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Fear that equality law is to be weakened

The Government appears poised to water down its own health equality legislation.

Responding to the Government's review on discrimination law, the MHF warns that the consultation document, A Framework for Fairness: Proposals for a Single Equality Bill for Great Britain, seeks to weaken the provisions of the Equality Act 2006 so as to assimilate its objectives into the new statutory framework.

MHF president Dr Ian Banks says: 'We are concerned about the form of words that imply the possible disappearance or diminution of the recently created general duty and specific duties. Replacing the general duty in the Equality Act 2006 with a requirement to take action in a "limited number of priority areas" is a retrograde step.'

Now the Forum is calling for the Government to "require" public authorities to take gender fully into account when planning and delivering services.

The 2006 Equality Act introduced a new legal requirement on all public authorities to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination and harassment on the grounds of sex and to promote equality of opportunity between women and men.

David Wilkins, Policy Officer at the Men's Health Forum, said: 'This Act has the potential to be the most important catalyst for improved male health since the foundation of the NHS in 1948. It already allows public authorities to prioritise within the requirements of the general duty.

'The problem with the idea of identifying "limited priority areas" as proposed in the consultation document is that many important areas of concern will simply go back to receiving no priority at all.'

'The unacceptably poor state of male health in the UK is a problem that has been staring health policy-makers and service-providers in the face for decades but, except in a few isolated instances, it has met with continual inertia.

'The Government's consultation document risks allowing that inertia to continue. The existing general duty is the correct starting point — a "limited number of priority areas" is not.

'The Men's Health Forum is opposed to anything that dilutes the present specific duties on public authorities to publish gender equality schemes, conduct formal gender impact assessments of major areas of provision, consult stakeholders and so on.

'So we would appeal to the Government to ensure that the proposed new legislation continues to incorporate the most important principles and mechanisms from the Equality Act 2006.

'We would even favour strengthening the language so that public authorities are required to do this rather than "pay due regard to the need" to do so.'

Page created on August 27th, 2007

Page updated on December 1st, 2009