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"Let's get this done"

Sunday 12 July 2020

"Let's get this done"

Sunday 12 July 2020

With the long-awaited States debate on discrimination legislation due to begin in just a few days, the Guernsey Disability Alliance is calling for deputies to support the proposals and "get this done".

If approved, Employment & Social Security's plans would see the island introduce a law protecting people from being discriminated against on the grounds of disability, carer status or race.

Currently, there is only one discrimination law in place - against sex discrimination in employment - and people with disabilities in particular have been campaigning for change for many years.

If the plans go through, it is thought the first phase of the proposals will come into force in 2022. ESS then plans to legislate against discrimination on the grounds of age or religious belief in 2024, and sexual orientation in 2026.

However, a last-minute amendment led by Deputies Andrea Dudley-Owen and Peter Ferbrache has been submitted that would remove the implementation date.

karen blanchford GDA

Pictured: The GDA held a briefing for members of the media ahead of the debate.

It has come under fierce criticism on social media over the weekend from other Deputies and campaign groups who have been calling for change.

Deputy Rhian Tooley said: "Asking for delay in Anti-discrimination legislation is the equivalent of asking permission to unfairly discriminate for longer. I won’t be agreeing to it and I would hope very few of my colleagues will either."

Employment & Social Security member Deputy Emilie McSwiggan said: "Gutted that Dep. Dudley-Owen & Dep. Ferbrache have decided to press ahead with their wrecking amendment to the Discrimination law. All this would do is kick long-overdue legal protection into the long grass."

It has also been criticised by Karen Blanchford from the GDA, who said work has already been done to bring the business community and representative groups on board with the proposals, which were revised last year after the States deemed some of the initial proposals to be too far-reaching.

Deputy Dudley-Owen said her amendment had been misrepresented.

"Useful to have sight of the Amendment. It is being entirely misrepresented. It seeks no delay, it does not translate into opposition to the legislation - it seeks to ensure that business/employee groups are involved in the implementation of the law."

Pictured: Deputy Dudley-Owen's amendment and her response to criticism.

GDA Founder Rob Platts MBE said the proposals that will go to the States next week have the alliance's backing. 

"They're not perfect, we've made a lot of compromises, but they will work," he said. :Maybe they won't work quite as quickly as we'd hoped because they won't have the strength that we wanted, but the headline is, 'let's get this done, they will work'."

One of the GDA's main aims is to have the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities extended to Guernsey. This would require the States to take steps towards eliminating all forms of discrimination experienced by people with disabilities, allowing equal access to society, goods and services, education and employment.

"We wanted the ratification of the CRPD to be extended to Guernsey and we haven't been able to do that," explained Mr Platts. "We wanted to do that immediately after [the Disability & Inclusion Strategy] was passed back in 2013, but we can't do that because we have to have discrimination legislation in place first. That's what's holding us back.

"The ratification is the promise. It's the government saying 'we promise we will do our best to realise the Convention'. Most of the Convention is progressively realisable, so things like improvements in the way that we provide healthcare, the way that we do housing for persons with disabilities etc.

Rob Platts GDA

Pictured: Rob Platts of GDA.

"As soon as we get ratification, that triggers the monitoring system. That means we have a third party - the UN - looking at how well Guernsey is doing. That provides a really good impetus for the government to get on and improve things.

"Then there is symbolic importance which is massive. For persons with disabilities who understand the Convention, this is a huge thing. If we manage to get that extension, it would mean an awful lot to persons with disabilities because they can see change is coming at last. That is what has been missing."

GDA members are planning on showing their support for the proposals on Wednesday morning, when they will stand outside the court as deputies make their way into the States Chamber for debate. They will be joined by members of the Guerns Against Discrimination organisation, which was set up recently to pressure local politicians into helping the island become a discrimination-free place.

The debate is due to start on 15 July.

More to follow on some of the amendment's that have been submitted on Friday.

For further information on the proposed legislation, click HERE.

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