THE Government is continuing to fail disabled people by not implementing provisions in the 2010 Equality Act, says a House of Lords report.
Baroness Deech, chair of the Equality Act 2010 and Disability Committee, said: “The Government cannot expect disabled people to have confidence in its new National Disability Strategy when it has consistently failed to enforce existing legislation or act on recommendations to rectify that.
“While our report was compiled before the Government published its Strategy it is clear that it still does not address long standing failures to implement equality requirements that have been in law, but largely ignored and unenforced for more than a decade.”
The National Disability Strategy, announced in August by the Prime Minister, does not set out proposals to implement key provisions in the Equality Act which have not been brought into force in the 11 years since they became law.
The findings come in a new report from the House of Lords Liaison Committee that follows up the 2016 report by the Equality Act 2010 and Disability Committee.
Clauses in the Act that the Committee have identified as requiring improvement or implementation and which the Strategy does not address include:
Requiring all public sector organisations to apply the Public Sector Equality Duty effectively. The Committee says this is often operated as a “tick-box” exercise because the requirement to have “due regard” to equality issues is too weak and emphasises procedure rather than outcomes.
The burden often falls on disabled people to enforce their own rights.
The Committee says all public bodies should be required to implement a “plan of action” for how they will meet the requirement of the equality duty.
Access to taxis and private hire vehicles. Section 163 of the Equality Act requires licenced taxis to comply with accessibility regulations, but despite being on the statute books for more than 20 years it has never been implemented, meaning disabled people still find it hard to access taxi services.
The Committee is calling on the Government to implement the provision with immediate effect and to amend it to ensure it covers Private Hire Vehicles as well as licenced taxis.
Access to sports stadia. The Committee says the Equality Act has not given disabled sports fans the equal access to sports stadia to which they are entitled.
The Act relies on individuals taking action against institutions that are not meeting the requirements and often disabled sports fans are reluctant to take action against a sports club they support.
The Committee is calling on the Government to introduce a Bill to give local authorities power to refuse a safety certificate to large sports stadiums that do not comply with accessible stadia guidelines.
Baroness Deech added: “The Government has missed a golden opportunity to tackle key issues including ensuring the Public Sector Equality Duty delivers results and improved outcomes rather than being a tick-box exercise, ensuring taxis and private hire vehicles are accessible to disabled people and ensuring sports stadiums have appropriate provision for all fans.
“Some of these provisions are already law and are just not being enforced. For the Government to ignore them yet again in its National Strategy means that it is not acting on what Parliament has agreed.
“We are calling on the Government to now state clearly how it will update its Strategy to ensure this is corrected.”