Thank you for contacting me about the socio-economic duty on public bodies contained within section 1 of the Equality Act 2010.
I’m afraid that, as a matter of principle and like many other MPs, I don’t sign EDMs which have no real parliamentary function and yet are very expensive to administer. However, I’m proud that the UK Government's record on equalities is one the best in the world and I know my colleagues in Government are determined this will remain so as, and after, we leave the EU.
There is already a Public Sector Equality Duty in place that requires public bodies to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct prohibited by the Equalities Act. Public sector bodies must also advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and people who don’t share it. However, I know the Government is reviewing the future of the un-commenced provisions in the Equality Act.
I’m very clear that social mobility has to be a top priority for the Government and I’m encouraged by my colleagues' commitment to this. I want this to be a country where every young person has the opportunity to fulfil their potential regardless of their background. I’m pleased that real progress has been made in recent years. The attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers has narrowed since the introduction of the pupil premium, the proportion of eligible disadvantaged two-year-olds benefiting from funded childcare has risen from 58% in 2015 to 71% in 2017, and more money than ever before is being invested in the early years.
However, I know there’s still more to do and I’m encouraged that the Department for Education recognises the need to focus on areas of the country with the greatest challenges and fewest opportunity. The Social Mobility Action Plan has been introduced to focus on places and communities across the county that haven’t yet seen the improvement that other parts of the country have benefited from. It also includes ambitions to boost access to high quality early language and literacy, close the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers, create world-class technical education to introduce real choice for young people post-16, and ensure rewarding careers are a reality for all. £72 million is being invested in the 12 opportunity areas programme. As this gets into the full implementation stage, I’m optimistic that we will see improvements in those areas and learn lessons that can be applied elsewhere around the country.
I hope this reassures you that there are measures in place to ensure public bodies play their part in eradicating inequality and that there’s a firm commitment to ensuring everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Thank you once again for taking the time to contact me.
With best wishes.