The Equality and Human Rights Commission wants to help improve the experience of people with equality or human rights–related complaints. To do that we will:
- deliver a pilot, ‘second tier’ helpline to offer advice for advisors/caseworkers targeting national users and those in the North West of England region, as well as in Wales and in Scotland;
- develop complimentary online resources to assist advisors/caseworkers in addressing equality/human rights issues that arise in casework; and
- work with ombudsman schemes to develop an online toolkit to help embed equality and human rights in casework, investigations and decision-making.
The Advice Helpline
The Commission has committed to work more closely with the advice sector and alternative dispute resolution systems to exchange expertise and intelligence. We plan to launch a new helpline service in this month to support those working in frontline agencies (including ombudsman schemes, the advice sector, solicitors, trade unions and other organisations providing advice to individuals) to gain access to high quality advice from our experts at the Commission. This builds on existing work in Scotland and Wales.
Why are we developing an advice helpline?
We believe that increased exchange of expertise will improve the experiences of people with equality or human rights–related complaints by ensuring that frontline agencies are supported to provide high quality advice on equality and human rights issues; and ombudsman schemes are supported to appropriately address these issues in their casework.
What kind of advice will be available?
The telephone-based service will initially offer:
- signposting to relevant sections of the codes of practice or the legislation; and
- tailored advice on how the law applies to the facts of a specific case, such as:
- whether or not a particular course of conduct is likely to amount to discrimination
- whether a person is protected by the Act, for example in the case of associative discrimination or meeting the definition of disability
- what type of discrimination is in play, and the relevant legal principles exemptions and exceptions
- procedures for bringing various claims
- whether human rights are engaged, which human rights are engaged and whether they are qualified, absolute or restricted, and
- whether the threshold for interference with those rights is likely to be met, and whether it is potentially lawful/unlawful.
How can I get involved?
We would like to know whether your organisation is likely to make use of the service, and what kind of support you would like to have from the helpline. A link to a very brief, two-question survey follows, and we would be grateful for your feedback so that we can better plan around the needs of potential users of the service.
The Online Toolkit
The Commission wants to work with ombudsman schemes to develop a toolkit for addressing equality and human rights in casework. We hope to draw on the excellent Human Rights Manual created by the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.
How will the toolkit be developed?
We would like to follow a principle of co-production to ensure that the toolkit is relevant to the needs of investigators/caseworkers and compliments existing training and supporting resources. We would be keen to involve ombudsman schemes in the development of the online resources which might involve some user testing and/or pilot projects to gain feedback on the appropriateness of the content, format and usability.
What will it look like?
We intend that the toolkit will be modular in format, allowing individuals to access the specific content that they require quickly whilst offering a range of interactive resources that engage investigators/caseworkers in the topic. We also envisage that the toolkit will include a range of practical resources, reflective of the needs of investigators/caseworkers, and relevant to their role(s).
How can I get involved?
We would like to know whether your organisation is likely to make use of the planned online toolkit and how we can best ensure that it would meet the needs of your organisation.
We would also like to hear from you if you and your organisation would like to be involved in the development of the online toolkit.
If you would like to find out more or register your interest to be involved further, you are welcome to contact Christopher.Corfield@equalityhumanrights.com (0161 829 8115).