There are a number of laws that ensure the equality and diversity of children, but the main one is the Equality Act 2010 which came into force in 2012. The act and other diversity laws ensure that children are not discriminated against based on their sexuality or ethnicity.
Often, the definition of diversity includes differences in human behaviour, ethnicity, gender or appearance. It is generally a term acknowledging the variety of people in different ways.
Furthermore, equality is defined as the “importance of recognising, respecting and accepting the diversity of individuals and group needs”. As a result, it is about embracing all cultures and types of people regardless of their backgrounds.
This means that the promotion of equality in children is very important, as it fosters a culture of acceptance. Learned behaviours in childhood are more likely to carry-over to adulthood, therefore promoting equality at an early age is a must. Consequently, if these practices are not instilled at an early age, then it may lead to discriminatory behaviour.
Equality and Diversity Laws Covering Children
The Equality Act 2010
This example of equality and diversity legislation protects young people from harassment or victimisation based on a number of ‘protected characteristics.’
A UK regulatory body named the Equality and Human Rights Commission has some enforcement powers for legislation in childcare. However, the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), are responsible for setting standards by providing codes of conduct and promoting good practice.
The Act ensures that certain ‘protected characteristics’ are not used to harass children. Equal opportunities legislation protects the following areas:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and Maternity
- Religion and belief
- Sexual orientation
The Equality and diversity act harmonised many previous pieces of UK equality legislation into one law. As a result, older laws like the Race Relations Act 1976, the Sexual Orientation Regulations 2003, and the Equality Act of 2006 are included in the new law. As a result, this act is broad and secures basic equality rights for children without the need for other equality and diversity legislation. However, there are other pieces of legislation and codes of practice relating to equality.
There are other international diversity laws that cover child human rights more broadly, including:
- The United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCRC), as ratified by the UK in 1991
- The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), as ratified by the UK in 2009
These laws mean that every child in the UK has certain basic privileges, including right to non-discrimination and expressing views freely.
Good Equality and Diversity Practices
Equal opportunities policy in childcare must be clear and effective no matter if organisations are situated in public, voluntary or private domains. Although “private, voluntary and independent settings are not bound by public sector equality duty”, the eradication of discrimination and securing equality should be promoted as good practice. As such, policies should safeguard key qualities in the following core principles:
- Valuing and respecting all individuals
- Being aware of child rights as described under the UN conventions and Equality Act, and doing all that is necessary to secure them
- Promoting equality and diversity from the top-down
Organisations that fail to uphold the Equality Act 2010 or general rights of children are liable to certain punishments. These include fines with three tiers of severity. The lowest tier for less serious cases imposes a fine of anywhere between £900 and £8600. In addition, the mid-tier imposes fines of up to £25,700. Finally, the maximum fine for an offence under the Equality Act 2010 in the highest tier of severity is £42,900.