The Women and Equalities Committee has published a report on the role of Minister for Women and Equalities and the place of the Government Equalities Office (GEO) in government.
The turnover in the role of Minister for Women and Equalities, and its part-time nature, risks undermining the effectiveness of equality policy and giving the impression that equalities issues are peripheral to day to day Government.
One of the conclusions reads:
‘The rate of change in the positions of the Minister for Women and Equalities and the Government Equalities Office is unsatisfactory and unsustainable. It is a source of disruption and confusion, both within the Civil Service and among stakeholders. It also risks giving the impression that equality is a low priority for the Government, as does the part-time nature of the Minister’s role. As long as the function is tacked on to an existing portfolio, there is a danger that the policy priorities of that department will either overshadow or dominate the work of the GEO. Meanwhile, the relevance of equalities issues to all government departments, even those that would likely never be considered a suitable base for GEO, is diminished by this arrangement.’
The Committee recommends:
- A Cabinet sub-committee for equalities should be established and a cross government equalities strategy developed, both led by the Minister for Women and Equalities. GEO should be represented separately and distinctly within the financial accounts and departmental plan of its current home department.
- The GEO’s next move should be to the Cabinet Office. There, it should co-ordinate and monitor work across Whitehall on all areas of equalities, with a remit to hold individual departments’ feet to the fire on delivering equality policy in their own areas.
- The post of Minister for Women and Equalities should find a home in the Cabinet Office as a full-time role.