EHRC To Be ‘Substantially Reformed’ While HIV Quangos Are Scrapped

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is to be substantially reformed, the Cabinet Office said today.

Today’s shake-up of public bodies saw 192 quangos axed, with an estimated 10,000 staff expected to lose their jobs.

The EHRC, which was criticised last year for how it was set up, escaped the cull but is set for significant changes.

Both the Expert Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and the Independent Advisory Group of Sexual Health and HIV have been scrapped.

The former will be reformed as a Department of Health expert committee, while the latter will be replaced with a “stakeholder advisory group”.

As yet, few details about the changes have been revealed and the government is considering how the EHRC, and other surviving public bodies, will be reformed.

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New Report From Women’s Resource Centre

The Women’s Resource Centre (WRC) has published a new report on lesbian, bisexual and trans women in the UK. Entitled ‘All In Our Colours’, it highlights the key issues affecting these women and provides a picture of the sector supporting them, service available and threats these services face in the current environment.

The report brings together existing research on lesbian, bisexual and trans women in the UK and to provide a literature review and reveals the reality for these marginalised groups. Among the key findings are:

  • There are very few services for LBT women across the UK and LBT women’s organisations are consistently underfunded.
  • Organisations led by and for LBT women are particularly marginalised in terms of political influence.
  • There is a lack of awareness of the issues facing LBT women, their support needs and the LBT population as a whole.
  • There is little infrastructure and second tier support for LBT organisations and all too often they become add-ons to existing mainstream support.
  • Most LBT organisations rely on volunteers to deliver their core services and many only operate as informal, local and volunteer-run support and social groups.

The report is available to download below or from

Download ‘In All Your Colours’ Report – PDF

For more information about the report, contact the author at or call 020 7324 3042

Britain ‘More Comfortable’ With Homosexuality But Two Thirds Of Gay Students Are Bullied

Britain has become substantially more comfortable with homosexuality in the last 20 years but homophobic bullying remains a problem for students.

According to a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, How Fair is Britain?, two-thirds of lesbian, gay and trans students have suffered homophobic bullying and 17 per cent have received death threats.

Almost half of secondary school teachers in England say that such bullying is common and only one in six believe their school is very active in promoting the rights of gay students.

The 700-page report said that attainment trends for LGBT young people were hard to measure but added that there were “signs that they are being penalised by unfair treatment and bullying in the education system, at school and beyond”.

In the workplace, the report said that LGBT people were twice as likely as other workers to report experiencing unfair treatment, discrimination, bullying or harassment at work.

However, the change in attitudes towards gay people was hailed as “emblematic” and the report’s authors pointed out that only 20 years separated Section 28, which banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools, and civil partnership legislation.

In 1994, nearly 70 per cent of those over the age of 55 and more than a third of young people said same-sex couples “are always wrong”.

But by 2008, just over 40 per cent of people over the age of 55 responded in the same way. Just 15 per cent of young people agreed.

Most people are now comfortable with or neutral about homosexuality in public life. Eighty-seven per cent said they would feel comfortable or neutral if their MP was gay and 73 per cent said they would feel the same way if their child’s teacher was gay.

The report also said that although most minorities were under-represented in parliament, lesbian, gay and bisexual people were more likely to take part in other forms of political or civic activity and are more likely to feel able to influence local decisions.

In other findings, the report said that there were “five great gateways” to equal opportunities – well-being, education, work, security and voice in society – and estimated that millions of people could be better off if these barriers are lifted.

In education, poor white boys were the worst performing group above traveller/Gypsy children. Chinese girls were found to have the highest levels of attainment. At GCSE level, students of Chinese and Indian origin do the best.

In health, the poorest can expect to live seven years less than the richest. Girls can expect to live until their ninth decades. Men’s life expectancy remains slightly lower than women’s but this gap is slowly closing.

EHRC chief executive Trevor Phillips said: “This review holds up the mirror to fairness in Britain. It is the most complete picture of its kind ever compiled.

“It shows that we are a people who have moved light years in our attitudes to all kinds of human difference, and in our desire to be a truly fair society – but that we are still a country where our achievements haven’t yet caught up with our aspirations.”

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Care Minister Burstow Unveils Plan To Improve Dementia Care

Dementia patients and their carers will be encouraged to hold councils and the NHS to account for their performance on dementia care as part of a shift away from top-down intervention.

That was the message from care services minister Paul Burstow, as the government published a revised implementation plan for its predecessor’s national demential strategy today.

Burstow told Community Care he wanted to use transparent information on service quality to drive improvement, not central government diktat, in what he characterised as a departure from Labour’s approach.

“We have tried in the past 13 years a top-down approach and we have seen how ineffective it can be,” he added, saying the Department of Health’s role would be to set out clear outcomes for dementia patients but not prescribe how commissioners and providers should deliver on them.

The DH has commissioned an audit of the current state of dementia care. Burstow said that information from this comparing areas against each other “had to be made available for local people so they could ask questions of local leaders about the differences”.

The action plan prioritises good-quality early diagnosis and intervention for dementia patients, improving care in hospitals and care homes for the client group and reducing the use of antipsychotic drugs.

Burstow said current levels of dementia diagnosis were “truly shocking” but rejected Labour’s plan to set up a national network of memory clinics to deliver on this goal.

“The outcome is higher levels of diagnosis. The how you get there is not something that I, sitting in Whitehall, can prescribe.”

However, councils and the NHS will face “specific, measurable indicators” on improving dementia outcomes that will be set up as part of planned outcomes frameworks for the NHS and social care, the action plan said.

The plan was welcomed by sector leaders.

“The government is being very clear that the dementia strategy must be implemented urgently,” said Ruth Sutherland, interim chief executive of Alzheimer’s Society.

“Action at a local level is now key if we are to translate paper into practice. The move towards local accountability will give a clearer picture of how work to improve antipsychotics, hospital care and early diagnosis can help save millions and improve lives. We know some areas are moving ahead quickly on the strategy and are already beginning to see the benefits.”

Martin Green, the government-appointed dementia champion for independent sector providers, said he believed the government’s audit of dementia services would enable users and carers would be able to hold councils and the NHS to account.

“If you see your authority is lagging behind others it gives you the authority to say to local providers and commissioners ‘you need to step up’. I think [the audit] will give us a clear idea of where the gaps are.”

However, care provider Anchor said the plan did not go far enough. Chief operating officer Sara McKee said: “Thousands of older people are at risk of misdiagnosis and sub-standard care because there is no statutory minimum level of training for staff working with people affected by dementia.

“Unless this changes, the sector will struggle to reduce the number of people with dementia who never receive a diagnosis or indeed stop the use of medication as ‘chemical restraints.”

Incapacity Benefit & Housing Benefit To Be Scrapped

Incapacity benefit and housing benefit will be scrapped to generate £9bn of cuts to benefits under plans agreed by the Chancellor and Iain Duncan Smith, secretary of state for work and pensions.

The Times has reported that Duncan Smith and Chancellor George Osborne have finally reached an agreement on benefit reform following months of negotiation.

Incapacity benefits and housing benefit will be among those merged into a single benefit which Duncan Smith claims will guarantee that everyone is better off in work than on benefits. The reforms could slash £9bn from the benefit bill a year, a large chunk of which the Treasury has agreed to give Duncan Smith up front to finance the changes, The Times said.

The Treasury had previously announced plans to cut incapacity benefit by £2bn by introducing a means test and demanded additional cuts of £2.5bn from employment and support allowance.

In June Osborne said he would phase in a medical assessment for disability living allowance, which caused concern with disability groups because Osborne said it would be modelled on the controversial work capability assessment.

The Treasury’s plans had cast doubt over whether Duncan Smith would be given enough money to finance his reform of benefits.

Disabled people’s organisations cautiously welcomed the reforms. They said simplification was desirable but reforms would have to take account of disabled people’s needs.

“It cannot be a one size fits all benefit,” said Rebecca Rennison, senior policy officer at Leonard Cheshire Disability. She said the government would need to invest heavily in training of staff.

Neil Coyle, director of policy at Disability Alliance, said that he doubted IT systems required to run the new benefit could be completed within three years as the department of work and pensions wants. He added: “The reforms require a level of data sharing that has traditionally been difficult for government departments.

Sue Bott, chief executive of the National Centre for Independent Living, said: “I wonder if these saving will happen, based on the fact that people are more likely to claim if they better understand the simplified system.”

The Times said the changes will be formally announced at next week’s Tory party conference.

Lesbians & Bisexuals ‘Not Represented Enough’ On The BBC

The BBC has published the results of a major study into its portrayal of lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

The internal research, conducted with gay and straight people, found that lesbian and bisexual people in particular feel underrepresented in the broadcaster’s programmes.

It also found that one in five people is uncomfortable with seeing gays and lesbians on television.

The corporation began the research last April, after a series of unfortunate incidents in which it was accused of sanctioning homophobia.

The most notorious of these was an online debate titled “Should homosexuals face execution?”, while another was an offensive segment on the bisexual actress Lindsay Lohan.

The BBC was also criticised for allowing Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles to mock gay people, while a recent Stonewall report found that only 44 seconds of 39 hours of footage portrayed gay people in a positive and realistic light.

Today’s research was the culmination of audience research with 2,000 people and a public consultation which received more than 9,000 responses.

Gay and straight people were consulted, including some who were described as being “uncomfortable” with any portrayal of lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

The vast majority of respondents (70 per cent) thought that there is insufficient portrayal of lesbian, gay and bisexual people across the BBC, although 37 per cent of LGB people rated the content they did see as good. However, 24 per cent said it was poor.

The opinions of heterosexual people were detailed extensively in the research. The majority were comfortable with portrayals of gay people, although they were less likely to be concerned about positive and realistic depictions.

However, just over one in ten of all respondents thought that there was too much portrayal of gay people on the BBC. Eighteen per cent were ‘uncomfortable’ or ‘very uncomfortable’ about seeing gay people on television.

LGB respondents said they wanted to see more depictions of lesbians and bisexual people on the BBC, along with fewer stereotypical portrayals of gay men.

They cited news as an important area, saying that care should be taken to ensure people’s sexuality was mentioned only when necessary.

In drama, they said they wanted to see realistic storylines around gay and lesbian relationships, albeit ones which did not just revolve around characters’ sexual orientation.

LGB respondents pointed to the need for clarity in comedy which references gay people. They said that comedy scenes in which jokes were made at the expense of LGB people could be seen as unchallenged homophobia.

The results of the survey will be distributed across the BBC with editorial chiefs asked to look at the results and report back changes.

Amanda Rice, the BBC’s head of diversity, said: “The publication of this very significant piece of work sends a clear signal to all our licence fee payers that the BBC is committed to meaningful engagement with all audiences.

“Not only is this a key priority within our diversity strategy, it is also one of the best ways we can continue to learn about what the UK’s diverse communities want and expect of the BBC.”

The report was welcomed by gay charity Stonewall, which has criticised the BBC in the last two years.

Chief executive Ben Summerskill said: “These findings confirm those of Stonewall research in recent years which show that both gay and heterosexual licence-payers want to see more realistic, incidental representations of gay people on their TV screens.

“We recognise that the BBC has taken some steps forward in recent years and we’re very pleased that it now intends to build on that progress.”

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