‘Get Lobbying’ For A Welsh Director In New Equality Super Agency

Fears have been expressed that the creation of a new “super agency” covering all equality issues could result in Welsh input being downgraded. In October, the Commission for Equality and Human Rights will be launched, taking over from three existing bodies – the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Commission for Racial Equality and the Disability Rights Commission.

We can reveal there have been concerns in the equality sector after initial appointments to the new body did not include directors for Wales and Scotland. Currently the three commissions that are being amalgamated do have directors in Wales.

A series of anonymised emails sent to Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Social Justice Minister Leanne Wood suggests that more vigorous lobbying is required.

One of the emails says, “I am even less convinced of the quiet approach since the Scots went public. I suspect that the intense pressure on everyone concerned with CEHR to get at least most things in place for the launch in October means that only problems that demand attention will be addressed. Failure [to have a director in Wales] from the beginning will do lasting damage to the reputation and credibility of the organisation in Wales.”

Ms Wood said: “I cannot understand how the formulation of the new Commission for Equalities and Human Rights has paid such little regard to devolution in Wales and Scotland.

The news that Wales will not have directorate status will mean that whoever is in government in the Assembly in Wales will have their hands tied behind their back when it comes to the equalities agenda.”

A spokesman for the Commission for Equality and Human Rights said: “The plans for how the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights will operate in Wales have not yet been finalised. We are in ongoing discussions with partner organisations, government officials and others about what the new organisation might look like and how it might function, with the aim of ensuring that we provide the best outcome for Wales once it starts work in October this year.

“We also recognise Wales is a bilingual country and this is an important issue for public bodies delivering services in Wales. We will publish our full Welsh language scheme once the new Commission is up and running.”

Kate Bennett, director of the Equal Opportunities Commission in Wales, said: “I am confident that the new Commission will have a director for Wales. Equality issues have a very strong profile, with the National Assembly having a legal duty to give weight to them. It is inconceivable that there will not be a director for Wales.”