Public bodies told to embrace equality ahead of new legislation

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Police authorities, health trusts and care homes for the elderly should start working to promote equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people, a government official has said.

Speaking at a conference of the Civil Service Rainbow Alliance, Government Equalities Office (GEO) director general Jonathan Rees called for action in all public bodies ahead of the proposed Equality Bill.

CSRA is an informal alliance of all departmental LGBT networks and groups within the Civil Service.

Public authorities already have a duty to consider how their spending decisions, employment practices and service delivery affect people whatever their race, disability or gender.

The Equality Bill is expected to form part of the Queen’s Speech, the government’s programme for the forthcoming session of Parliament, which will be presented in December.

It includes proposals for all public bodies to promote equality for gay and lesbian people.

The Bill is intended to be an extension of the current duty on public authorities to actively promote equality into services like fostering, magistrates courts and health clinics and to make their services more accessible to lesbian, bisexual and gay people.

“The Government has achieved a lot in promoting equality in the LBGT community,” said Mr Rees.

“Over the last ten years, GEO and its predecessors have initiated legislation banning discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in the workplace, in training, and in everyday life. But there is more to be done.

“I urge public authorities to consider more broadly the needs of gay and lesbian people who use their services and are employed by them.

“Only then can we work towards achieving a fair society in which everyone has a chance to succeed.”

Mr Rees said local health trusts and social services should adopt prevention plans for vulnerable lesbian and gay people most at risk of self harm or suicide and care staff should be trained to ensure they provide safe and supportive environments for older gay people and their partners.

Local police authorities should consult lesbian and gay people on local policing strategies and identify liaison officers to increase community confidence and detection and reporting of homophobic crime, he said.

In July the Civil Service launched a new diversity strategy.

It employs 532,000 people in Britain.

The new strategy is designed to “embed diversity” across all levels of the Civil Service.

It is also a framework of commitments designed to help the Civil Service prepare to fulfil its duties under the Equality Bill.

Minister for the Civil Service Tom Watson MP said:

“The Civil Service needs to be reflective of the diverse communities it serves and to become better at developing and delivering policies that include everyone in society.

“This new strategy is challenging and I look forward to seeing the results from the implementation of the plan across all departments.”