The Department of Health has consistently failed to assess the impact of key social care and health policies on people from ethnic minorities, an investigation by the Commission for Racial Equality found today.
The investigation criticised the DH for failing to meet its statutory race equality duty in relation to the Mental Health Bill, last year’s health and social care white paper and the adult care green paper in 2005. The report said the failures were “in blatant contradiction” to well-established health inequalities faced by black and minority ethnic communities.
Concerns about systematic failings in key parts of the mental health system were made following the death of Afro-Caribbean patient David ‘Rocky’ Bennett in a mental health unit in Norfolk in 1998. In response, the DH launched a strategy for delivering race equality in mental health, but its later race impact assessment on the Mental Health Bill – which became law in July – was “deficient”, the CRE found.
The DH also failed to undertake systematic ethnic monitoring of participants in the consultation on the health and social care white paper and its exploration of the impact of services on ethnic communities was “poor”, the report said. The CRE also warned the white paper’s policies “could be discriminatory” because the DH has decided not to conduct a full equality impact assessment until they are implemented.
The DH blamed “turbulence” caused by restructuring of the department during 2004-5 for its failure to systematically conduct race equality impact assessments.
The CRE recommended that the new Commission for Equalities and Human Rights, which replaces it next week, should issue a compliance notice to address “deficiencies” in the DH’s single equality scheme, which sets out the department’s plans to deliver on all of its equality duties from 2006-9.
Its recommendations for the DH were to:
● Monitor the implementation of the amended Mental Health Act for its impact on race equality and keep the CEHR informed.
● Include full ethnic monitoring in all consultations.
● Train staff in race equality duties.
Department of Health single equality scheme