The Equality Advisory and Support Services (EASS) helpline, which provides help to people facing discrimination, has been awarded to security company G4S following a recommendation by a House of Lords committee.
G4S, which provides security and crowd management services to the events industry, has worked on events including the Wimbledon Championships, the Open Golf Championships and BBC Proms in the Park.
The helpline was set up under the coalition government and is currently falls under the purview of the Government Equalities Office.
Neil Malpas, MD of G4S Employment Support Services, stated: “The EASS helpline is an important access point for people who need advice on their rights under the law and guidance on how best to resolve potential conflicts. G4S already provides similar services with trained and qualified advisers who have the requisite skills to support people facing a difficult time in their lives.”
The appointment of G4S, a private firm, has run into some controversy, though, notably at the London 2012 Olympics after they failed to provide enough trained security personnel. The firm has also been under some scrutiny for its running of the Medway youth jail, which was recently taken back under state control following abuse allegations.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News Mark Sermotka, Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) general secretary, said: “G4S’s track record ought to disqualify it from taking on such a sensitive contract. With hate crime and discrimination on the rise in the wake of the Brexit vote, we need good quality support services more than ever. We believe this helpline should be brought back in-house and it is deeply disturbing that the government appears to have dismissed this out of hand.”
A spokesperson for the Government Equalities Office stated: “The Equality Advisory and Support Service is an important source of free advice and support for people facing discrimination or human rights issues.
“To ensure the service can continue and is run as effectively and efficiently as possible, we ran an open and competitive tender process to identify who is best to take it forward. Following this, G4S has been successful, and subject to contact, it will be running the service for three years from October 2016.”