Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Equality Authority victim of targeted 'misinformation'

THE EQUALITY Authority was victim last year to a deliberate “campaign of misinformation” aimed at undermining its work, authority chairwoman Angela Kerins has said.

In her forward to the authority’s 2009 annual report, published yesterday, Ms Kerins said the campaign was initiated after a cut in the authority’s budget and continued while it was trying to reorganise to ensure there was no impact on its service to the public.

“This campaign purported to show that the authority was either no longer in operation or that it was no longer operating effectively.”

The authority was “extremely concerned” this may have caused people who needed its help to believe it was no longer in a position to do so, she said.

“The authority worked with stakeholders to try to minimise the numbers of vulnerable people who may, because of this information, be affected by this.”

When asked yesterday who had orchestrated the campaign against the authority, Ms Kerins said she didn’t want to name individuals.

Despite a 43 per cent cut to the authority’s budget in 2009, targets set before the cuts were announced were met and in some cases exceeded, she said.

“Given the 2009 budget cuts, this work-rate is testament to the dedication and professionalism of the Equality Authority team.”

Almost half of all queries to the authority last year related to concerns over maternity leave. More than 8,000 people last year contacted it for help in employment problems and equal access to services and facilities. More than 3,600 related to the Maternity Protection Acts.

Separate to maternity worries, about 1,700 queries related to the Employment Equality Acts and 1,650 came under the Equal Status Acts. Almost 1,100 were received in relation to the Parental Leave Acts and just over 60 related to the Adoptive Leave Acts.

While the majority of people contacting the authority were seeking information, more than 1,000 said they had suffered or were concerned about discrimination.

In relation to employment, 221 queries related to age discrimination, 190 related to disability discrimination and 188 to discrimination because of gender.

Of those whose queries related to discrimination in the provision of goods and services, 210 said the discrimination related to a disability, 161 cited age grounds and 118 said the discrimination related to race.

The authority handled 878 legal cases last year. Almost one-third of all employment cases taken were against Government departments or State agencies.

Taken from the Irish Times