Civil servants offered chance to pilot new equalities-duty training

Cross-government Open Innovation Team seeks volunteers to trial policy-focused programme
Scales of Justice

By Jim Dunton

28 Jul 2022

A cross-government unit set up to generate analysis and ideas for policy has launched a call for volunteers to pilot a new Public Sector Equality Duty training session.

The Open Innovation Team is looking for around 20 officials to trial the module, which aims to boost understanding of the PSED, which was introduced in the Equality Act 2010. It places a responsibility on all public bodies to consider the equalities impact of policy changes they are considering.

As well as leading to potentially discriminatory policy that disadvantages some sections of society more than others, failing to properly consider the duty can lead to legal challenge. Earlier this year the High Court ruled that the government’s appointment of Dido Harding as chair of the National Institute for Health Protection had been a breach of the duty. In 2020 the Equality and Human Rights Commission said the Home Office had “effectively ignored” the PSED in the development of its “hostile environment” policy – breaking the law in the process.

The Open Innovation Team said the under-development training will cover what the duty is, and what it requires of organisations; ways officials can understand the evidence base in a policy area; where relevant data can be found; and how officials can engage with experts, such as academics, advocacy groups and think tanks.

The team said it was planning to run the pilot session in September. However it cautioned that it would prioritise places for would-be participants who support teams with equalities considerations, and those who lead on policy areas with a “pressing need” to consider impacts on different communities.

The Open Innovation Team was set up in 2016 to work with academics to generate analysis and ideas for policy. One of its stated aims is helping officials have “better quality discussions about their policy areas”.

To date it completed more than 75 projects for departments including the Cabinet Office, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Ministry of Justice, Home Office, HM Treasury and Department for Education.

Potential participants in the pilot PSED session can register their interest here.

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