Written evidence submitted by Just Lincolnshire
Equality & Human Rights Council (BS 117)|
Just Lincolnshire is a
registered charity, initially funded by the Equality & Human
Rights Commission. Our Board, which represents many interests
across local communities, is partnering local business and other
events; we are therefore well-placed to offer a balanced view
on "Big Society".
This memorandum has been informed in particular by
the Chair's attendance at the "Reform" National Big
Society Conference on 31 March 2011 (addressed by the Rt. Hon.
Oliver Letwin MP). Also, by a subsequent roundtable seminar with
Lord Wei of Shoreditch. These views are informed by the author's
longstanding District council community focus group membership,
accessing the local views of minority community leaders who are
themselves providing services.
Just Lincolnshire would
draw the committee's attention to current social exclusion in
society. Also to our concern that Big Society initiatives would
actually increase and reinforce those social and cultural divisions
which occur locally when minority communities are unable to participate
equally. Economic conditions are adversely affecting the capacity
of those groups least able to work "unpaid" - thus the
disabled, BME groups, womens' groups and carers (who have additional
protection under the equality act 2010) are less likely to participate
than those with time and disposable income.
Where people are socially excluded locally, they
tend to travel further to link with similar communities elsewhere:
mosque, disability centre, gay bar, Synagogue etc.
The Committee, we feel, should give weight to two
1. What evidence exists of Equality Impact
assessment/analsyis being undertaken on Big Society implementation,
under existing Equality legislation?
2. How Big Society implementation accords
with previous parliamentary recommendations on improving public
participation in government (to what extend differentiation/experiences
of minority group access has been taken into account?)
We welcome the entrepreneurial shift toward localism,
but feel that stronger communities are those which actually use
their strength to respect differences. Previous studies (Profiles
of Prejudice Stonewall) show emphatically that individuals who
"know" a member of a minority group are less likely
to be prejudiced against that group. Should the Big Society fail
to encourage joint participation across communities and cultures,
then racism, community tensions and segregation would increase,
as would crime and the fear of crime.
The lack of any "mapping" of what is already
happening - when power is devolved (say, to Parish Councils) is
also a concern. Are such body's representative of the communities
they serve in terms of age and background? Do they include tenants
and those living alone? We are therefore concerned that, as a
result of recent policy shifts in Equality, the value of "Equality
Impact assessment" as a tool to promote fairness and minimise
making things worse - has been apparently sidelined.