This is a story of the human cost of the Government’s cruel policy of saving money at any cost that is being pursued by a watchdog that is supposed to champion human rights in Britain.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission – despite strong staff and union opposition- is pursuing a policy of slashing staff. Its own equality impact assessment reveals that the cuts are to fall on the very people it is supposed to defend. Some 75 per cent of black people and the majority of disabled people are said to have “failed” an initial assessment to keep their jobs. Most of the winners are young, able bodied and white.
But it is not just about statistics, it is about people.
One of the people who seems certain for the chop is 57 year old Markus Caruana, who works in corporate communications at their Birmingham office.
He is a former flute player in the Corps of Drums with the Grenadier Guards.
Markus Caruana was unfortunate enough to have been both at the Guildford pub bombings in 1974 and the Chelsea Barracks bombing in 1981 which seriously injured regimental bandsmen from the Irish Guards.
He escaped unscathed in both instances but saw three of his friends killed in an IRA attack in Crossmaglen in Northern Ireland.
He left the army in 1985 to become a landscape gardener and then took advantage of a Unison sponsored education scheme to learn to read and write.
He had been a school refuser after being bullied and could hardly read or write or read music but was able to play his flute because he had a natural memory for tunes.
In 2002 he secured a job with the Disability Rights Commission which later became part of the EHRC.
Sadly he lost his 75 per cent of his hearing and got an incurable muscle wasting disease called Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) which affects the nervous system that supports muscles, often weakening the legs and feet.
The EHRC had enabled him to have a support worker so he could do his job there – but she is also facing redundancy now he has failed to retain his job.
Lois Austin, a full time official for the PCS union, which is fighting the cuts, said: “The Equality and Human Rights Commission are targeting some of the most highly competent disabled and black people for this new round of cuts.
” He is just one of a number of disabled and black people, some with young families, who are losing their jobs.
” If this was a private company the EHRC should be prosecuting them for discrimination. Instead they are setting an example for other firms who want to dump the disabled to save costs and the bother of employing them.
The EHRC take is this. A spokesperson said:
“Whilst we cannot discuss individual cases, we deeply regret having to reduce our headcount as a result of budget losses, but like every public sector organisation we have had cuts imposed on us. We have strongly resisted these cuts, but believe the changes we are making will ensure we can still deliver our ambitious programme.”
In my view the EHRC’s stance is a hostage to fortune. They tell and could even prosecute firms who discriminate against disabled people. If I were an unscrupulous employer I could now tell them to get stuffed – saying they are only following what the EHRC do rather than say – which is to dump expensive and bothersome disabled people who need support workers – to save money and increase my profits.
Britain’s human rights body should hang its head in shame for what it is doing to its own disabled staff.