In 2001, the Race Relations Act was amended to give public authorities a new statutory duty to promote race equality, this duty is commonly referred to as the race equality duty.
The aim was to help all public sector organisations, authorities and institutions to provide fair and accessible services, and to improve equal opportunities in employment.
The legislation was necessary to ensure that members of the public receive the best from their public services. Previously, many public authorities were failing to address the problems of racial discrimination and inequality, as was highlighted by the inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence.
The race equality duty helps to ensure that public authorities become accountable to the people they serve and allows everyone the opportunity to give their views about the services that affect them. It helps to further equality of opportunity and improve race relations.
Of course, the way in which public authorities carry out their functions and services can vary, but all public authorities need to take account of race equality.
The statutory code of practice on the duty to promote race equality gives practical guidance to public authorities on how to meet the general and specific duties to promote race equality.
a) To eliminate unlawful racial discrimination.
b) To promote equality of opportunity between persons of different racial groups.
c) To promote good relations between persons of different racial groups.
Race equality: specific duties
Under the race equality duty, public authorities have a specific duty to prepare a race equality scheme. This should set out the authority’s functions and policies, or proposed policies, that are assessed as relevant to its general duty to promote race equality. The scheme should also set out the authority’s arrangements for:
- assessing and consulting on the likely impact of its proposed policies on the promotion of race equality
- monitoring its policies for any adverse impact on the promotion of race equality
- publishing the results of such assessments and consultation
- ensuring public access to information and services that it provides
- training staff in connection with the general and specific duties, and
- reviewing the scheme every three years.
Education institutions and schools have different specific duties and are required to prepare and publish a race equality policy, rather than a race equality scheme.