This chapter outlines the main issues in relation to equality, diversity and human rights which should be applied when implementing safeguarding adults procedures and process, as well as all other aspects of providing care and support services to adults.


Dignity, Compassion and Respect


Equality and Human Rights, Care Quality Commission

Equally outstanding: Equality and human rights – good practice resource (CQC)

This chapter was added to the APPP in December 2018.

 1. Introduction

This chapter outlines the main points of the Equality Act 2010, and also how it relates to safeguarding adults. The Act ensures there is consistency in what an organisation does to provide services in a fair environment and comply with the law. This includes all the people who use its services, their family and friends and other members of the public, staff, volunteers and partner agency staff.

The Equality Act references ‘protected characteristics: all of which must be considered when implementing safeguarding procedures. These are

  • age;
  • disability;
  • gender reassignment;
  • race;
  • religion or belief;
  • sex;
  • sexual orientation;
  • marriage and civil partnership;
  • pregnancy and maternity.

See Section 3.2, Protected Characteristics for more information.

An organisation’s commitment to equality and diversity means that every person supported by it has their individual needs comprehensively addressed. They will be treated equally and without discrimination. This is regardless of any protected characteristics or another aspect that could result in them being discriminated against. The organisation is also committed to protecting individuals’ human rights.

2. Commitment to Equality, Diversity and Human Rights

The organisation should express its commitment to equality and diversity by:

  • respecting the ethnic, cultural and religious practices of people who use the service and making practical provision for them to be observed as appropriate;
  • reassuring people who use the service that their diverse backgrounds enhance the quality of experience of everyone who lives and works in any service provided by it;
  • protecting people’s human rights – treating them and their family and friends, fairly and with respect and dignity;
  • accepting adults who use the service as individuals;
  • supporting people to express their individuality and to follow their preferred lifestyle, also helping them to celebrate events, anniversaries or festivals which are important to them;
  • showing positive leadership and having management and human resources practices that actively demonstrate a commitment to the principles of equality and diversity;
  • developing an ethos throughout its service that reflects these values and principles;
  • expecting all staff to work to equality and diversity principles and policies and to behave at all times in non-discriminatory ways;
  • provide training, supervision and support to enable staff to do this;
  • having a code of conduct that makes any form of discriminatory behaviour unacceptable. This applies to both staff, people who use services and their family and friends, which is rigorously observed and monitored accordingly.

2.1 Human rights

‘Respecting diversity, promoting equality and ensuring human rights will help to ensure that everyone using health and social care services receives safe and good quality care.’ (Care Quality Commission)

The Care Quality Commission employs the commonly agreed ‘human rights principles’ in their inspection frameworks. These are sometimes called the FREDA principles:

  • fairness;
  • respect;
  • equality;
  • dignity; and
  • autonomy (choice and control).

These principles and standards should be at the heart of safeguarding process and in the planning and delivery of care to adults with care and support needs and their family and friends.  It should also encourage and support its staff to develop knowledge and skills and, where relevant. provide organisational leadership and commitment to achieve human rights based approaches.

The organisation should encourage positive practice and a learning culture that promotes human rights. Staff must take swift action if they think someone’s human right are being breached (see Responding to Signs of Abuse and Neglect is Everybody’s Business).

3. Guidance

3.1 Types of discrimination

All staff involved in the safeguarding process should be familiar with the following types of discrimination.

  • Direct discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favourably than others in similar circumstances on the grounds of race, colour, national or ethnic origins, sex, marital status, sexuality, disability, membership or non-membership of trade union, ‘spent convictions’ of ex-offenders, class, age, political or religious belief.
  • Discrimination by association applies to race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age, disability, gender reassignment and sex. This is direct discrimination against someone because they associate with another person who possesses a protected characteristic (see Section 3.2, Protected characteristics below).
  • Perception discrimination is against an individual because others think they possess a particular protected characteristic. It applied even if the person does not actually possess that characteristic.
  • Indirect discrimination occurs when a condition or requirement is imposed which adversely affects one particular group considerably more than another.
  • Harassment is defined as unwanted, unreciprocated and / or uninvited comments, looks, actions, suggestions or physical contact that is found objectionable and offensive. Harassment is particularly liable to occur as part of sexual or racial discrimination.
  • Victimisation occurs when an employee is treated badly because they have made or supported a complaint or raised a grievance under the Equality Act, or because they are suspected of doing so. People are not protected from victimisation if they have maliciously made or supported an untrue complaint.

3.2 Protected characteristics

Under the Equality Act 2010 these are as follows.

  • Age: Where this is referred to, it refers to a person belonging to a particular age (for example 32 year olds) or range of ages (for example 18 – 30 year olds).
  • Disability: A person has a disability if s/he has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on that person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Under the Act, a person is disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. The Act includes a protection from discrimination arising from disability. This states it is discrimination to treat a disabled person unfavourably because of something connected with their disability.
  • Gender reassignment: A transsexual person is someone who proposes to, starts or has completed a process to change his or her gender. The Act does not require a person to be under medical supervision to be protected – so a woman who decides to live as a man but does not undergo any medical procedures would be covered. It is discrimination to treat transsexual people less favourably because they propose to undergo, are undergoing or have undergone gender reassignment than they would be treated if they were ill or injured.
  • Marriage and civil partnership: In England and Wales marriage is not restricted to a union between a man and a woman and includes a marriage between a same-sex couple. Same-sex couples can also have their relationships legally recognised as ‘civil partnerships’. Civil partners must not be treated less favourably than married couples (except where permitted by the Act). The Act protects employees who are married or in a civil partnership against discrimination.
  • Pregnancy and maternity: Pregnancy is the condition of being pregnant or expecting a baby. Maternity refers to the period after the birth. Protection against maternity discrimination is for 26 weeks after giving birth, and this includes treating a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding.
  • Race: Race refers to a group of people defined by their race, colour, and nationality (including citizenship) ethnic or national origins.
  • Religion or belief: Religion has the meaning usually given to it but belief includes religious and philosophical beliefs including lack of belief (for example atheism). Generally, a belief should affect life choices or the way a person lives for it to be included in the definition. In the Equality Act, religion includes any religion. It also includes a lack of religion.
  • Sex: Both men and women are protected under the Act.
  • Sexual orientation: Whether a person’s sexual attraction is towards their own sex, the opposite sex or to both sexes. The Act protects bisexual, gay, heterosexual and lesbian people.
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