Northampton Hope Centre CEO backs Equality Trust's campaign for socio-economic duty to tackle inequality

The campaign seeks to put addressing inequality at the heart of all public bodies' decision-making

Saturday, 20th November 2021, 2:18 pm
Mr Burgess has long supported the creation of more social housing, saying it is key to combatting homelessness among other issues.

A Northampton poverty charity boss has voiced his support for the new #1ForEquality campaign, which seeks to legally oblige public bodies to tackle inequality.

The campaign was created by the Equality Trust, a national body that seeks to reduce 'social and economic inequality' in the UK. It is run in coalition with Just Fair, Greater Manchester Poverty Action, Equally Ours and other organisations.

The campaign advocates for the enforcement of a socio-economic duty for public bodies, such as councils. This would have them exercise powers in a way that directly addresses inequality in England.

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The duty does already exist, as laid out in section one of the Equality Act 2010, although it has only been adopted as law in Scotland and Wales, with English bodies yet to do so.

If successful, the campaign would legally mandate the exercise of public bodies' policies would legally have to be 'designed to reduce the inequalities of outcome, which result from socio-economic disadvantage.'

Hope Centre Northampton, which is the trust's local associate in Northamptonshire, voiced its support for the campaign on Twitter.

Robin Burgess, speaking as CEO of Hope Group Northampton, said that he wants the Socio-economic duty to be voluntary adopted in England the same way it has elsewhere. He pointed to examples such as the Labour-held Newcastle City Council, where the section has been adopted despite having no legal obligation to do so.

Mr Burgess said: "The proposal of the movement is to put into law the Socio-economic duty, to require public bodies to consider equality in their decision making. While this was set out in the Equality Act 2010, it is not currently a legal requirement to do so.

"Public bodies would have to reference not just the minimum wage. They would be looking at the real living wage, which is significantly higher.

"This change in focus would result, we can hope, in more social housing being made as well, with more focus on the needs of the poorest.

"It's only a statement of intent. It's the kind of moral acknowledgement to make public officials aware of equality. There's certainly a lot of progress to be made."

The campaign has so far been supported by 83 MPs, largely Labour, with some Scottish National Party and Liberal Democrat members also signing on.

Yet the Equality Trust emphasized the importance of 'grassroots activists', which the trust called 'essential'.

Jo Wittams, Acting Executive Director at the Equality Trust, said: "The support we have received from Robin at the Hope Centre is fantastic.

"Our goal is to improve the quality of life in the UK by dismantling structural inequalities. We want to live in a country where all can flourish, and we know that the main way to achieve this is by reducing inequality.

"The socio-economic duty in England is a powerful tool for reducing inequality, and it already exists as part of the Equality Act 2010.

"Enacting or commencing the SED would mean that public bodies would be compelled to consider how their decisions and actions could exacerbate or reduce inequality, and design them in such a way that inequality is reduced.

"Local authorities can voluntarily adopt the SED, as has been done in the North East of England.

"The SED has also been commenced in Wales and Scotland, showing that England is lagging behind on something that would truly level up the UK."