Major concerns over discrimination work – A4e set to take over Equality Helpline

The Coalition junta’s wickedness, weirdness and obscenity never ceases!

With Serco to reassess disabled folk for their disability benefits (DLA to PIP) – Now poverty pimps and fraudsters A4e are to be given the contract to advise vulnerable people on their human rights and equality

When will this INSANITY end?

Posted in Equal & Diverse April 4, 2012 by donald 


One of the major success stories of the oft criticised and much harangued Equality and Human Rights Commission has been its helpline. As a consultant working in the human rights and equality field I have often both myself used this service and referred individuals who we have trained and who have had particular issues to the service.

It was therefore a matter of concern that the Government, in  a purely cost cutting measure, decided to put the contract for this service out to tender and to remove it from the impartial service of the Commission.

It became a considerable issue of concern when I discovered through the Guardian newspaper the growing possibility that the controversial A4e agency are front runners in gaining that contract.

The Guardian reports that the Home Office is lining up A4e for another major government contract, despite the jobs agency being at the centre of a fraud inquiry, according to the investigative website Exaro.

Ministers have made the firm – owned by David Cameron’s “family champion” Emma Harrison – the preferred bidder to take over the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) helpline to advise people of their rights in discrimination cases.

A4e has been “preferred” for the contract over Sitel, which ran the disability helpline for the EHRC before it was taken in-house, and also over Citizens Advice and Vertex.

The privatisation of the helpline was sought by the Home Office and the Government Equalities Office. It costs £2.1m a year to run, employs 85 staff in Birmingham, Cardiff and Glasgow, and handles 50,000 calls and 15,000 emails every year. Staff are trained to provide detailed advice on discrimination issues covering disability, gender, race and sexuality, and advise on mediation services.

Despite government guarantees that existing staff can apply to keep their jobs, many will be laid off because they are disabled and will not be able to relocate easily from Cardiff and Glasgow.

Quoted in the Guardian , Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, which opposes the privatisation, said:

“Speculation about A4e’s involvement in plans to privatise the EHRC helpline have fuelled concerns about what is a totally unnecessary and damaging selloff…. Instead of selling this vital lifeline for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities, the government should be investing to ensure people get the help they need, particularly at a time when its wider spending cuts are threatening to make our society even more unequal

Like many equality and diversity organisations Equal and Diverse has profound concerns about the tendering process and remain to be convinced that the service that will be offered will be as willing to challenge discrimination against support workers and the vulnerable as has been the case.

Dr Donald Macaskill

Source: The Guardian

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