Wheels for Wellbeing Quick Guide to the Public Sector Equality Duty

Introduction

At Wheels for Wellbeing we’re releasing a series of guidance sheets for individuals interested in active travel, local authorities, NGOs, other organisations involved in decisions about walking, wheeling and cycling schemes. These guidance sheets help explain the reasoning behind different aspects of accessible design. The Equality Act (2010) is important legislation which requires organisations to provide access to Disabled people.

Our guidance sheets are aligned with our Guide to Inclusive Cycling (5th edition due early 2024). They may be printed, electronically distributed or quoted provided credit is given to Wheels for Wellbeing.

Download the Wheels for Wellbeing Quick Guide to the Public Sector Equality Duty as a Word document

Download the Wheels for Wellbeing Quick Guide to the Public Sector Equality Duty as a pdf

Disclaimer

WfW are not legal experts, and we do not provide legal advice. This document is for information only and is not legal advice. Readers are solely responsible for any use they make of this information.

This short guide provides detail on section 149 of the Equality Act, the Public Sector Equality Duty. For more information, read our Quick Guide to the Equality Act (2010).

The Equality Act and disability

The Equality Act prohibits discrimination against those with “protected characteristics”, including Disabled people. The law sets out what people and organisations have to do, or not do, to avoid discriminating against Disabled people. Extra duties apply to organisations carrying out public functions under the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED).

S149 The Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED)

The PSED is a section of the Equality Act which applies only to public authorities and those who exercise public functions, not to private organisations and individuals.

Public authorities include local and national government, education, healthcare and social care, fire, police and many more organisations when they are providing public services.

The general duties of the PSED require public authorities to “have due regard to the need” to eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimization and other prohibited conduct through their work.

Public authorities must also “advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it”.

To achieve these requirements, public authorities need to:

  1. “Remove or minimise disadvantages suffered by persons who share a relevant protected characteristic that are connected to that characteristic”;
  2. “Take steps to meet the needs of persons who share a relevant protected characteristic that are different from the needs of persons who do not share it”, and;
  3. “Encourage persons who share a relevant protected characteristic to participate in public life or in any other activity in which participation by such persons is disproportionately low”.

The PSED can be used to back up complaints to organisations and to refer complaints to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Legal action regarding the PSED has a different process and different timescales from discrimination claims and is via judicial review not via the county court system.

Equality Impact Assessments (EQAs or EqIAs) and the PSED

Organisations need to meet the PSED in all areas of their work. To do this for a range of different types of work organisations are likely to need to:

  • Gather information including with accessible consultations;
  • Ensure that people carrying out work understand their equalities obligations;
  • Ensure all decisions made comply with the PSED;
  • Review work to ensure it continues to comply with the PSED;

Organisations must be able to show they have complied with the Public Sector Equality Duty of the Equality Act (2010).

Equality Impact Assessments (EqIAs) are often used to help organisations meet their duties under the PSED, and to show that they have complied with the PSED. It is good practice for organisations to carry out EqIAs, to ensure all factors needed to ensure equality and access have been considered, and for accountability.

Anyone can use a Freedom of Information request (FOI) to ask organisations how they have met  the PSED in specific areas of their work, such as a policy or a physical installation such as a building, route or access barrier.

References/Further reading/Resources:

  1. Equality Act (2010)
  2. Equality Act (2010) Statutory Code of Practice (Services, public functions and associations)
  3. Technical Guidance on the Public Sector Equality Duty: England (Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland versions available online)
  4. Public Sector Equality Duty: Guidance for Public Authorities (2023)
  5. Taking Action against Discriminatory Barriers (resources and webinar link)
  6. Wheels for Wellbeing guidance sheets (2023 onwards)

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