Monday 4 July 2011

Law centre opposes closure of Glasgow's Bilingual Support Unit following 'flawed' consultation process

Govanhill Law Centre (GhLC) has opposed the proposed closure of Glasgow's Bilingual Support Unit (BSU), presently positioned in Shawlands, between Govanhill and East Pollokshields, two of the most ethnically diverse communities in the City. Its opposition is supported by GLC.

Responding to a Glasgow City Council consultation, GhLC says that in its experience there are severe barriers to education and employment for Roma families in Glasgow. A saving of £186,000 from closing the BSU would represent very poor value in relation to the significant benefits gained from specialist language provision to youngsters in Glasgow's education system, youngsters who often have the lowest educational and employment prospects.

The law centre has identified five key flaws in the current proposed closure process:
(1) No educational benefits evidenced
(2) Financial savings alone seem to be driving force
(3) Flawed consultation process
(4) Failure to meet with needs of children with little or no English
(5) Failure to meet needs of Roma children

With respect to the need to undertake a proper consultation at a meeting on June 9th, 2011, GCC's Director of Education, Maureen McKenna said “this is not a statutory consultation so it is not a public consultation.  It is good practice for service reform”.  However, GhLC believes that GCC has failed to have 'due regard' to its statutory duties under the Equalities Act 2010. 

GhLC Associate Solicitor Lorraine Barrie said: "Glasgow City Council’s public sector duty under the Equality Act 2010 states that an Equality Impact Assessment document should be produced, containing sufficient information to show it has paid ‘due regard’ to equality duties in its decision making. In that regard, we have referred the Council to the recent case of R (W) v. Birmingham City Council [2011] EWHC 1147 where the High Court found that ‘where a decision may affect large numbers of vulnerable people … the due regard necessary is very high’ (at para 151). We believe that is the case here. Further, the court held that ‘consideration of the duty must be an integral part of the formulation of a proposed policy …’.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s guide for decision makers states “whether it is proportionate for an authority to conduct an assessment of a financial decision depends on its relevance to the authority’s particular function and its likely impact”. We would argue that as the proposal is likely to have a significantly adverse impact on the learning of all of the pupils who attend the BSU and future pupils, we believe the ‘due regard’ duty is very high, and accordingly GCC are required to carry out an equality impact assessment.

The only mention in the document of the Equality Act 2010 is as follows: “The proposed Service reconfiguration supports the Council’s responsibilities under the Education (Additional Support for Learning) Scotland Act 2004 (Amended 2009) and the Equality Act 2010”. This bald statement in our view, completely fails to demonstrate whether GCC have given “due regard” to their legal duties to equalities; particularly where the due regard duty is ‘very high’

We would hope GCC will produce an Equality Impact Assessment, and make its consultation public, otherwise it may render itself vulnerable to legal challenge under the 2010 Act".

Govanhill Law Centre's full consultation response is here (opens as PDF).

1 comment:

  1. Action needs to be taken against GCC for this closure. The adverse effects are already being felt in schools.