Section 4 – Links between this and other duties
Respondents welcomed that the consultation document recognised the links between the various duties, though some stated that the links could be made more explicit. It was highlighted that not all of the duties apply to all public authorities, so a tailored approach would be needed.
Other duties, strategies and frameworks that should be added to those mentioned in the consultation document were suggested, including:
- Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014
- Standards in Scotland's Schools Act 2000
- Human Rights Act 1998
- Social Security (Scotland) Bill 2017
- Warm Homes Bill
- Planning Bill
- Climate Change Duty
- Biodiversity Duty
- The Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997
- The Planning etc. (Scotland) Act 2006
- Public Bodies (Joint Working) (Scotland) Act 2014
- Community Justice (Scotland) Act 2016
- Community Learning and Development Regulations 2013
- Children's Rights reporting
- Scotland's National Action Plan for Human Rights
- National Planning Framework
- National Marine Plan
- Land Use Strategy
- National Improvement Framework
- Best Value audit framework
The need for the Scottish Government to lead by example was highlighted, by ensuring that its own departments work cohesively together and that it better aligns its demands on public authorities. At present, most areas of new legislation come with a standalone reporting framework, which does not necessarily consider the synergies with other policy areas. One respondent called for an all ages anti-poverty strategy to bring this duty, other related duties, the Fairer Scotland Action Plan and child poverty targets together in a meaningful way.
It was also suggested that the implementation, monitoring and reporting on local outcome improvement plans may provide an opportunity to join activity and planning up across duties and community planning partners. And, more broadly, there was a call for recognition that public bodies are increasingly developing strategies, plans and monitoring frameworks jointly, and that reporting requirements from the Scottish Government should reflect this.
Public authorities were supportive of incorporating socioeconomic inequality in existing impact assessment processes, and some reported that they had already successfully done so. Some had also incorporated socioeconomic disadvantage into their equality outcomes and mainstreaming reports. It was suggested that there is also an opportunity to learn from the experiences of local authorities in England. For example, Newcastle City Council's Integrated Impact Assessment approach is informed by a Fairness Test, which shares significant similarities with the Scottish Government's pillars and principles for Public Service Reform.
Some respondents felt that there need to be improvements made to the implementation of the public sector equality duty, to make sure that processes are effective, before incorporating the socioeconomic duty. One response from a coalition of third sector equality organisations cautioned that introducing the socio-economic duty as it is currently conceived risks undermining the performance of the equality duty. It was noted that the Equality and Human Rights Commission are currently carrying out a review of the equality duty, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Scottish Human Rights Commission undertook a joint piece of work on integrating equality and human rights impact assessments.
Some respondents saw the proposed socioeconomic duty as a missed opportunity to meet some of Scotland's international human rights obligations. Along with others, they called for the duty to have a broader scope and stronger enforcement.
A number of suggestions were made for specific posts or groups that could be tasked with co-ordinating the implementation of the various duties, including:
- A designated officer within each public authority e.g. Equalities and Human Rights Officers
- An accountable group within each public authority
- An independent coordinator within each region
- An independent body or commission that public bodies would report to
- An officer level working group made up of representatives from Economic Development, Equalities, Education, Finance, Procurement, Community Planning etc
- The Non-Departmental Public Bodies Equality Forum
The need to co-ordinate community engagement across the various duties was also emphasised.
Scottish Government response
It was very useful to note that some public authorities had already had some success in incorporating socioeconomic inequality in existing impact assessment processes. We will consider this practice carefully as guidance is developed, particularly where socioeconomic disadvantage has been linked to equality outcomes and mainstreaming reports. The feedback about experiences of local authorities in England was also very helpful.
The comments about the equality duties and the Equality and Human Rights Commission review of the Public Sector Equality Duty are noted. As emphasised through the consultation paper, we will be looking for opportunities to maximise the links between equality and socio-economic issues and to ensure that introducing the new duty adds to rather than detracts from the quality of impact assessment and other processes in Scotland.
The comments about the Scottish Government being an example of best practice reflect Ministers' own ambitions to be a leader as regards implementation of the new duty.