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Discrimination: Disabled

Volume 488: debated on Monday 23 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what procedures are available to individuals to lodge complaints against (a) a public body and (b) a private organisation in relation to failure to comply with disability discrimination legislation; and if he will make a statement. (257257)

There is a range of procedures available to individuals who wish to pursue complaints where they consider that an organisation has failed to meet its duties under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA). There is no distinction between the arrangements for complaints brought against private organisations and those brought against public bodies.

An individual who wishes to bring a complaint that an organisation has failed in its duties under the DDA may do so by informal means, such as a direct approach to the organisation, the questions procedure, or conciliation.

The Act provides for formal enforcement through civil proceedings. Where the complainant wishes to bring legal proceedings against the organisation, different legal processes apply according to the nature of the complaint.

For complaints concerning employment and vocational training an application may be made to an employment tribunal.

For complaints concerning post-16 education, access to goods, services, facilities and premises, private clubs, and the functions of public bodies, the complainant may bring legal proceedings in a county court in England and Wales, or in a sheriff court in Scotland. In respect of post-16 education in Scotland the claim must be served on the education service provider.

For complaints involving education in schools in England, claims of unlawful discrimination may be made to the 1st Tier Tribunals (formerly Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal), and for Wales to the Special Education Needs Tribunal for Wales. The 1st Tier Tribunal in England will also hear appeals on grounds of disability discrimination in relation to fixed-period (temporary) exclusions from all schools and also, admissions to, and permanent exclusions from, all schools other than maintained schools and academies. Appeals on grounds of disability discrimination in respect of a refusal to admit to, and permanent exclusions from, maintained schools and academies are heard by admissions appeals panels or independent appeals panels. Appeals are dealt with in a similar way in Wales. In Scotland, complaints involving education in schools are dealt with in the sheriff court.

Individuals may also instigate judicial review proceedings against a public authority if they believe it has failed to pay due regard to the disability equality duty.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has powers of enforcement in respect of the provisions in the DDA that cover discriminatory job advertisements; instructions and pressure to discriminate in employment and vocational training; and the disability equality duty. An individual may raise their concerns about these issues with the EHRC, but it is for the Commission to determine whether enforcement action should be taken.