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Emergency budget shows "widespread ignorance" of gender equality laws

6 August 2010

Equality charity the Fawcett Society has filed papers with the High Court seeking a judicial review of the government’s emergency budget.

The move follows warnings that prime minister David Cameron’s plans to slash a quarter from welfare budgets will hit women and ethnic minorities the hardest.

The Fawcett Society’s solicitor, Samantha Mangwana of Russell Jones & Walker, said that in not assessing the way the emergency budget will impact differently on men and women, the Treasury has failed to comply with section 76 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975.

She went on: “Although public authorities have been subject to the gender equality duty for several years now, there is widespread ignorance not only about how strong these laws actually are, but also what specific steps are required to be undertaken.

“However, the case law is crystal clear in spelling this out – firstly, an equality impact assessment must be conducted before policy decisions are taken. Secondly, where an assessment reveals a risk of discrimination, urgent action must be taken to address those risks.

“Clearly, if the equality impact is not even assessed as a starting point, a public authority cannot start to consider what steps to take to mitigate any inequality.”

According to the Fawcett Society, 72 per cent of cuts to welfare benefits in the emergency budget will be met from women’s income as opposed to 28 per cent from men’s.

Ceri Goddard, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said: “This budget shows a whole new level of disregard for the importance of equality law and everyday women’s lives.

“The blatant unfairness and the sheer scale of the impact this budget could have on women have left us little choice but to resort to the courts for action.”

A spokesman for the Treasury said: “The Treasury is considering the judicial review claim and will respond to it in due course.”

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