Equality watchdog welcomes pledge on tackling class disadvantage

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has welcomed the government’s pledge to consider legislating to tackle class inequalities as part of moves to improve social mobility.

The white paper on social mobility, published yesterday, said ministers would consider placing a statutory duty on public bodies, including councils, to develop strategies to reduce socio-economic inequalities and tackle disadvantages based on class.

Currently, public bodies are under a duty to promote equality on grounds of race, disability and gender.

New duty to cover age-based inequality

Under the Equality Bill, due to be published shortly, they would fall under a single duty to promote equality covering the three existing areas and also age, sexual orientation and belief, though not class.

A spokesperson for the EHRC – the single watchdog for equalities set up in 2007 – said it welcomed the government’s commitment.

He said: “While we are used to talking about inequality between different groups based on race, gender, disability and age, this commission believes we need to think much bigger than that. We need to regain the habit of talking about what drives inequality on so many of these fronts. The fact is that where you were born, what your parents do and how much money they make far too often determines your prospects in life.” 


He added that in some parts of the country it was white people – who could be described as an “underclass – who were disadvantaged and needed help.

The white paper said further work and consultation were needed before the government reached a “firm conclusion on the best way of tackling this disadvantage”. This will be informed by the National Equality Panel, set up by the government to examine the relationship between different types of inequality and how these interact in people’s lives. The panel is due to report by the end of the year.

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