To ask the Right Honourable Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, what duty does (a) the Church of England and (b) cathedrals and abbeys have to cathedral choristers with long-term medical conditions under disability discrimination legislation; and if she will make a statement.
10 January 2019
The Church of England comprises a large number of legally separate institutions, which includes Cathedrals, Parochial Church Councils and Diocesan Boards of Finance. Each Cathedral, as an independent legal entity, is required to comply with the Equality Act 2010 (the “Act”) and so has a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled persons in accordance with the requirements of the Act. This duty applies in relation to a Cathedral chorister who has a disability for the purposes the Act (whether or not the disability is due to a long-term medical condition). However, there is no separate legal duty placed on cathedrals in relation to child choristers as a specific group.
A cathedral has a duty to make reasonable adjustments to enable all persons with a disability to have physical access to the cathedral. As the Act does not override other legislation, such as listed building or planning legislation, the Church of England’s Cathedral and Church Buildings Division has produced a guidance note for cathedrals which specifically addresses this issue: http://www.churchcare.co.uk/images/access_and_disabled_people.pdF. Common reasonable adjustments made by cathedrals include the removal of pews to allow greater flexibility of seating and use of space and the addition of ramps and/or the levelling of internal floors.
The duty to make reasonable adjustments under the Act rests with individual cathedrals. What constitutes reasonable adjustment in the situation of choristers will depend on the nature of the particular disability and what may be considered to be reasonable in the circumstances. I understand that several cathedrals have successfully integrated choristers with disabilities into their choirs.