Faith charities delivering public services 'could increase discrimination'
By Kaye Wiggins, Third Sector Online, 16 May 2011
Contracts should be awarded only to groups that have demonstrated commitment to equality, Unitarian body warns Public Administration Select Committee
Giving more responsibility for delivering public services to local faith charities as part of the big society agenda could result in increased discrimination against marginalised groups, according to the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.
Derek McAuley, chief officer of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, told Third Sector he was concerned that gay and lesbian public sector staff who were moved to local faith charities under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations might face discrimination by other staff at those charities.
His submission to the PASC says: "Non-religious people and those not seen to confirm to the dominant ethos of a religious body, such as being in an unmarried relationship or divorced and being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered, could find themselves subject to discrimination.
"Contracts should therefore only be awarded to faith-based organisations that have a public commitment to, and can demonstrate compliance with, the promotion of equality in line with the commitment of recent governments."
Derek has also written about this issue on his own blog:
The "Big Society", a policy much promoted by the Government, and built around social action, public service reform and community empowerment, needs to be inclusive. You cannot have a "Big Society" and then implicitly or explictly exclude and marginalise some groups. Unitarians have long worked to promote social justice and led many initiatives for social improvement. We have never applied religious tests to our work.
We need joined up policies. One risk is that encouraging faith groups to be more active in delivery of public services could in some cases lead to a conflict with equality and diversity policy.