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Equality suffers in public sector changes

Photo of Public services reform report launch at Westminster Study shows equality is sidelined in the rush to public sector reform

Changes in the way the public sector operates are being carried out with little·thought about·their impact on the·most vulnerable, according to a new report -·a joint study by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) and·North West Infrastructure Partnership (NWIP).

"The coalition government risks undermining years of progress around equalities" unless systems are put in place to monitor the way policies affect marginalised groups,

Merseyside Disability Federation is part of NWIP's Steering Group, and MDF's members and other partners contributed information to help the background research.

Photo:·(L to R) Kate Green (MP for Stretford and Urmston, Shadow Spokesperson for Women and Equality) at the Westminster launch of the report, with·Richard Caulfield Voluntary Sector North West and Neil McInroy CLES.

The report Responsible Reform: Open Public Services for All, finds evidence of "stripping away of specialist services, governance mechanisms and knowledge, leaving demonstrable growth in inequality". It suggests that, in the big changes going on in the public and VCF sectors there is ...

  • a real and growing concern that equalities issues are slipping off the agenda
  • a questioning of the equalities agenda within government (which·talks of "fairness" rather than "equality")

Neil McInroy, Chief Executive of CLES, said:

"Reform of public services is required. However, any reform process must be responsible, ensuring that negative unintended consequences are kept to a minimum. This work shines a torch onto a reform process which is starting to have negative effects, and·demonstrates a responsible way forward".

Richard Caulfield, Chief Executive of VSNW  said:

"If we’re going to have truly radical reform in this country, change must be tangibly linked to all local communities and people. At the moment, there’s a danger that some communities are facing a future of unmanaged decline. If we’re not careful as well as radical, this will cost us all a great deal.

“We need a principled approach, as the Government rightly understands, to Open Public Services and those principles need to promote ways of bringing us together and benefiting many and not just the fortunate few. Whatever Big Society means, surely it has equality at its centre?

“A more visionary approach to equality, that tackles unfair and unjust barriers head on, can make for better public services that could avoid costly, entrenched poverty and marginalisation. And that’s the kind of tools we want Government to help local communities and local public sector agencies to seize.”

The North West Infrastructure Partnership (NWIP) is a grouping of regional and sub-regional VCF infrastructure organisations which includes MDF. The members come together to provide a single voice for the sector at the regional level. NWIP is facilitated by VSNW, the regional voluntary sector network for north west England.

Leading up to the publication of Responsible Reform: Open Public Services for All, the magazine New Start had a·series of articles arguing that equality should be at the heart of public sector reform and localism.

  • The mirages served up by reforms shouldn't deflect us from viewing localism as the answer - David Boyle, New Economics Foundation
  • I'd rather have a vuvuzela! Equalities and the Big Society - Debra Allcock Tyler, Directory of Social Change
  • Stretching the role of commissioners - Matthew Jackson, CLES
  • Linking up the 'five pillars' can deliver equality - Stuart Speeden

You can read these·articles through the VSNW website