Last week a White Paper was published: Fairness for All: A New Commission for Equality and Human Rights by the DTI.
It is proposed that a single body is established combining the existing Commissions: Disability Rights Commission, Commission for Racial Equality and the Equal Opportunities Commission; in addition to providing support for the first time, Human Rights, as prescribed by the Human Rights Act 1998.
Without having read the paper, personally welcome such a move, as it merges each of the Commissions, and quite frankly could leave scope for not treating issues in particular vacuums. For example, one could be the subject of disability discrimination in addition to sex equality issues.
However, we do still have some way to go in bringing laws into line, and I would hope that primary legislation addresses this. For example, whilst there is such a concept of indirect discrimination in relation to sex, nothing exists in terms of disability. This puts disabled people at a significant disadvantage.
Another advantage of a single commission enables scope to be widened in future. For example, I have to identify myself as disabled this is what administrative systems demand of me, if I seek redress. Incorporation of a single commission, I would hope that it would allow secondary legislation scope to expand its remit to cover discrimination in relation to minority languages; including British Sign Language (BSL), should much sought after policy development and legislation happen.
In terms of management, I certainly would not support a move for such a body to be managed by the current DRC. DRC as it stands is not mainstream nor accessible enough, in representing out rights. Such a body would need to take the best from existing Commissions and incorporating this into a new body entirely.
For those wishing to respond to this consultation paper, the deadline is the 6 August 2004.