Voluntary sector gets 2.5m in bid to raise diversity awareness

Voluntary and not-for-profit organisations are being given 2.5m to help raise awareness of employment equality regulations and build a more diverse workforce.

The move, announced by deputy equality minister Meg Munn, builds on the 2m already handed out in the last two years, and is designed to help the sector cope with legislation on sexual orientation and religious belief.

The funds will focus particularly on the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation and Religion or Belief) Regulations and are available until March 2007, although organisations must apply by 27 July.

“Employers need to know the facts to enable them to reap the business benefits of a happy and diverse workforce. It is especially important that people understand the law as we work towards the creation of a single equality and human rights body,” said Munn.

A single Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) is due to take over from the numerous existing bodies, and will be responsible for diversity, equality, discrimination and human rights.

It will also be given powers to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, and be made responsible for placing a duty on public authorities to promote gender equality.

Meanwhile, a report by the Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA) has highlighted some major concerns around diversity in
the further education and training sector.

The survey found a major disparity in standards between individual institutions and a huge gulf between managers committed to diversity and those who were not.

The poll of 900 teachers, managers and support staff found widespread apathy towards equality issues, as well as a lack of understanding about the meaning of ‘diversity’.

Most respondents did not think good diversity policies necessarily made business sense, while many managers from under-represented groups described facing major barriers to career progression.

The LSDA has called for a debate on diversity to help bridge the gap between those passionately committed to the issue, and those who see it as something of a non-issue.

www.womenandequalityunit.gov.uk www.lsda.org.uk

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