Assessing the mental health needs of older people

Equal opportunities


Race relations

Every UK citizen has the right not to be discriminated against on racial grounds. The government wants the public sector to set the pace in the drive for equal opportunities - to lead by example.

The Race Relations Act 1976 makes it unlawful to treat a person less favourably than others on grounds of race, colour, nationality (including citizenship), and national or ethnic origin. In practice, most racial discrimination in Britain is against people from ethnic minorities, but people of every background, race, colour and nationality are protected by the law. The Act provides protection from race discrimination in the fields of employment, education, training, housing, and the provision of goods, facilities and services.

Following the Inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, the government passed the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. This legislation places a 'general duty' on all public authorities to promote race equality and to make this aim explicit in their policies, practices and procedures. Public authorities - including social services departments, health agencies and housing departments - are expected to ensure that they promote racial equality in everything they do. They will need, for example, to ensure that they:

The Race Relations Act 1976 (Amendment) Regulations 2003 implemented the European Council Article 13 'Race Directive'. The regulations enhance the Race Relations Act by, for example, amending the definition of indirect discrimination and changing the way in which the burden of proof applies. They also a number of exceptions from the legislation. (See Further information.)


The Disability Discrimination Act 1999 makes it unlawful to discriminate against a disabled person in relation to employment, the provision of goods, facilities and services, and the use and management of premises. It also contains some provisions relating to education.

The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 amends the 1999 Act and further extends rights and opportunities for disabled people. Key provisions include:

Further information

For more details of race relations legislation see the Home Office Communities website and the website of the Commission for Racial Equality.

For more about disability discrimination legislation, see the Department for Work and Pensions Disability website and the site of the Disability Rights Commission.

Next: Further information