The Regional Equalities Working Group (REWG)

 

A cross sector regional group (including voluntary & community sector, public sector and private sector) working for equalities in the East of England.

For further information contact Anna Burgess

 Overview

The Regional Equalities Working Group (previously known as a steering group) is a cross sectoral group set up in 2006 in response to the Equality Act 2006, to build partnership in equalities work across the region. The membership currently include the Government Office (GO) East, East of England Development Agency (EEDA), East of England Regional Assembly (EERA), Trade Union Congress (TUC), Business in the Community (BITC), Business Link, Eastern Development Centre (EDC), Strategic Health Authority, Black & Minority Ethnic Network (MENTER), Equalities & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and representatives from Voluntary & Community Sector (VCS) Equalities Group (VEG).

 

The REWG has mapped equalities work in each of the individual partner organisations, shared information on equality schemes and equality impact assessments. The group provides an opportunity for key regional organisations to discuss matters of mutual interest relating to the equalities legislation and issues. It is a coordinated cross sector reference point for the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), and for bodies which develop and implement equality strategies affecting the East of England. The Regional Equalities Working Group (REWG) has been successful in bringing together the VCS with public and private sectors in order to start addressing equality and human rights issues and share & develop practices.

Key Issues

The REWG recognise that the East of England has specific issues, for example:

  • The region has a diverse geography including scattered rural areas where communities who traditionally experience inequality have to tackle additional social isolation, limited access to services and low income.
  • The East of England has the largest ageing population in England and
  • Age Concern/Help the Aged are campaigning for equality for older people by tackling health inequalities, increasing unemployment rates for over 50’s, older people being denied access to goods and services and limited recognition of carer’s rights.
  • There are wider concerns over employment mobility and vulnerable employees, i.e. migrant workers and exploitation by some employers/ gang masters, and the implications of the recession on 16-24 year olds given recent DWP research shows an increase in unemployment for this group.
  • The growth of the population also has implications for housing, i.e. lack of affordable housing, homelessness and equality issues associated with new developments e.g. site provision for Gypsy Traveller communities.
  • The region has particularly sharp differentials in employment for some equality groups e.g. those with disabilities, older people and BME communities – these are often masked by the relative affluence of others so there are lower levels of public funding to tackle these inequalities.
  • The wider deprivation figures and poverty in region compound these experiences and make a complex picture for those championing equalities in the East of England.

Current Work

The REWG is planning a Regional Equality Bill Conference for November 2009, in time for implementation of the Bill. The conference will explore the impact of the Equality Bill on the region and its new “strands”, which will widen the legal duties for public sector to provide equal services for groups experiencing discrimination. The conference will also showcase partnership work on equalities issues.

MENTER Contribution

This group is co-ordinated by the Regional Equalities Partnership Officer and is chaired by MENTER.

MENTER provides specific information about the impact of inequality on Black and minority ethnic groups, enhancing a multi-strand perspective on equality and human rights.

MENTER also works with national reference groups, see below, and projects such as the National Equality Partnership linking regional equalities work at a national level.

Future Work

A Regional Equalities Forum

The REWG is planning for its communication strategy to collect information on equalities issues and organisations in the region. There is a proposal to create a Regional Equalities Forum (REF) in the East of England. This forum will support the development of effective equality and diversity work within the region.

Tackling inequalities involves addressing a very broad range of issues, many of them overlapping and consequently there are also a broad range of organisations involved in this field. Therefore, establishing mechanisms for coordinating this work across the region is essential in order to improve outcomes for the region as a whole, by:

  • Working with those who are experiencing discrimination.
  • Removing barriers which prevent some people in the East of England reach their full potential

The REWG sees its role as a group that will facilitate co-ordinated equalities work in the region and is currently working on a delivery plan to this effect.

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