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The Welsh Assembly Government’s Annual Progress Report on the Race, Disability and Gender Equality Schemes

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Brian Gibbons, Minister for Social Justice and Local Government.

The Welsh Assembly Government has produced its second Annual Progress Report on its Race Equality Scheme and the first and final report on the Disability and Gender Equality Schemes.

The report is retrospective review of our work to promote equality across all Ministerial portfolio areas for the reporting period of 2006 -2007 for our statutory Schemes.

The report looks at progress in all areas of the Welsh Assembly Government’s business from education to economic participation.

This was certainly a challenging year, and I would like to thank my predecessor Jane Hutt for her leadership during this time.

I am pleased with the progress Welsh Assembly Government has made in moving forward the equalities agenda. Looking back when we first published our revised Race Equality Scheme it was held by the Commission for Racial Equality as an example of good practice for other public bodies. This exemplar position is one we wish to maintain for all our work in equality, diversity and human rights.

One of our key achievements this year was the delivery against our major statutory duties in the production of Disability and Gender Equality Schemes that trailed new ways of engaging and involving the people of Wales in the Schemes development.

We launched our Disability Equality Scheme on 14th December last year and our Gender Equality Scheme on 26th March this year.

These were important achievements, not just in meeting our statutory duties, but also because of the inclusive approach we took in both how the Schemes and action plans were developed.

We have a statutory requirement to report on our Race and Disability Schemes along with our voluntary Gender Equality Scheme.

As this report demonstrates, it is not in doubt that equality is firmly part of the strategic thinking of the Welsh Assembly Government.

The challenge for this report and the Eighth Annual Report on Equality that you received earlier this month, and for every Cabinet Minister and for Departments, is to show how these Schemes have made a real and substantial difference to the lives of individuals across our diverse communities.

The case studies contained in this Annual Progress Report are about policies and projects that affect people’s lives, and reflect the proactive approach that we are taking on this important agenda.

For 2008-2011 we will develop our first Single Equality Scheme.

The Single Equality Scheme demonstrates our commitment to move beyond statutory compliance. It is about spearheading the strategic direction for equality in Wales in a pragmatic and balanced way.

The Single Equality Scheme will be supported by a robust evidence base drawn from academic research and public engagements events that are being held with the general public.

This Single Equality Scheme will for the first time cover all the equality strands in a way that will maintain a focus on specific strand based issues but will ensure a focus on individual need – understanding that people are multi-faceted and face a range of issues through their life experience.

The development of this Scheme in anticipation of the Single Equality Bill demonstrates positively our commitment to move beyond just statutory compliance, in the way we address equality, diversity and human rights issues in Wales.

The Single Equality Scheme will allow us to develop the key strategic actions that we as the Welsh Assembly Government need to tackle across all equality strands.

My ambition is that we as the Welsh Assembly Government will be able to year on year clearly demonstrate the progress that we are making in equality, diversity and human rights. This report’s focus on outcomes is a demonstration of this and is part of the positive change to which we are committed.

The future brings many importance challenges and opportunities for us.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission launched in October 2007, provides us with an opportunity to enhance working relationships with our partners who will help guide the equality, diversity and human rights in agenda in Wales.

It provides additional impetus to bring equality, diversity and human rights together, strengthening our commitment to promote equality of opportunity for everyone in Wales, and looking beyond the statutory compliance.

We must ensure that we are able to work effectively with the Commission to ensure that both our organisations are able to deliver equality for the people of Wales.