Failure to enact public duty law ‘has worsened England inequality in pandemic’


The failure of successive governments to enact part of the Equality Act, which would have imposed a duty to address socio-economic disadvantage, has exacerbated inequalities in England during the coronavirus pandemic, a thinktank has claimed.

The Runnymede Trust’s report, Facts Don’t Lie, says that the public sector duty provision would have imposed a legal obligation on education authorities in England to ensure working class children on free school meals were fed properly while schools were shut and had access to laptops for remote learning.

Section 1 of the Equality Act 2010 requires authorities, also including local councils, the police and most government departments, to carry out their functions having “due regard to the desirability of exercising them in a way that is designed to reduce the inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage”.

The section was activated in Scotland in 2018 and is due to commence in Wales at the end of next month but has not been effected in England, an omission the Runnymede Trust says must be remedied.

“If there were genuine intent to ‘level up’ society, our government would invest in jobs, education and training, and narrow the gap between the working class and the rest of society,” said Dr Halima Begum, the trust’s chief executive and author of Facts Don’t Lie…

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