Annual Reports (under construction)

page under construction 

PUBLIC INTEREST RESEARCH UNIT ANNUAL REPORT

1 APRIL 06 to 31 MARCH 2007
 

CONTENT
section
1. Introduction                                                                

2. Registered name and number                         

3. Contact details                                                

4. Aims and objectives                                                    

5. Activities                                                                     

6. Accounting                                                                 

7. Trustees                                                                      

8. Further information and feed-back 

                 

1. INTRODUCTION
We believe that the Public Interest Research Unit (PIRU) made good progress during this period in meeting its aims and objectives (including its over-riding aim of promoting democratic practice, civil rights, and social inclusion); and had an impact which was significant, beneficial, and disproportionate to PIRU’s size and expenditure (with no paid staff and a total of £1,375 spent over the 12 months).


Our research appears to have been well covered in the media, and in academic and professional journals and books; to be well respected; and to have fed  – we hope usefully – into related policy debates (with, for example, Trevor Phillips being questioned about one of our reports in a recent Commons Select Committee). We also hope that ‘appearicism’ – which PIRU developed during this period – will assist in avoiding and critiquing, what might be called, silmulacrous interpretivism (including that which appears to lie behind some major government reports).
While our efforts have been primarily aimed at making some contribution to the development of a fairer society, we have also provided immediate help – in the form of information, assistance, and representation – to individuals experiencing discrimination and disadvantage in our local area. All of those provided with such help indicated that it had been of great benefit.


PIRU intends to remain small, focussed, imaginative and efficient. We also want, however, to be able to do more – research more issues of pressing public interest, and provide help to more individuals facing difficulties; and, therefore, intend to start fund-raising (our income having so far come exclusively from our trustees). The plans for expanded action will, of course, need to be discussed and decided at PIRU’s next AGM. However, so as to build upon PIRU’s developing competencies, make the most of forthcoming opportunities, and further our aims, the priorities may well include continuing to watch the watchdogs (including the new Equalities and Human Rights Commission); establishing an Equalities Progress Group; feeding into the debate on any forthcoming Single Equality Bill; and further research around employment law and practice.


2. REGISTERED NAME AND NUMBER
registered charity name
Public Interest Research Unit is a ‘working name’, recorded with the Charity Commission, for BKIND – education for compassion. The expectation is that the registered main name will be changed from BKIND to the Public Interest Research Unit at the next AGM.
registered charity number: 1071919


3. CONTACT DETAILS
registered and postal address
Blaen Halen
Newcastle Emlyn
Carmarthenshire
SA38 9JA


phone, email and website
tel. 01559 370 395
info@piru.org.uk
www.piru.org.uk


4. AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
PIRU’s aim remained to promote democratic practice, civil rights, and social inclusion, through conducting, and campaigning on the basis of, ethical, honest, and rigorous research.
In April 2006, PIRU set the following objectives for the 2006-2008 period:
4.1 researching problems and developing proposals

 

  • Increase knowledge and understanding of disability and ‘race’ discrimination; and of the effectiveness of current approaches to tackling such discrimination.
  • Formulate, based on this and other evidence, legislative and other proposals for better tackling such discrimination.


4.2 promoting proposals 

  • Promote the further development, and (if appropriate) adoption, of these and other relevant proposals.
  • Help promote the argument that the legal protection in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (at present, with the exception of victimisation, restricted to those who meet the Act’s narrow definition of disabled) should be extended to include protection against discrimination which is on grounds of impairment’; 
  • Help promote the argument that the legal representation level of Community Legal Service funding should be available for cases in the Employment Tribunals.


4.3 encouraging governmental action and compliance

  • Help encourage UK Government compliance with the European Convention for the Protection of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms and the Human Rights Act;
  • Help bring about more effective enforcement of the equality enactments, and the Human Rights Act, by the Commission for Equality and Human Rights.

5. ACTIVITIES
5.1 research
5.1.1 ‘End of the Beginning – a critical analysis of the first decade of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995′
PIRU published this 200 page report (researched and written by a PIRU trustee) on the 8th of November 2005 (the 10th anniversary of the Act).


5.1.1.1 follow-up work
Between April 2006 and March 2007 (the period covered by this annual report), we continued follow-up work in relation to this report; including, for example –
(a) Putting a summary of the report on PIRU’s website (once the site was launched in August 2006); and providing a digital deposit copy of the summary to the British Library.
(b) Emailing copies of the full report to those who requested it; and answering questions about the report from research students.
(c) Using the findings from the report to feed into relevant government reviews; including, in particular, the Discrimination Law Review and the Equalities Review.


5.1.1.2 what is in the report
The report includes:
(a) Analysis of – tribunal case submissions and judgements; legislation, codes of practice, and guidance; documents from employers and government departments; and interview transcripts (from a  limited number of interviews we conducted with employees, employers, advice providers, and trade unions).
(b) Identification and assessment of some of the factors which appear to have limited the Disability Discrimination Act’s success.
(c) Consideration of some of the likely impacts of the 2005 amendments to the Disability Discrimination Act.
(d) Proposals for further reducing employment discrimination.

5.1.1.3 some of the coverage and reactions
“PIRU analysed 85 employment cases and employment policy documents from 40 public authorities” (Personnel Today).
“The Disability Discrimination Act has failed to adequately tackle employment discrimination … according to The End of the Beginning” (The Guardian).
“Legal Lip Service” (The Times).
“The report calls on the Welsh Assembly Government to press the UK government to replace the act with new, more effective legislation” (BBC News Online).
“The DRC, which closed its case work department last month, was unwilling to comment on the report’s findings” (Disability Now).                                           

5.1.2 Teeth and Their Use – enforcement action by the three equality commissions
PIRU published this 180 page report (researched and written by a PIRU trustee) on the 30th of August 2006.
5.1.2.1 what is in the report
The report looks at the use that the three equality Commissions (Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission, and Equal Opportunities Commission) made of 10 direct enforcement powers; considers the impacts that the Equality Act 2006 could have on enforcement of the equality enactments; and proposes changes designed to improve the effectiveness of the future Commission for Equality and Human Rights.
The central finding was that, between 1 January 1999 and 1 June 2006, the three equality Commissions made no use of five of the enforcement powers studied and made little use of the other five. For example, the Commissions served just one non-discrimination notice between them during the period (served by the Commission for Racial Equality on the London Borough of Hackney).
5.1.2.1 some of the coverage,  reactions and citations
“According to the Public Interest Research Unit – a small non-party political think-tank – the existing commissions have a poor track record in enforcement”. (House of Commons Select Committee).
Sex, race and disability laws are not being enforced by the three equality commissions set up to prevent discrimination, according to the Public Interest Research Unit.” (The Guardian).
“Equality law powers ‘under-used'” (BBC News Online).
“Equality Bodies Failing to Enforce Discrimination Law”. (Equal Opportunities Review Journal).
“Equality Commissions leave employment discrimination enforcement powers gathering dust on the shelf” (Personnel Today).
“We are mystified by some of the recommendations in the report”. (Disability Rights Commission’s website).
“Enforcing nothing” (TUC’s Changing Times).
DRC criticised for neglecting its full powers(Disability Now).
“he feared … the new body would grow to resemble the CRE, and be less likely to ‘use its teeth'” (People Management).
“limitations in enforcement” (British Journal of Industrial Relations).
“The study found that the bodies … had made little use of their statutory enforcement powers” (European Commission report).
“This is a devastating report for the new chair of the CEHR Trevor Phillips” (Blink).
“The three main anti-discrimination bodies in Wales have been accused of failing some of the nation’s most vulnerable people in a report published today” (Western Mail).
John Wilks, director of Equal Opportunities Commission Scotland, criticised the reports incorrect perspective’” (BBC Radio Scotland).
“The report … suggests that more work should be done to help employees, and other individuals, pursue discrimination cases” (Work Place Law).
“indicated that there was a lack of use by the Commissions of their enforcement powers more generally” (DRC Legal Achievements, Disability Rights Commission’s Legacy Edition of its Legal Bulletin).


5.1.2.2 follow-up work
In addition to press releasing the report, and dealing with subsequent media enquiries, follow-up work included:
(a) Putting the report on PIRU’s website; and providing a digital deposit copy  to the British Library.
(b) Emailing copies to those who ordered it; emailing answers to questions about the report; and sending the press release (and an offer to send the whole report) to relevant organisations, academics, and others.
(c) Attempting to feed into government reviews and other policy making. The report findings, for example, formed the basis of PIRU’s response (entitled Not Much Obliged – the need to enforce as well as enact) to the Equalities Review Interim Report. The report of the consultation process quoted PIRU as arguing that “The next stage of the Equalities Review needs to include a strong focus on determining the role that improved enforcement might play in reducing discrimination and chronic and persistent inequalities”.
(d) Ongoing responses to requests relating the report. For example, the government’ Discrimination Law Review requested copies of the report; and Oxford University Press law department requested permission to use an extract from the report in one of their forthcoming books.
That the Commissions made quite limited use of their enforcement powers appears to have become generally accepted as a result of this report. In addition, no one appears to have disputed the figures relating to the use of each enforcement power.  The three commissions, however, appear to have strongly disagreed with some of our conclusions (including the conclusion that their failure to make greater use of their enforcement powers might have had significant negative consequences) and some of our recommendations (including, for example, the suggestion that the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales should be given more control, and the Secretary of State less control, over the work of the Commissions in Scotland and Wales).


5.1.3 ‘Race Back from Equality – has the CRE been breaching race equality law and has race equality law been working?’
In November 2006, we began the research for a report aimed at addressing the following questions –
1. Have the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, the regulations made under it, and the statutory code of practice, provided an adequate basis for tackling institutional discrimination?  
2. Has the CRE, between 2002 and 2007, complied with the section 71 Race Relations Act 1976 general statutory duty (‘the Race Equality Duty’) and with the duties imposed by article 2 of the Race Relations Act 1976 (Statutory Duties) Order 2001 (‘the specific duties’)?
3. What affects, if any, do any failures on the part of the CRE to comply with the general duty, or the specific duties, appear to have had on race discrimination, race equality and race relations in the UK?
4. How could the legislation be strengthened, its implementation improved, and its objectives better achieved?


It had been hoped to publish the report in the Spring of 2007. However, in March 2007 (at the end of the period covered by this annual report), the CRE had still not provided the information requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FIA) on the 21 November 2006; and, therefore, planned publication was put back to the Summer or Autumn. It will be noted that, under the terms of the FIA, information should normally be provided within 20 working days.


5.1.4 developing an ‘appearicist’ approach to research
Drawing upon, but also departing from, social constructionist ideas, we attempted to develop and adopt, what we have called, an ‘apearicist’ approach to research. In practice, this involves an emphasis upon the rigorous testing of the appearance of things; including, for example, through the bracketed application (as a methodological tool) of non-dualist positivism.
 
The central assumptions in ‘appearicism’ are that – (1) all appearances are realities but not all realities are appearance i.e. there are realities which exist without being apprehended; and, (2), we construct the realities we experience, but do so through interaction with realities which we dont construct. It follows from these assumptions, we would argue, that everything is not interpretation. Whilst our interpretations are, to a great extent, self-validating, we also test them against more external realities. Further, these more external realities (the world outside our mental models and processes) set limits on the usefulness (and perhaps correctness) of different interpretations. We thus avoid, it is hoped, the nihilism of radical constructionism, and have some reason for putting the research findings to work.

While it’s hoped that appearicism will be applicable to all PIRU’s research, it might be of particular use in our planned attempt to assess the credibility of some of the qualitative research used to justify major government policy decisions; including, for example, reports which appear to draw positivistic sounding generalisations – supportive of what may well have been predetermined positions – from the application of brief, interested, and simulacrous interpretavism. We also wonder whether this threadbare ‘interpretivism’ – also apparent among some NGO reports (including, it might be argued, in parts of PIRUs recent reports) – risks dragging the whole interpretavist project down with it, and leaving silent the marginalised voices (hidden among the statistics) which it has helped to be heard. Qualitative research, we would argue, needs to regain its rigour.


5.2 advocacy
PIRU’s Entitlement Project continued to provide information, support, and representation, to help individuals in its local area (especially those experiencing disadvantage) gain access to services and financial entitlements; enforce their employment and other rights; and gain legal redress.


We did not publicise the service (except for the reference to it on our website), and, perhaps as a consequence, all those who requested help had heard about the service by word of mouth. All of these were provided with the help requested; and all expressed a high level of satisfaction. We felt some concern, however, that we may not have been reaching those most in need; including because those most in need are less likely to have been part of the social networks upon which ‘word of mouth’ depends. This is a particular concern in the light of the apparent dearth of advocacy services in our area and what appears to be a high level of need; and there may be an argument for PIRU to seek funding to finance an expanded service (or, at least, to help highlight the need for others, such as the local council, to do more).


In line with our commitment to protecting confidentiality, we have not provided any information on any of the help we’ve provided. 
6. ACCOUNTING
6.1 overview
During the period covered by this annual report, all the money PIRU spent, and other resources it used, came from PIRU’s trustees; and no attempt was made to raise funds from external sources. One trustee, for example, provided free use of his telephone, another provided free internet access, and another provided free transport and paid for much of the postage.
We took the Charity Commission’s helpline’s advice on how to record such gifts in kind, which was to place a financial value on them and record them as income. On reflection, however, we suspect that our attempts at monetarisation underestimated the value of these gifts. For example, we did not place a value on the ‘office space’ provided in a trustee’s home. In addition, the estimation of some expenditure has been inevitably quite speculative. For example, it has been difficult to place a figure on the amount of electricity that trustees used in the conduct of PIRU business (including because trustees did not record how much time they spent on PIRU business). Since all the income came from trustees, was expended by trustees, and no trustee attempted to reclaim tax on what was given, there would appear to have been no legal, or even ethical, difficulties with such good faith, and reasonable, attempts at estimation (although the lack of clarity may have made it harder for trustees to track how they expended their own resources for the benefit of PIRU).
Since, however, we now intend to start fund-raising (so as to be able to expand our activities), we are seeking additional advice from the Charity Commission, and others, on how to further improve our accounting practice; with the aim of developing a system which is recognised as best practice for a charity of our size. We will, of course, report in detail (including on our website and in the next annual report) on our progress in achieving this aim.


6.2 income and expenditure
for the period 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007

income                                   £1,375                                  
expenditure                            £1,375
Since (as explained above) all expenditure was met by the trustees undertaking the said expenditure, and there was no income other than that provided in the process of doing so, income for this period matched expenditure (at £1,375). For example, when a trustee purchased paper for PIRU, he or she would pay for the paper out of his or her own money; and, therefore, the cost of the paper would constitute both the addition to PIRU’s income and to PIRU’s expenditure.
6.3 break-down of expenditure (1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007)
 

£
Staff costs (i)
0
Travel, subsistence, and training
210-00
Fees to designers for setting-up and managing website
375-00
Annual fee for web-hosting and domain name
50-00
Electricity, phone, internet, and postage
450-00
Stationary, printing, and publications
290-00
Depreciation (ii)
0
Bank charges
0
TOTAL
£1,375

notes
(i) No staff were employed.
(ii) Unless the website is included, PIRU has never owned any fixed tangible assets (as all office accommodation, equipment, and other fixed assets, have been loaned without charge by PIRU’s trustees). Consequently, there has been no depreciation.

 
7. TRUSTEES
The trustees during this period (1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007) were as follows:
Jenny Dimond
Anna Dyer
Anne Harrison
Emma Harwood
Rupert Harwood
Carole Stuart-McIvor
Gareth Morgan
Eileen Warmsley


8. FURTHER INFORMATION AND FEEDBACK
8.1 further information
If you have any questions in relation to any matters in this annual report, or otherwise in relation to PIRU, please do not hesitate to contact us (see section 3 above). 
8.2 feedback
We welcome, and will take proper account of, feedback on any matter. If, for example, you feel that a research finding is inadequate in some respect, please set out the reasons for so thinking, and we will go back and re-examine the finding (and, if possible, seek advice from a suitably qualified third party). We will then, if appropriate, change the finding (and write up the explanation for having done so); or, if our finding still appears to be accurate, will, with the permission of the person who wrote in, add their criticism unexpurgated to the report.

We would also welcome suggestions as to what we should  be doing in future. For example, someone might wish to suggest salient research questions; identified, perhaps, in their course of their legal practice or from their own personal experience.


complaints procedure
We have a formal complaints procedure (set out on our website), which includes a commitment to treat any complaint as an organisational priority; and to deal with it fairly and quickly and, as far as possible, to the satisfaction of the complainant. PIRU, however, has so far not received any complaints.
Number of complaints received since PIRU was established: 0.