Discrimination and The Equality and Human Rights Commission - FAQs
With the recent threat of eviction of asylum seekers living in SERCO manged properties in Glasgow, the windrush scandal and the possibility of Right to Rent being rolled out in Scotland, discrimination and housing rights are now very firmly on the agenda. Ross Mathers from the Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland sets out some frequently asked questions and useful resources for housing professionals.
Despite the inclusion in the Equality Act 2010 of specific provisions that relate to housing, discrimination in the Scottish housing sector remains a widespread problem. Solutions for victims of discrimination are often difficult to find due to a lack of understanding of the interaction between equality law and housing law.
If you’re an adviser, lawyer or anyone else who works with people who have been the victims of discrimination, the Equality and Human Rights Commission is there to help. As a starting point for understanding discrimination, the Commission has launched a series of new ‘Discrimination Explained’ videos which can be found on the Commission’s website and its YouTube channel.
What is the Commission?
The Commission, which was set up in 2006, is Britain’s national equality body and operates independently from the Government. The Commission has offices in Glasgow, Cardiff, Manchester and London.
What does the Commission do?
It is the Commission’s job to make Britain fairer by safeguarding and enforcing the laws that protect people’s rights to fairness, dignity and respect. The Commission aims to eliminate unlawful discrimination, and to make human rights and freedoms a reality for everyone. It has the power to advise parliament, conduct research, hold inquiries, review and enforce the law, provide guidance, influence policy, challenge unfair laws and practices, and provide legal assistance to individuals who have been the victims of discrimination.
How does the law protect people from discrimination?
The Equality Act 2010 provides Britain with a legal framework which protects people from unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation. Everyone is protected by the Act if they are treated unfairly because of one or more of the nine protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.
There are several different forms which discrimination can take including direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, discrimination arising from disability, failure to make reasonable adjustments, harassment and victimisation.
Each of the protected characteristics, and the various different forms of discrimination, are covered by the Commission’s new 'Discrimination Explained' videos.
How can the Commission help me?
- The Commission’s website provides guidance and advice on a range of equality and human rights issues.
- For advisers, lawyers and other frontline staff in Scotland the Commission provides high quality advice on equality and human rights law through its EHRC Adviser Support service which is available Monday-Friday. Members of the public who may have experienced discrimination should contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service.
- To sign up to the Scotland legal team’s eBulletin, which includes articles, news, developments in equality and human rights law, publications and details of upcoming events, you can do so by e-mailing your name to firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Commission’s legal team are always interested in hearing from advisers, and solicitors who have cases which involve potential discrimination. In some cases, where the Commission has a particular strategic interest, legal assistance and/or funding may be provided. The Scotland Legal team can be contacted here.
In May, Shelter Scotland published a book by Adrian Stalker, an advocate and expert in housing law, Housing and Equality Law in Scotland, which was funded by the Commission. In addition they have published a series of leaflets addressing key issues relating to housing and equality. Copies of the book and leaflets are free, and may be obtained by contacting Colette Aitchison at email@example.com
As part of the work which developed these resources, Shelter Scotland also offers a bespoke online learning tool, available for anyone, which is accessible here.