FILE PHOTO: British trade minister Liz Truss speaks to Reuters after signing a free trade agreement with Singapore, in Singapore, December 10, 2020. REUTERS/Pedja Stanisic
THE UK women and equalities minister Liz Truss on Thursday(17) launched the ‘equality data programme’ to better understand the barriers that people from every background are facing in the country.
The programme will deliver on a manifesto commitment to improve evidence on equality and to support levelling up ambitions.
The information gathered will be used to inform policy decisions across government, and will allow the Equality Hub to deliver on the public’s priorities, the minister said.
While setting out the government’s new approach to tackling inequality in the UK, Truss said that the British story has been driven from its earliest days by the desire for liberty, agency and fairness.
“In the simplest sense it is the notion that in Britain you will have the opportunity to succeed at whatever you wish to do professionally, that you can be whoever you want to be, dress however you want to dress, love whoever you wish to love and achieve your dreams,” Truss said.
“Too often, the equality debate has been dominated by a small number of unrepresentative voices, and by those who believe people are defined by their protected characteristic and not by their individual character.”
The new ‘equality data programme’ is a significant change from the previous work of the Equality Hub, which often focused on people with a single protected characteristic and compared outcomes narrowly within those groups.
According to the minister, that approach was the soft bigotry of low expectations, where people from certain backgrounds are never expected or considered able enough to reach high standards.
She said: “Now is the time to root the equality debate in the real concerns people face, delivering quality housing, cutting commute times, improving public transport, ending discrimination in our offices, factories and shop floors and improving our schools so every child has the same chances in life.
“The equality agenda must be prosecuted with fierce determination and clarity of purpose up and down the country not just in London board rooms and Whitehall offices. Whether that be making the case for free schools in deprived areas or using data to help regional businesses attract investment we will use the power of evidence to drive reform and tailor that reform to local needs.”
The minister added that the Equality Hub will also relocate to the North of England. Existing data clearly shows a gap between London and the South East and the rest of the UK in things such as life expectancy, pay and GDP.
The government will continue the Hub’s work related to race and ethnic disparities, women’s economic empowerment, LGBT rights and the National Strategy for Disabled People.
In another move, the Social Mobility Commission will move to be sponsored by the Equality Hub following recommendations from the Commission itself and the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities.
Robert Colvile, director of the Centre for Policy Studies, said: “It is welcome news that the work of Equality Hub won’t be limited to individual protected characteristics, but rather take into account the needs of every part of society, levelling up the regions and empowering our youth, restoring dignity and offering the same opportunities to all, irrespective of their postcode, gender or heritage.”
Steven Cooper and Sandra Wallace, co-chairs of the Social Mobility Commission said: “We look forward to helping drive the levelling up agenda in the regions whilst continuing our important research work and delivery programmes with key partners such as major employers.”
It is estimated that up to £250 billion could be added to the UK economy if women opened businesses at the same rate as men.