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Embargoed until 00:01 on Wednesday 27 January 2010 - Harman: Government steps up action to tackle inequality

Embargoed until 00:01 on Wednesday 27 January 2010 - Harman: Government steps up action to tackle inequality

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 26 January 2010

Government responds to National Equality Panel report

The Government today welcomed a comprehensive new report on inequality which shows that the trend of rising growth in inequality dating back to the 1980's has been halted and that, as a result of policy action, progress has been made to tackle poverty and make Britain a fairer society.

"An Anatomy of Inequality in the UK" is the final report of the National Equality Panel - an independent group of academic experts - led by Prof John Hills which was established by the Government in 2008 to provide:

* an up to date analysis of what inequality looks like in today society's in light of changing demographics, the changing role of men and women and globalisation; and * a solid evidence base for future action.

The report shows clearly how inequality accumulates over an individual's lifetime and is carried from one generation to the next. It shows the key stages in people's lives when public policy intervention is most important and most effective - during the pre-school years, at the transition from education to the workplace and when re-entering the labour market after having children.

The report also shows that the family you are born into and your parent's wealth make a profound and lasting difference to your life chances. The Government's response welcome's the National Equality Panel's report and its finding that public policy intervention works.

Since 1997, public policy has made Britain fairer in the following ways:

* Tackling poverty and inequality - as a result of direct tax and benefit measures coming into effect by 2010/11, in real terms since 1997:

* households in the poorest fifth of the population will be on average £3,000 a year better off;

* families with children in the poorest fifth of population will be on average £5,000 a year better off; and,

* the poorest third of pensioners will be on average £2,100 a year better off.

* Giving children the best possible start in life - investing in Surestart and early year's development - more than doubling the number of childcare places

* Increasing fairness and equality in the labour market - the National Minimum Wage has benefited around one million workers each year. Nearly 10,000 more young people from lower socio-economic groups started a first degree in 2007/08 than was the case five years earlier.

* Tackling discrimination and unfairness due to sex, gender identity and status, sexual orientation, race, faith, age or disability -narrowing the gap between men and women's pay from 27.5% in 1997 to 22.0%.

* Supporting people to build assets throughout life - we have introduced the Child Trust Fund which is now held by over 4.8 million children and will help tackle wealth inequality amongst young adults. Income of UK elderly has risen from 15% below EU average in 1997 to 9% above in 2007.

* Reducing unequal conditions and outcomes in different areas by transforming living and working conditions for millions. We have reduced the number of non-decent social homes by more than one and a half million since 1997, putting in place 810,000 new kitchens, 610,000 new bathrooms, and 1,140,000 new central heating systems into council homes.

* Reducing inequalities in health outcomes. In the most deprived areas life expectancy has increased by 3.1 years for males and 2.1 years for females since 1995-96.

Minister for Women & Equality Harriet Harman said:

"We know that disadvantage can come from your gender or ethnicity; your sexual orientation or from disability; your age or your religion or belief or any combination of these. But overarching and interwoven with this is the persistent inequality of social class - your family background and where you were born.

"We have made progress over the last 13 years - especially in tackling poverty - and halted the rising growth of inequality that dates back to the 1980's and which we still see the effects of today. But we will do more to increase social mobility and tackle the barriers that hold people back unfairly.

"The work of the National Equality Panel will underpin Clause One of the Equality Bill which places a new legal duty on key public bodies to consider, in all the important decisions they make and all important actions they take, how they can tackle socio-economic inequality.

"The challenges set out in today's report require sustained and focused action. But for the sake of the right of every individual to reach their full potential, for the sake of a strong and meritocratic economy and to achieve a peaceful and cohesive society, that is the challenge that must be met."


For further information on the Government's response to the report please contact Alex Marklew in the Government Equalities Office press office on 0207 276 1003.

For further information on the report, or to interview author Professor John Hills, contact Warwick Smith in the LSE press office on 020 7955 7440.


The Government Equalities Office is responsible for the Government's overall strategy, legislation, and priorities on equality issues. The Office also has direct responsibility for policy on gender equality, sexual orientation, and for integrating work on race. The Prime Minister announced the establishment of the Government Equalities Office (GEO) in July 2007 and it became a Department in its own right in October 2007. It works to Ministers Harriet Harman, Maria Eagle, Vera Baird and Michael Foster.

About the National Equality Panel

In September 2008 Harriet Harman commissioned the National Equality Panel to produce a report on inequality in the UK, with a remit to:

* provide a factual analysis of how equality trends have changed over the last ten years and map out exactly where gaps have narrowed and widened in society.

* investigate how people's life chances are affected by gender, race, disability, age and other important aspects of inequality such as where they were born, what kind of family they were born into, where they live and their wealth; and

* show how these factors inter-relate and reinforce one another.

The panel, chaired by Professor John Hills from the London School of Economics, will launch its report on 27 January 2010. The Government will publish a formal response alongside it.

Professor Hills and Harriet Harman will both speak at the launch, which takes place at the British Museum from 9.30am.

The full text of the report and the Government's response will be available on the GEO website - < - from 10:00 on 27 January.

For full details of the panel, visit:

About the Socio-Economic Duty in the Equality Bill The socio-economic duty will ensure that public bodies, in all the key decisions they take, will need to have regard to addressing socio-economic inequalities. They will need to look at the evidence, and consider what more they could do to promote equality.

The socio-economic duty will apply to England, Scotland and Wales. In England, the duty covers strategic bodies and Ministers including: government departments, regional development agencies, local authorities, police authorities, strategic health authorities and primary care trusts.

A full fact sheet on the socio-economic duty is available from GEO press office.


Government Equalities Office press office
Phone: 0207 276 0932

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