Analysis of written responses to the consultation on social security in Scotland

Analysis of responses to a public consultation to inform the content of the new Scottish Social Security Bill.

4. Equality and low income

Proposals for equality and low income

4.1 The Scottish Government set out its proposals for equality and low income in Part 1 of the consultation document. The partial Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA) is available in Annex A of the consultation document.

4.2 The consultation asked questions about the Equality Impact Assessment in both Part 1 and Part 3. Here, we bring together responses to both of these questions for analysis.

Question - How can the Scottish Government improve its partial EqIA as to produce a full EqIA to support the Bill?

4.3 Respondents had two opportunities to answer this question, in Part 1 or Part 3 of the consultation. A total of 244 responses were received to both questions (130 organisations and 114 individuals).

4.4 The main themes emerging were:

  • the process of undertaking an EqIA;
  • the importance of taking an interlinked approach;
  • using broader powers;
  • utilising other impact assessments and approaches; and
  • access and communication within the social security system.

Process of undertaking an EqIA

4.5 A large number of respondents talked about the process of undertaking an Equality Impact Assessment. Many talked about the need for on-going consultation with stakeholders - including equality and third sector organisations, and individuals.

4.6 Respondents provided illustrative (not exhaustive) examples of key organisations to engage which included - Inclusion Scotland, Glasgow Disability Alliance, Centres for Inclusive Living, Scottish Disability Equality Forum, the BSL National Advisory Group, Deafblind National Advisory Group, local and regional deaf forms and hard of hearing forums, Health and Social Care Alliance, Scottish Interfaith Council, WESREC, CRER, BEMIS, CEMVO, Engender, Women's Aid, One Parent Families Scotland, Who Cares Scotland, Scottish Old Age Pensioners Association, Scottish Pensioners Forum, Scottish Youth Parliament, Stonewall, Equality Network, LGBT Youth Scotland and Scottish Transgender Alliance.

"The Scottish Government should commission organisations with expertise in different equality strands to co-produce the Equality Impact Assessment of the Social Security Bill."
The Poverty Alliance

4.7 Some individuals talked about consultation with the public, in simple and engaging terms, exploring what equality means to people. Many respondents felt that this type of engagement and involvement should be on-going, rather than one off, informing the development and implementation of social security in Scotland on an on-going basis.

An in depth and interlinked approach

4.8 Many respondents emphasised the need for an approach to Equality Impact Assessment which took account of impact on people across different intersecting characteristics; of the cumulative effect of the changes being proposed in Scotland; of the cumulative impact of both reserved and devolved benefits; and of wider Scottish Government policy priorities. Importantly, many wanted to see ideas about how to address potential inequalities and disadvantage, through using the powers available to the Scottish Government. Many felt that this required significantly more work on the draft Equality Impact Assessment, and that this was an important priority.

"As the consultation document acknowledges, considerable work is required to produce a complete and comprehensive Equality Impact Assessment…The Scottish Government's partial EqIA approaches each type of entitlement individually. This type of analysis will not result in an understanding of the complete picture. We urge the Scottish Government to conduct cumulative impact assessments of spending and policy decisions on those with or who share a protected characteristic, notably women, children, ethnic minorities, disabled people and older people."
Equality and Human Rights Commission

"Given the manifestly enormous implications of Scottish social security policy for women, disabled people and other groups, it is vital that the equality impact assessment for this Bill, and those that follow for individual policy areas, measure up to best practice."

"The full assessment should examine all of the protected characteristics individually, considering structural barriers related to, for example, being a woman or disabled, and also take an intersectional approach to analysis of these barriers, considering how they overlap and interconnect. In fulfilling this duty, the Scottish Government should have regard to Paragraph 30 of General Comment no.19 of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which recognises refugees, among other groups, as requiring special attention."
Scottish Refugee Council

"As well as focusing on the implications of policies and arrangements in relation

to particular benefits a full EqIA needs to consider how benefits interact with

other public services and the reserved benefits system."

"The EqIA needs to consider wider implications than just the Social Security system. For example, government priorities (eg child poverty, youth unemployment), impact on local government and budget expenditure all need to be reflected when considering the introduction of the social security system."
Highland Council

4.9 The Equality and Human Rights Commission and Scottish Human Rights Commission both provided detailed advice about Equality Impact Assessment and Equality and Human Rights Assessment. Both expressed a desire to share their knowledge and experience of human rights assessment, cumulative impact assessment and intersectional assessment with the Scottish Government to ensure the best outcome for individuals engaging with the new system.

4.10 Respondents highlighted the importance of embedding equality from the outset, making best use of existing available evidence and gathering new evidence and expertise where required.

"Equality Impact Assessment should not be seen as a separate exercise for Managers to undertake. It should be built in as an integral part of continuous service and performance review…It is essential that the Scottish Government's principles (including equality) are embedded throughout Scottish social security legislation, regulations and subsequent guidance. Equalities must be considered at every stage of drafting and implementation."
One Parent Families Scotland

4.11 A few respondents highlighted the need to think beyond protected characteristics. For example, the Scottish Council on Deafness indicated that it was important not to treat 'disability' as a single protected characteristic, and to explore the different impacts on disabled people. Similarly, a few respondents commented on the need to acknowledge the inequalities faced by people living in rural and island regions.

"It is not good enough to simply consider "disability" as one protected characteristic. Even if the Scottish Government use the categories listed in the long-term conditions question in the 2011 Census, this would give a more complete EQIA than simply looking at disability in its entirety."
Scottish Council on Deafness

"Equality must be a principle which applies to all and not simply the specific groups protected by legislation. Others, such as homeless people, face multiple exclusion and need to be included."
Homeless Action Scotland

Using broader powers

4.12 A few respondents felt that the Equality Impact Assessment needed to fully consider how to address inequalities identified through the use of discretionary payments and powers to 'top up' existing benefits. In particular, a group of organisations working with children, young people and families called for a top up to Child Benefit (of £5 a week), to reduce inequality and child poverty.

"The Scottish Government should explore how the social security powers can be used to help meet poverty reduction targets. This may involve using the power to introduce new discretionary payments and 'top-up' existing benefits. CAS recommends that the Scottish Government carries out public consultation on how these powers could be used to reduce poverty and inequality, within existing budgetary constraints."
Citizens Advice Scotland

"We echo the recommendations put forward by the Children and Young People's Commissioner, CPAG, Parenting Across Scotland, Common Weal and others and call on the Scottish Government to be bold in its approach by using the top up powers it has available to it in order to reduce socio-economic inequality and child poverty."
Children in Scotland

Related Impact Assessments

4.13 Some respondents talked about the need to think about other impact assessments at the same time as or within an EqIA including:

  • Children's Rights and Wellbeing Assessment;
  • Health Inequality Impact Assessment (recommended by the Directors of Public Health NHS Boards Scotland);
  • a Human Rights Assessment; and
  • assessing the impact on rural and remote communities.

"Inclusion Scotland would also suggest that Scottish Government extends the EqIA process to also assess the impact on human rights - this would help to provide some substance to the commitments on human rights given in the Consultation document."
Inclusion Scotland

"We would recommend the undertaking of an equality and human rights impact assessment which is more inclusive and extensive."
Scottish Care

"Following the PANEL principle of non-discrimination, those groups who are furthest away from being able to realise their rights to an adequate standard of living and to social security should be prioritised and should also be consulted meaningfully to outline the potential impacts of changes to policy."
Scotland's National Action Plan: Right to an Adequate Standard of Living Reference Group

Access and communication within the social security system

4.14 Some respondents talked about actions that should be taken to improve customer experiences, access and communication within the Scottish social security system. This included offering information in different formats (and the preferred format of the individual); considering communication issues; considering access to technology; considering ability to travel; offering childcare; reducing barriers to access; using open and jargon free language; and providing guidelines and training for staff. A few felt that an advisory group should be set up to cover inclusive communication and access within the social security system for Scotland.

"In reference to equality considerations, we refer back to the provision of specialist training being essential for those delivering social security, with the addition of some form of 'unconscious bias' training. Currently both are optional for staff in the DWP and therefore rarely taken up."
Public and Commercial Services ( PCS) Union

"Particular attention should be paid at the outset to groups who have difficulty communicating effectively, either because of low literacy, disabilities, or because English is not a first language."

"The most important thing is that the people who are administering the system are truly committed to equality, and have that in mind as they deal with clients."

Particular benefits

4.15 Respondents also made some very detailed points about inequalities experiences by particular groups and in particular benefits - including by younger and older people, disabled people, women, Looked After Children, Gypsy/Travellers, people leaving prison and people coming to Scotland from other countries. These are largely covered in each section of this report which explores views on particular benefits.

"Both of my parents died before I was 25 years old and after facing redundancy I found myself on welfare (income based jobseekers allowance, housing benefit and council tax benefit). I was given a lower rate of benefit because I was aged under 25 despite having the same cost of living as those who were 25 years and older… There are very real challenges facing young people on a low income who are claiming welfare and the additional age discrimination that comes with lower rates does not need to be one of them."

"Housing cost direct to landlords, this means a tenant has limited rights if the landlord does not meet their duties and problems with accommodation, the tenant has no bargaining chip if the landlord gets the money regardless so a system of ensuring landlords are doing their jobs right is also necessary."


Email: Trish Brady-Campbell

Back to top