Policy development – mainstreaming equalities!

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If you have been reading your papers for conference, you might have noticed something new. Tucked away at the back of the policy papers is a page headed ‘Policy Equality Impact Assessment’. If you work in the public sector, you may already be familiar with these, as they have been compulsory in schools, hospitals and other public institutions for some time now. As a political party, we are not expected to complete such assessments as a matter of course, but have started to introduce them as a sign of our own commitment to the principles of diversity, equality and best practice. I’m really pleased to report that the Federal Policy Committee (FPC) through the work of Debbie Enever has led the way by introducing them on policy papers.

A lonely side of A4 at the back of a long policy document, you might erroneously dismiss this as a mere tick-box exercise, but the new process of evaluating the diversity and equality impacts of our policies goes much deeper than that. The FPC has set up a Policy Equality Impact Assessments Group under the leadership of Linda Jack and with representation from the Party’s Diversity Engagement Group (DEG) to feed in comments and suggestions on policy papers at all stages of their development to ensure that we are truly mainstreaming diversity and equalities thinking throughout the policy making process.

The Liberal Democrats have always been the party most committed to diversity and equalities issues, as our often quoted preamble explains, we exist to “build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. … We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity.” A commitment to diversity and equalities is already at our core. By introducing equality impact assessments, we are ensuring that not only are we committed, and not only are we seen to be committed, but we are actually doing it.

Issan Ghazni is National Diversity Adviser for the Liberal Democrats

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