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'We published our university's disability equality scheme last December. I have now been told by a colleague at another university that we have to publish an annual update on what we have been doing since then, but I thought we only had to review our scheme every three years. I can't find much about this in the Disability Rights Commission Code of Practice , so is this really necessary? If we do need to do it, what should we do and by when?'
A spokesperson for the Equality Challenge Unit says: "Yes, universities and colleges do have to publish an annual report that shows what progress on disability equality has been made since the publication of their original disability equality scheme (DES).
"The annual reporting duty is not to be confused with the duty to review and revise the DES at least once every three years. The deadline for this year's annual report is December 4 - one year since the original schemes were published. Although this deadline isn't specified in DRC guidance, it can be found in the Disability Discrimination (Public Authorities) (Statutory Duties) Regulations 2005.
"A higher education institution's original DES and associated action plan showed how it would progress towards embedding disability equality in all its functions over the three-year period starting in December 2006. This was to be done through compliance with the specific duties of involving disabled people, action planning, information-gathering and disability equality impact assessment.
"Your institution's annual report must show how you are monitoring and demonstrating progress against the original DES and action plan, including progress on eliminating discrimination, promoting equality of opportunity and meeting targets. It should also show the results of the year's information-gathering - in other words, what information has been obtained and what does it indicate? It should describe how the information gathered will be used to inform action and indicate how the DES will continue to develop.
"Finally, the annual report should show your institution's continuing commitment to disability equality.
"The Equality Challenge Unit has produced a short factsheet, Disability Equality Schemes: The Annual Report , which will shortly be available on our website ( www.ecu.ac.uk/publications/ ). The factsheet provides more detail about the content of the annual report and advises on the staff who might be best placed to lead on this piece of work, and how disabled people could be involved in its production."
Gill Evans, project leader of the Higher Education Funding Council for England-funded Dispute Resolution Project , says: "There is everything to be gained by posting regular bulletins on good practice and the way it is working out.
"The procedures you have put in place should have been approved by the appropriate authority in your institution and published, with a note to all students and employees to tell them where to find them. They should also be mentioned in job advertisements. Any change to these procedures must be published and notified at once in any case.
"As to how it is all working out, there are many ways of sharing views and information with the whole community in the institution and you should be doing this actively. So putting a summary together every year should not be a burden."
This advice panel includes the University and College Union, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, the Equality Challenge Unit and the Higher Education Funding Council for England-funded Dispute Resolution Project. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org .