This book is about the strategies that have been devised to counter unfair discrimination in health and social services against women, older people, minority ethnic groups and disabled people. It reviews the development of these strategies in the period since the late 1980s and offers a critical appreciation of proposals for their further implementation in the early years of the twenty-first century. It is important to recognise that anti-discriminatory strategies are very
varied in their nature and in their implications. On the one hand, there are the more conventional and perhaps more widely acceptable strategies which seek to impose a scrupulous degree of fairness in relation to both employment matters and to the provision of services. Foci of such strategies are generally on ‘access’ issues and ‘entry gates’. On the other hand, there are less conventional strategies which seek to mitigate entrenched levels of disadvantage experienced by particular groups, and in some cases to redress the imbalances of employment and services that have resulted from the pattern of disadvantage. These latter strategies have a focus on changing the core values of service ‘cultures’, so that they reflect the world views of the disadvantaged groups at least as much as those of the advantaged. While equality of opportunity has long been established as a fairly uncon-
tentious shibboleth of contemporary liberalism, anti-discrimination is more controversial as a concept. This is evident both in successive governments’ preference for the term ‘non-discrimination’, and in the fact that the ‘takeup’ of both concept and approach has been largely within the social services context, though there are now some signs of its dissemination in the health service, a process in which the editors have had some interest. Ironically, as Dylan Tomlinson indicates in Chapter 1, anti-discrimination was the term used to describe successive bills to outlaw discrimination against racial minorities and against women presented to Parliament in the period before the Race Relations and Sex Discrimination Acts were passed, and these proposals were then accepted by the governments of the day. Thus the phrase ‘anti-discrimination’ was wholly respectable at that time.