EHRC Legal interventions and Southall Black Sisters
The need to impact assess before making a decision *
Southall Black Sisters (SBS) provides specialist services to Asian and Black Caribbean women, particularly in relation to domestic violence issues. In June 2007, Ealing Council announced proposals to move away from funding particular organisations (such as SBS), towards commissioning services (including domestic violence services) following a competitive bidding exercise.
Despite concerns raised during consultation that plans had not been equality impact assessed, and that commissioning could disadvantage grassroots community initiatives, Ealing decided to press ahead with its proposals.
During discussions about criteria for commissioning domestic violence services, SBS had highlighted the adverse impact the criteria could have on pre-existing domestic violence services provided to women from ethnic minority communities, and so an equality impact assessment should be carried out.
Ealing carried out belated impact assessments on proposals before deciding to proceed with the existing domestic violence services commissioning criteria, resulting in two SBS service users launching a judicial review of the decision. Ultimately, Ealing conceded these submissions and withdrew from the case.
However, in an oral judgment, Lord Justice Moses reiterated the importance of undertaking an equality impact assessment, and also the importance of carrying out an impact assessment before policy formulation.
* Source: EHRC website, R (Kaur) v London Borough of Ealing  EWHC 2062 (Admin)