OK, So this is another UK-centric post today, for which I apologise.
The UK is a very diverse place full of mixed cultures and religions. During the past forty years or so various governments have passed different legislation against various forms of discrimination with varying degrees of success. On the whole we have made progress as a country. However, I think it is fair to say that we have a very long way to go yet. In parts of the country racism is still commonplace, women on the whole still earn less than men, homosexuality is sometimes viewed with intolerance, a large disparity still exists between your socio-economic background and education and disability hate crimes still occur.
The previous Labour government passed a bill called the Equality Act 2010, which in essence took all these separate pieces of legislation and bundled them all into one package. As usual there were some improvements; arguably the odd backward step and it probably didn’t go as far as it could. This act – or at least most of it came into force on the 1st of October 2010, after the Labour government had been replaced with the Conservative / Liberal coalition.
One of the more interesting and progressive things covered in the Equality Act 2010 concerned a socio-economic duty. In effect this duty would force public bodies, such as local government to assess the impact of decisions they make on people from poorer backgrounds. Changes made to things like healthcare or education would have to be scrutinized and an impact assessment performed and considered before any final approval.
This socio economic duty didn’t come into force with the rest of the Equality Act. It was originally planned to come into force in 2011 to give the public bodies the chance to get policies and procedures in place to make this process as smooth as possible. However, recently, the new Conservative Equalities Minister – Theresa May has dismissed this specific duty as social engineering and political correctness gone mad and she has scrapped this duty.
So you may ask, why am I writing about this on a blog about Aspergers Syndrome?
Actually there is a link. A UK a survey undertaken by the National Autistic Society in 2008 showed that approximately 88% of people with Aspergers Syndrome and High Functioning Autism are unemployed. I am not going to go into the reasons for that now as I have covered them elsewhere. Aspergers Syndrome and Autism are very much hidden disabilities, and as such are currently poorly covered by disability legislation in the UK. This places people with Aspergers and Autism not only among the poorest members of our society, but also the least outspoken. When safety measures like the socio-economic duty are disregarded as unnecessary what does that say about the concern for vulnerable members of our society? And perhaps more importantly, who is left to ensure that these members of society aren’t completely overlooked entirely?
In the Video below – Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone who is Junior Equalities Minister completely fails to give any concrete plans to replace the socio-economic duty with anything superior or even anything at all that would give poorer people some hope of active equalities legislation.
To me equality means providing people with the same opportunities, and if a section of society cannot or will not speak up for itself due to its very nature, it does fall upon the governments shoulders to ensure that those unspoken voices are heard. Unfortunately, nobody seems interested in speaking for them.