Equality watchdog to look at detention deaths, harassment and access to sport



The Equality and Human Rights Commission said that its business plan for 2014-15 was “ambitious, but realistic”, and would help to challenge persistent “unfairness, intolerance, injustice and indignity”.

It plans to examine non-natural deaths of adults with mental health conditions who had been detained in prisons, hospitals and by police, looking at how these public bodies comply with the “right to life” article of the European Convention on Human Rights, and how they have implemented recommendations from previous inquires and reports.

In a separate piece of work, EHRC aims to explore how to reduce the likelihood of children with mental health conditions being detained by the state.

Another major piece of work will be to increase participation rates of under-represented groups – including disabled people – in sport, not just as players, but also as spectators, volunteers, officials and employees.

The commission says it wants to “address the barriers which prevent people participating, including by improving the physical and cultural accessibility of sporting venues and tackling discriminatory attitudes and behaviours”.

Joyce Cook, chair of Level Playing Field, the user-led organisation which represents disabled sports fans, welcomed the move.

She said: “For us, it is really good news. We really hope that this provides a platform for us to work together to really ensure that the changes we have been waiting for for 20 years will finally happen.”

She said more and more people were realising “just how grim it is for disabled fans, especially in football”.

Cook said: “The corner shop down the road from the football stadium has to do this, so how come the football clubs are not being held to task, because they have had 20 years?”

She pointed out that Premier League clubs received an extra £5.5 billion from the sale of broadcasting rights this year.

Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson, one of the country’s greatest Paralympians and a director of UK Athletics, said: “I think that it is interesting that EHRC are looking at this.”

She said that it “depends probably on the sport and where you live what your opportunities are”.

She said that although Sport England was already looking at the number of disabled people coming through sports development programmes, she would like to see research extended to those who work in sport, and disabled coaches and board members.

She added: “I am sure that the numbers are low in all these areas.”

The commission also plans to reach agreements with public bodies that need to improve the way they address disability-related harassment, following the commission’s 2012 inquiry.

Among other work planned is research into how small and medium-sized businesses understand equality legislation and human rights, including the use of reasonable adjustments for disabled people.

It will also explore how to improve disabled people’s access to retail banking services, addressing issues such as whether the increase in electronic banking takes account of disabled people’s needs.

The commission’s disability committee says its main focus during the year will be on informing the UK’s upcoming examination under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; building partnerships with senior disability-related stakeholders in government departments, public authorities and charities; and continuing its work on disability-related harassment.

EHRC’s core funding is £17.1 million, but some of this year’s business plan will be funded from an extra pot of £8 million, but only if these projects are approved by the Conservative minister for women and equalities, Maria Miller.

3 April 2014