Equality Delivery SystemPosted: May 9, 2011
Right, I have been a bit slack lately as things have been busy at the Somerset LINk but I am now back in the saddle with some thoughts on the Equality Delivery System…
What is the Equality Act?
The Equality Act 2010 became law in October 2010. It replaces previous legislation such as the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. The Equality Act exists to protect individuals from discrimination, both in the workplace and in all areas of public life, or as the Government Equality Office puts it:
The Equality Act 2010 … protects individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair and more equal society.
The various provisions of the Equality Act are being brought in at different times. This is to allow time for organisations affected by the new laws to get their heads around them and prepare for them. Most of the provisions in the Act came into force on 1 October 2010 – but there are still some consultations about covering some aspects of other parts of this law, such as the current ‘Age Consultation’. Once these consultations have been carried out, then those parts of the law will be finalised and brought into force.
Shiny, new and lemon-scented! The new Public Sector Equality Duty
On 5 April 2011 the new public sector Equality Duty came into force. The Equality Duty is the duty of all public services to comply with the new Equality Act, by considering the needs of all people in their day to day work, developing policy, delivering services and employing people.
Previously there were three duties:
The new Equality Duty replaces these and with one big brand spanking new Duty, requiring all public sector bodies to comply with the new law.
The Nine Protected Characteristics
Now pay close attention or you will be really annoyed if they have an Equality Act round in your local pub quiz. There are now nine ‘protected characteristics’ to remember:
- Gender reassignment (i.e. transgender people)
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion and belief (this includes Atheism)
- Sex (previously known as gender i.e. male or female)
- Sexual orientation (heterosexual, gay, etc)
What is The Equality Delivery System (EDS)?
The Equality and Diversity Council was formed in 2009, and it comprises Department of Health bods and other interested parties. It reports to the NHS Management Board. One of the big jobs that it had to do was to develop an ‘Equality Delivery System’ – i.e. a way of delivering equality across the NHS in line with equality laws.
So the Equality Delivery System “has been designed for the NHS by the NHS”, as the Department of Health cheerfully proclaims:
The Council has commissioned work to develop an Equality Delivery System for the NHS drawing on current good practice. The Equality Delivery System is being designed by the NHS for the NHS, to improve the delivery of personalised, fair and diverse services to patients, to provide equal opportunity and treatment of staff and to support the NHS to demonstrate compliance with the Equality Act.
The EDS not only covers people from Protected Characteristics Groups but also other people who may suffer stigma, such as homeless people.
How does the EDS work then?
The EDS is not quite the equality sausage-machine that it sounds, but it is more of a process for looking at how services are performing against equality criteria and ‘graded’, identifying priority areas, and then devising plans to tackle inequalities (including health inequalities) in order to improve things. These ‘grades’ and plans have got to be published (e.g. on websites and in annual reports) and also ‘shared’ with the local Overview & Scrutiny Committee.
What has this got to do with LINks?
Well obviously we are super-keen to get involved with anything that involves engaging with the local community, particularly hard-to-reach groups, and especially anything that aims to reduce health inequalities. But even more than this, the LINks have a special interest in this area – because lots of documents state that the implementation of the EDS will ultimately be monitored by the local community – through their Local HealthWatch. This is a typical summary of the role of LINks/Local HealthWatch, according to various Department of Health information factsheets about EDS:
LINks will share Annual Improvement Plans and grades with the Local Authority Overview & Scrutiny Committees and Health & Wellbeing Boards, before forwarding them to the NHS Commissioning Board or CQC.
This might all change of course, but it’s worth getting your head around this now, in case this becomes part of the Local HealthWatch portfolio.
- Here’s a really good simple presentation about the Equality Delivery System: I found this on East Midlands NHS website – it’s a really nice and simple explanation of the EDS.
- Here is the Equality Act 2010 in all its full glory.
What to do with this information:
- Make some maps of local user-led and voluntary organisations that represent people from the nine Protected Characteristics. Make sure that you consult with these groups wherever possible.
- Ask your local PCT what work they are doing on the Equalities Delivery System and join their Working Group – see what the LINk can do to help with their consultation and engagement work.
- Find out what local equality organisations there are and make sure that you sign up to receive their news and information.
- Bear in mind that Local HealthWatch is going to have a role in monitoring how organisations are meeting their duties under the Equalities Act – do some groundwork now, such as having good working relationships with local groups that represent the Protected Characteristics.
- Memorise all 9 Protected Characteristics so you can helpfully prompt people who get to 8 and then start getting flustered.