Public and Commercial Services Union
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Equality watchdog plans to axe helpline

PCS heavily criticised the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) recently, for ploughing on with plans to axe its Manchester based helpline and restructure the remaining helplines based in Cardiff, Birmingham and Glasgow.

The move by the EHRC, at a cost of 50 posts, comes at a time when call volumes to the helpline are increasing due to the recession and the EHRC ‘Your Right to Fly’ campaign, which targets travellers with disabilities. Call volumes have tripled since the start of the campaign two weeks ago.

Despite repeated representations from the union, the EHRC plans to close the Manchester helpline which handled over 50,000 enquiries last year from members of the public facing discrimination.

Criticising the EHRC, the union warned that key government initiatives would be undermined by staffing cuts to the helpline.

The plans come at the same time as an initiative launched by the Minister for Women, Harriet Harman, urging women to seek advice on their employment rights, as well as assessments requested by Work and Pensions Secretary, James Purnell, looking at whether minority groups are suffering disproportionately in the recession.

The closure this autumn will see the loss of valuable skills and expertise and see the Manchester helpline closed and restructuring the others based in Cardiff, Birmingham and Glasgow.

Commenting, Sue Bond, PCS national vice president, said: "This is a key frontline service that provides support and advice for people who face discrimination in all its forms in every walk of life.

"It makes no sense to cut helpline posts at a time when call volumes are increasing, The EHRC need to think again and recognise that the service skilled and professional staff deliver is too valuable to downsize."

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