Creating a fairer Britain
The Commission responded to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills' consultation on the future direction of skills policy, which was launched in July 2010.
The EHRC welcomes the opportunity to contribute to this consultation, and has drawn on our own research and policy development as well as research evidence from stakeholders.
The potential of skills acquisition to improve employment opportunities, tackle disadvantage and poverty and to change lives for the better is well evidenced. The challenge for the development of the Skills Strategy is to ensure that any new system delivers for all groups, recognising that some learners are harder to reach and will require more support to secure good training outcomes.
The Skills strategy should aim to eliminate discrimination and contribute positively towards reducing and removing skills inequalities that already exist across the UK workforce. A one-size-fits-all mainstream approach may do little to address those who face multiple disadvantages and we are encouraged by acknowledgement in the proposals of the need to incentivise provision to secure engagement of those hardest to reach.
The Equality Duties require equality impact assessments for race, gender and disability (and soon to include age, sexual orientation, gender re-assignment, religion or belief) on policy proposals and decisions. We look to the Department to prepare an EIA for the policy proposals set out in this consultation and the decisions taken as a result of it in the full Skills Strategy later in the year.
Mapping shows that there is a substantial equality and diversity agenda that needs to be addressed through skills policy and implementation. The skills deficits in England are heavily differentiated by age, disability, ethnicity, and gender, but also by geography and socio-economic group.
This point was evidenced by the Skills Strategy Equality Impact Assessment report produced for the Leitch review of skills.
The EIA identified groups affected by multiple or other disadvantage as including:
It is also important to recognise that other vulnerable groups may also experience disadvantage in terms of skills and employment and ought to be able to benefit from the Skills Strategy. Currently this includes those who have inequalities of access and outcomes as a result of socio-economic disadvantage. We welcome the commitment to consider properly the needs of vulnerable groups.
Some of the most serious inequalities are long standing and are affected by a wide range of factors which cannot be fully addressed by a market-led skills strategy on its own. Nor can they be removed overnight. These include deep-seated patterns of gender, race and disability segregation throughout the training and skills system and under-use of skills linked to poor progression opportunities. We look to the Skills Strategy to identify ways of addressing these inequalities and our response includes some suggestions to support this.