Nov 082015

As part of my research into the number of disability discrimination – goods and services cases taken under the Equality Act 2010, I have sent a Freedom of Information request to the Equality and Human Rights Commission as to their consideration and approval of applications for funding under Section 28 of the Equality Act 2006. This is the mechanism by which the EHRC can provide funding, legal advice or other support to people seeking assistance to take legal action for discrimination.

I’ve analysed the responses. I must immediately state that it is likely that I have made errors in the analysis or in understanding the information, or that the EHRC may also have made errors; also that some cases were open to interpretation and some cases (e.g. “my” case against Firstbus) were sent for decisions more than once so occur several times in the stats.

My “raw analysis” of each case, such as it is, is in this Google Sheets spreadsheet. I have indicated whether each case is on one of the eight protected characteristics – Disability, Race, Religion or Belief, Age, Gender, Transgender, Sexual Orientation, Human Rights or Pregnancy and Maternity – or if the case involves more than one characteristic, and if so, whether that includes Disability. I have also indicated in each case whether it was an Employment issue or Other, and whether the EHRC approved the application for assistance.

Since January 2013, there have been 177 such applications for assistance. 45 were granted assistance; that’s 25%. 71 applications were for employment discrimination (40%). 20 applications for assistance with employment were approved; that’s 39%. Meanwhile, 25 cases in the provision of services were approved; an approval rate of 24%.

Of the 177 applications, 56 (32%) exclusively involved the protected characteristic of disability, and a further 21 (12%) were on multiple characteristics including disability. That means that disability was a common characteristic in applications for assistance, more than other characteristics, and featured in 44% of such applications.

Of cases that included disability (either as the sole characteristic or with others), 22 (29%) applications were approved. 25 applications (32%) were in employment. 52 applications were for assistance in disability goods and services cases (that’s around 17 per year). 15 were approved (29%).

The stats therefore make clear that there are very few applications for the Equality and Human Rights Commission to support cases for disability discrimination cases in the provision of goods and services. There are less than 17 applications each year, of which on average 5 cases are approved. Given the repetition noted in the stats (some cases appearing more than once), the number is lower than that.

I guess one conclusion we could reach is that there are very few instances of breaches of the equality act in disability discrimination in the provision of goods and services here in the UK. I must immediately discount this. I reckon I experience unlawful discrimination more than 17 times each year, all on my own, let alone the other several million disabled people in the UK.

So the next question is: why are there so few cases for disability discrimination? Why are there so few applications to the EHRC for assistance? And why are so few applications granted? Is the EHRC enabling disabled people to challenge the discrimination they experience?

I am grateful for the support that I am receiving from the EHRC for “my” Firstbus case. However I have to wonder if the EHRC could and should take a wider role in challenging the discrimination disabled people face.

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