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Wigan Councillor at forefront of new anti-discrimination policy

A councillor whose father was a victim of the contaminated blood scandal is at the forefront of a new initiative to promote equal opportunity.

Paula Wakefield has spoken of how the discrimination her family faced during her formative years has been a driving force behind the move.

The proposal for the town hall to add ‘socio-economic disadvantage’ to a list of protected characteristics was signed off last week.

It will help those from a working-class background in the borough, the council’s lead member for equalities said. 

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Coun Wakefield explained her family suffered hardship following her father’s death in 1993. 
The Astley Mosley Common representative said: “I’m really proud as a council that we’re taking this on – improving life chances for people no matter what their background is.”

Equality Act legislation requires authorities to take age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation into account when making decisions.

It ensures those with the above characteristics are not unfairly affected by council decisions.

Wigan Council additionally considers any impact on carers and armed forces personnel in its equality impact assessments.
Socio-economic disadvantage will therefore become the third additional characteristic.

Coun Wakefield’s father, Russell Carbery, died aged 39 when she was 13.

He had contracted HIV and hepatitis B and C as a result of receiving an infected blood product, given as treatment for the genetic condition haemophilia.

He was one of thousands to have passed away and the councillor has been involved in campaigns for a full public inquiry into the scandal.

She told the LDRS: “When I was growing up, I saw the inequality and discrimination that he faced.

“And then after he died, I was in a single parent family and saw the difference from when we had two incomes coming in.
“We were bankrupt, my mum suffered health issues, we relied on working tax credits and we didn’t have any savings.”

Due to the conditions her father had contracted, the family could not get life insurance policies approved, the councillor explained, meaning they lost their mortgage and home.

“We didn’t have financial security and I felt my life chances were affected. Even in terms of small things, like school trips, I knew we couldn’t afford them.

“With the experience I’ve had since then, I can see that is replicated with other families in that if you come from a lower income background you’re more likely to not go on and have the same attainment at school or have health issues, for example.

“It’s those inequalities we need to take on as a council.”

The definition to be used by the council is ‘a person living on a low income compared to others, with little or no accumulated wealth, leading to greater material deprivation, restricting the ability to access basic goods and services leading to further negative outcomes such as social exclusion’.

The inquiry into the contaminated blood scandal started taking evidence in April and is expected to continue for two years.

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