The Equality Working Group ( EWG) was set up in 2016 from a shared interest in “accelerating the equality agenda” in the Bailiwick of Guernsey. Karen Blanchford from the GDA was one of the founder members. Earlier this year I was appointed as Chair . Previously I worked for 33 years in education most recently as Director of Education in Guernsey. Natasha Newell, a lawyer here in Guernsey was appointed as vice-chair.
Other members of the current group represent organisations such as Liberate, Safer, Lloyds Bank Foundation, Youth Commission, Citizen’s Advice, Ageing Well, Latvian Community, or have an individual interest in equality. Karen remains actively involved as G.D.A. representative.
The aims of the group are ( in brief):-
- Ensure that equality legislation is at the top of the States agenda
- Provide input into the development of an Equality Rights Organisation ( ERO)
- Promote equality in the Islands , raising awareness with the public
- Provide opportunities for members of the community to offer their services and expertise
In the last two years there has been significant movement in this area by the States with approval to move forward with broad equality legislation and with the Committee for Employment and Social Security committing to return to the States this political term with their proposals for approval. In addition two external consultants have been brought in to assist in the development of these proposals .
The EWG is actively involved in these developments and in other areas. Recent, current and ongoing work include:-
- Membership of the Disability and Inclusion Strategy Board alongside G.D.A representation
- Involvement in meetings and workshops on the development of the equality legislation
- Involvement in meetings and workshops on the development of the ERO, the mandate and responsibilities
- A sub-group is currently developing a leaflet for “Guest workers” new to the Island to ensure they have knowledge of their rights within Guernsey (including employment and housing) with links to further information and sources of support
- A response to the Economic Development Strategy led to a meeting with representatives of the Economic Development Committee and senior officers. This positive meeting will hopefully lead to action with regard to increasing diversity in the workforce in Guernsey including in senior positions in the private, public and third sector.
- Issuing media releases on key topics
We are now at a critical stage in the development of human rights, equality and fair treatment for all members of the Bailiwick’s community. The EWG will continue to work with government ( politicians and officers) and others to assist in the development of the legislation, and the E.R.O. We feel it is important that Guernsey learns from other jurisdictions where developments have gone well and also where legislation and/or enforcement has been ineffective.
It is of great importance that we have the ERO in place in advance of legislation being enacted and that an effective programme of education and information is delivered to the community. The EWG will support this programme as much as possible. We will also continue to work with others to convince people , where necessary, of the need for the legislation and ERO, morally, socially, economically and reputationally for the benefit of the whole community .
With the tight timescales in place it is crucial that there is no further delay and that we all support the Committee for Employment and Social Security to successfully lead this through the States during this term of government.