A major new review of inequality in Britain has called for action to close the most important “equality gaps” faced by disabled people and other minority groups.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it hoped its triennial review would deliver a “wake-up call to Britain”, which it said was a country still divided by unfairness and discrimination.
EHRC chair Trevor Phillips said the How Fair is Britain? report was the first attempt by a “major nation” to examine how society “lives up to the promise to be fair to its people”.
Although Phillips said Britons “despise prejudice” and “embrace equality”, he said many disabled people and members of other groups were still imprisoned by “prejudice, inertia and unfairness”.
The 750-page review – which by law the EHRC has to publish every three years – has been presented to parliament, with copies also sent to every minister making decisions in advance of the spending review on 20 October.
The EHRC review looks at evidence on inequalities across eight key areas, including education, employment, security, and care and support.
Among its findings, the review says disabled people are less likely to have confidence in the criminal justice system, while more than one in four families with disabled members receive less than 60 per cent of the average [median] income.
In education, only eight per cent of boys in England with special educational needs (SEN) who are eligible for free school meals obtain five good GCSEs, including English and maths, compared to 61 per cent of children without SEN.
And nearly three-quarters of permanent exclusions in England involve pupils with SEN, while four-fifths of disabled young people in England said they had been bullied.
The review highlights 15 major challenges, several of which explicitly refer to disabled people.
Because disabled people are far less likely to be in work and to possess qualifications, the review calls for action to close both the “qualifications gap” and the “employment gap”.
It also calls for action to reduce disability hate crime and increase the conviction rate for disability hate crime, and reduce disability-related bullying in schools and workplaces.
And it calls for increased choice and control for both disabled people who receive care and for carers.
Phillips said at the review’s launch that life chances “should not be dependent on luck” but on “talent, ambition and hard work”, and that fairness was “not all about money” but was also about control, dignity, respect and the “right to have our voices heard”.
He said he believed the review showed Britain was “tolerant, fair-minded and ready to change”, but was still “a country where our achievements haven’t yet caught up with our aspirations”, and added: “We may have changed people’s attitudes. We now need to get them to change their behaviour.”