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Departmental Disabled Staff

Volume 485: debated on Monday 15 December 2008

To ask the Solicitor-General what conclusions the Law Officers' Departments have reached in fulfilment of their duty under section 3.111 of the statutory code of practice of the disability equality duty. (240973)

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) published a single equality scheme encompassing its disability equality scheme in December 2006. This scheme was significantly informed by involvement of disabled staff and community stakeholders. The scheme has been actively implemented since then. CPS accounts for delivery of the scheme through a national Community Accountability Forum, which includes both disabled staff and disabled community stakeholders.

The CPS has published an annual public report on its progress in implementing the scheme including the action plans. The CPS Community Accountability Forum (including disabled members of the forum) were consulted on this annual report. The report, which is available on the CPS website, identifies significant progress in implementation of the disability equality duty to date.

Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office (RCPO) has recently published a single equality scheme and action plan that incorporates the disability duty. An Equality and Diversity Committee chaired by a non-executive director is responsible for ensuring that targets set in the equality action plan are complied with. The committee reports directly to the RCPO Board.

In the past year RCPO has made good progress and in June 2008 obtained the “two tick's” accreditation, which is a positive action scheme that guarantees an interview for disabled candidates who meet the minimum criteria for an advertised post. The new action plan also carries forward a target from an earlier action plan for all RCPO staff to be provided training on equality and diversity, which will include disability equality.

In addition, RCPO is currently carrying out impact assessments of its policies and functions to ensure compliance with its duties under equality legislation, including disability discrimination legislation.

The Treasury Solicitor's Department (TSol) will shortly publish a review of its disability equality scheme, including updates of all local divisional assessments which are relevant to the duty. Actions taken to eliminate discrimination and promote equality include:

The conduct of an increasing number of equality impact assessments to disability equality proof TSol projects and policies;

Provision of documents in non-standard format by the public facing Bona Vacantia Division on request;

Increased awareness raising of disability issues in diversity and other training, including the introduction of specific training on deaf and visual awareness;

Increased provision of disability adjustments for individuals during the recruitment processes;

Increased provision of disability assessments and adjustments for staff employed by the Department, including adjustments for conditions such as dyslexia, and some assessments for staff working at home.

TSol has gathered evidence from all parts of its business, with each division reviewing its initial assessment under the disability equality scheme. The provision of legal services does not fall under the equality duty. All parts of the Department which carry out other functions which are relevant to the duty are taking actions to promote equality in their area, including those detailed above.

TSol is compiling the information gathered from its Disability Equality Review into a progress report which it will publish on its website in early 2009. The Diversity and Equality Group will continue to monitor progress against these assessments, consider what more we need to do to eliminate discrimination and promote equality and produce a further update report annually.

HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) workforce profile including the disability status of its staff is reported on annually in the chief inspector's annual report which can be found on our website.

HMCPSI has an equality scheme covering all strands of HMCPSI's equality duties.

As part of its action plan to meet its duties HMCPSI has made clear in all its recruitment literature its commitment to identify any reasonable adjustments at the earliest opportunity and to put them in place promptly. Reasonable adjustments have been made for staff where necessary.

HMCPSI has recently reviewed its HR policies, and their application will be monitored over the coming year to ensure it is meeting all its statutory duties.

HMCPSI is in the process of commissioning a disability audit of its London premises.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) will shortly be publishing its annual report in respect of its disability equality duty. Actions taken by the SFO to eliminate discrimination and promote equality include:

appointment of a diversity champion, whose role is to oversee the implementation of all diversity policies;

compulsory attendance by all staff of a “respect and diversity” course, which seeks to raise staff awareness of the SFO's dignity at work policy;

formation of an equality and diversity committee, which meets quarterly to discuss issues of equality and diversity across the organisation;

identification and development of a stakeholder relationship with Tower Hamlets council, which achieved “beacon” status within the equality standard for local government framework, the SFO uses this resource for advice and guidance on all areas of diversity and equality;

conducting meaningful and thorough equality impact assessments;

providing on-going staff engagement and support for all disability issues, as well as the day-to-day support offered to its staff (e.g. workstation risk assessments), the SFO specifically consults with disabled people within the office to ensure that provisions for staff with disabilities are continually under review;

hosting of bi-annual diversity networking events to increase awareness of minority groups within the organisation;

the SFO's website meets the Government's standard for web accessibility in relation to visually impaired users, we are currently developing a standard paragraph in our outgoing correspondence which makes reference to any special requirements that the recipient may have (e.g. Braille or need for larger font types).

The SFO is currently undergoing a major transformation programme, and the director has pledged to make equality and diversity central to all policy and strategy decisions.