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Disability discrimination

A general guide on how you are protected from discrimination under the Equality Act and what your rights are.

What is the public sector equality duty?

The public sector equality duty is a special duty. It means most public authorities have to think of ways their policies would affect disabled people. This includes bodies like government departments, local authorities, police forces and NHS hospitals.

This is because they have a legal duty to:

  • Eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation, and any other conduct prohibited by or under the Equality Act
  • Make sure people with a protected characteristic have the same opportunities as other people
  • Make sure people with a protected characteristic have good relations with other people

This means that public authorities should:

  • Remove or minimise any disadvantages you might have because of your mental health problem
  • Take steps to meet the needs of people with mental health problems that are different from the needs of people who don't have mental health problems
  • Take steps to encourage people with mental health problems to get involved in public life. Or in any activity in which their participation is disproportionately low

The public sector equality duty applies in addition to their duty not to discriminate against you.

Example of how the public sector equality duty could apply

A local authority plans to cut its mental health care support services. This decision has to comply with the public sector duty. This means that the authority should:

  • Consult the people who use the service and their families
  • Consider the impact this decision will have on the service users and their families

If it fails to do this then it may not have followed its public sector equality duty. People could make complaints, or take the local authority to court.

If you think an organisation is not following its public sector equality duty then you should get legal advice as soon as possible.

You can make a complaint using the complaints procedure of that organisation. You may also be able to challenge the decision or act of the organisation by taking a judicial review challenge.

What is a judicial review?

A judicial review is a legal challenge to the way a public authority has made a decision or has done or not done something lawfully.

  • The judge will look at whether the public authority has followed its public sector equality duty and its human rights duties.
  • If the judge decides that the public authority has not acted lawfully, it can cancel the public authority's decision. Or it can order the public authority to do something, or order it to not do something.
  • You have to get permission from the High Court before bringing a claim for judicial review. You should do this with the help of specialist solicitors.
  • There are strict time limits: you have to do this as soon as possible. And at the very latest within 3 months, minus 1 day, of when the public authority made the decision you want to challenge.
  • You need to get advice from a legal adviser who specialises in public law and human rights about whether you can apply for a judicial review.

This information was published in October 2023. We will revise it in 2026. 

This page is currently under review. All content was accurate when published. 

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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