Not very, according to a recent report. The Equality and Human Rights Commission asked a group of academics at Bangor University to review the provision of legal advice and representation on the equality and human rights enactments in England, Scotland and Wales.
The report’s key findings and recommendations include:
- While there was evidence of good practice and innovative work, significant gaps remain in what the authors call the “geography and geometry” of advice provision in England, Scotland and Wales.
- There is serious and widespread concern about the future existence and sustainability of the third sector provision. The funding priority should be the maintenance of existing quality provision rather than the development of innovative and novel schemes.
- There is a need for more sustainable funding and bridge funding.
- Large disability charities should consider funding specialist discrimination advice services.
- There is a need to establish generic discrimination casework as a separate civil legal category.
- Much needs to be done to establish and grow an effective referral network and to develop and promote an accredited qualification in discrimination advice work.
- There is little evidence of human rights based activity across the sector. Additional sector training should be developed.
- Advice sector activity in relation to discrimination in the supply of goods and services was also low, although a significant increase in activity is anticipated when protection is extended to older people.
The research work involved the establishment of a database that “accounts for all major providers of advice in discrimination matters across England, Scotland and Wales”, which is described as a significant achievement.
In Wales the researchers also compared the location of advice providers with a number of other factors. It found:
- Some correlation between advice outlets and the distribution of benefit claimants
- A “much closer” congruence between advice outlets and likely need, when county court judgments are taken as an indicator of deprivation
- A “reasonably close” relationship between the distribution of advice agencies and the spatial distribution of ethnic minorities.