Equality Act. Whilst a wide range of inequalities, such as age, gender, race and disabilities are included in the Act, socio-economic status is not covered.

Indeed, the Act, (at Section 1), did include a duty for public authorities, including central government, to have ‘due regard’ to the desirability of reducing the inequalities caused by socio-economic disadvantage and poverty in their policy making and budgetary decisions.

However, this was abandoned in 2010 by the then Home Secretary, Theresa May.

Examples of How the Duty Could Make a Difference

  • Prevent the human suffering that comes from policy making that doesn’t consider the impact on people e.g. Universal Credit, closure of children’s centres …
  • Save public money by avoiding costly errors in policy making and developing preventative interventions
  • Help to develop better private sector practices e.g. extending the ‘Decent Homes Standard’ to private rented properties

Poverty2Solutions is a core group of ‘experts by experience’ of socio-economic disadvantage; they seek to drive forward and be part of a transformational cultural shift so that policy is not done to, but rather with communities who have lived experience.

Success Case Study: how the socio-economic duty is already working in practice

Newcastle City Council made a strategic decision to treat the socio-economic duty as if it is in force (Just Fair, 2018). The council’s budget proposals are assessed in terms of their potential impact on those experiencing socio-economic disadvantage in order to minimise detrimental impacts, whenever possible (Newcastle University and Newcastle City Council, 2018). This has led to a range of initiatives including a successful pilot homelessness prevention project (Wearing 2019).

“Our voice means something, and we have the knowledge, skills and abilities that should inform the debates, that lead to policies that have a major impact on our lives.”   Kathleen, Poverty2Solutions

A truly inspirational, solution focused, innovative grassroots movement.  Way to go!

Theresa Mackey