National Agencies and Non-Departmental Public Bodies
CRER gathered documents from Scottish Government's national agencies and non-departmental public bodies through a web search and Freedom of Information Requests. The aim was to establish the extent to which they have developed their own race equality strategies.
Documents were gathered from 30 national agencies/bodies in total, with over 300 documents published between 1999 and 2020 identified.
The vast majority of agencies/bodies did not appear to have developed specific strategies or approaches on race equality. Only legally required publications under the public sector equality duties and previous race equality duty could be identified for 12 of the organisations (over 150 documents). For seven organisations, this included the race equality schemes published under the pre-2011 race equality duty as well as documents published under the current public sector equality duty. It is likely that the failure to identify these from the other national agencies subject to the race equality duty is due to changes in availability over time – it proved easier to locate older documents from the Scottish Government/Executive documents than from other national agencies/bodies.
For a further 7, a combination of legally required publications and generic policies and plans which mentioned race equality were identified. Around 50 of these were standard documents such as annual reports and corporate plans, and just over a further 50 concerned internal employee issues only.
As mentioned, very few organisations had produced any specifically race-focussed strategies, plans or reports with recommendations outwith the previous race equality schemes. However, 2 particular examples are explored in the following case studies.
Where any form of race equality specific document was produced, these were very rarely followed up with progress reports. This means it was not possible to meaningfully identify trends or outcomes of dedicated race equality work undertaken by national agencies.
However, it is possible to identify some points of notable practice within the equality publications gathered from national agencies.
1. Two contrasting approaches to diversity
One organisation published a diversity strategy aimed at improving representation for 'under-represented groups'. However, the strategy at no point identifies which groups are under-represented. The wording is generic throughout, meaning that the organisation's ability to take targeted action may be limited. The lack of baseline data on under-representation means that no clear mechanism for reporting change is available.
Previous research has demonstrated clearly that the most successful approaches to demonstrating the impact of equality work occur where:
- The end goal is clearly articulated, in terms of the change the organisation wants to make in the lives of people with specific protected characteristics
- The intervention the organisation makes is clearly targeted at creating this change
- Reporting mechanisms use robust indicators and work from a defined baseline
The Diversity Strategy in itself does not seem to support the targeted approaches which have been shown to work. It may be that an action plan sits alongside this strategy, however it is not part of the public-facing document. Readers are therefore unable to identify who the Strategy aims to benefit, or what challenges the organisation is facing in terms of representation.
In contrast, another organisation carried out intensive research on diversity within its sector. The result was a detailed and well-publicised report. This included equality monitoring data and statistical analysis of the barriers people with specific protected characteristics perceived, disaggregated by particular parts of the sector, and qualitative views on the barriers. However, recommendations or actions were not included in the report. This means that the response to these barriers was unclear.
2. A promising report with less promising outcomes
A national agency undertook research into barriers to participation that minority ethnic people experienced in its sector. This was published in a short, easy to understand summary alongside a small number of practical, targeted recommendations.
Rather than being positioned as a strategy, this was positioned as a capacity building document. As one of very few examples of a race focussed policy document produced by a national agency, had the report provided a stronger imperative for implementing the recommendations within the sector, it is possible that significant change could have been achieved.
No follow-up or progress report has been published, and it is unknown whether any organisations in the sector implemented the recommendations.
A recent equality research report commissioned by the same national agency did not include any information about race equality or barriers faced by minority ethnic communities in its key findings, despite a survey conducted by the national agency showing that participation levels for minority ethnic groups were approximately half the level they should be. The significant inequalities that the previous recommendations aimed to address had persisted due to lack of action.
This demonstrates how momentum can quickly be lost when race equality work has an encouraging start, but fails to focus on implementing action. It is not enough to simply acknowledge racial inequalities. Where racial inequalities are recognised but not addressed, a choice has been made to allow these inequalities to continue. This indicates that institutional racism is at play.
3. A high-level strategy with local results
As stated previously, specifically race equality focussed plans and strategies were vanishingly rare, and progress reporting generally was not carried out unless as part of public sector equality duty work. There was one particular exception to these trends.
A large national agency published a race-specific strategy, based on the results of an audit of race equality issues in their sector.
Their framework for creating the strategy, which other organisations in the sector were encouraged to use in setting their own actions, considered factors such as (paraphrased):
- Does the organisation understand local demographics in terms of ethnicity, geography and socio-economic status, and has it used this data to inform service development?
- Does the organisation understand the barriers minority ethnic communities face in using their services, and what has been done to remove these?
- Does the organisation involve and engage minority ethnic stakeholders?
- Does the organisation have an emphasis on race equality in its role as an employer, including through Human Resources strategies and continuing professional development for staff?
- Does the organisation have the motivation and the right infrastructure on race equality to ensure its work is up to date and effective?
The strategy set out a series of broad actions for organisations in the sector to follow, based on the results of the audit. Chief Executives of these organisations would be expected to lead the work forward, using the broad actions within the strategy and the framework to tailor an action plan of their own. A monitoring and reporting framework was later provided.
Working with independent race equality specialists as partners, a comprehensive progress report was released. This linked the strategy clearly to legally required race equality action plans as well as specific plans under the strategy, giving a holistic view of both progress and next steps.
Progress was distinctly mixed, with many of the findings regarding the robustness of approaches echoing the considerations for strengthening practice outlined at Section 2 of this review. For organisations within the sector, however, the findings of the progress report appear useful, setting out clear examples of good practice and weak practice. The recommendations given tended to be specific recommendations for practice (as opposed to the common tendency for recommendations to simply echo concerns without a strong indication of how these can be redressed).
Interestingly, the progress report stated that requirements to produce race equality schemes and action plans had been beneficial in enabling organisations to understand institutional racism, with the result that they were able to develop a local consensus for cultural and organisational change.
This could be seen as linking to the concerns of the race equality sector on the enactment of the Equality Act 2010, which they believed would weaken the focus on race equality. Both in the documents gathered from national agencies and in previous research, it has been evident that this did come to pass; where organisations previously published full race equality action plans, more recent public sector equality duty reporting rarely includes meaningful action on racial inequalities, even where these are evident within reporting (although this research has also demonstrated that even where actions are in place, there is no guarantee of change; the effectiveness of the actions is a greater concern than the volume).
Overall, this was the most promising example of a standalone race equality strategy implemented by the national agencies. However, progress reporting still lacked a focus on change in the lives of minority ethnic people. It focussed instead on the extent to which the actions had been implemented, and associated processes, practices and outputs. This is perhaps the most common 'missing link' in race equality work in Scotland's public sector, and has persisted over time.
Looking at approaches to equality within the national agencies, it is clear that most equality work is not designed and implemented in a linear or cyclical form that enables change to be measured. This is especially the case for equality work that, whilst no doubt aligned to it, was not part of formal public sector equality duty reporting.
In all cases, one or more of the following essential steps was missing:
- Setting out evidence and baselines
- Specifying the change they want to create in the lives of people with specific protected characteristics
- Detailing the types of targeted, evidence based intervention they will deliver (including information on responsibility for implementation)
- Performance measurement and accountability measures, setting out performance indicators, targets and/or milestones
- Reporting on progress using robust measures of change which clearly relate to the inequality being tackled and the interventions delivered
It was beyond the remit of this review to undertake a detailed examination of the public sector equality duty publications produced by national agencies. However, a previous programme of research conducted by CRER on behalf of the Equality and Human Rights Commission on this subject had findings regarding processes and practices which echo the findings of this review.
In particular, the research found:
- Organisations poorly articulated the change they intended to create through equality work, focusing on actions instead of outcomes
- Progress reporting was weak, so tracking the difference equality work has made over time was generally not possible
- The link between evidence of inequalities and the equality work undertaken by public bodies was often unclear
- Organisations very rarely developed a comprehensive planning and performance measurement system for their equality work, and where they had, this did not necessarily indicate that it would be used in practice
- Persistent gaps could be identified in the availability and use of equality data
- A need to shift focus from simply gathering data to using it effectively to produce change was identified
In relation to public sector employment specifically, the Scottish Parliament Equality and Human Rights Committee's 2020 inquiry report on race equality, employment and skills clearly demonstrated that public bodies, including national agencies, had some way to go in understanding and tackling racial inequalities.
Its conclusions stated:
- The Committee is unanimously of the view that, despite all the mechanisms or tools at the disposal of public authorities, including their responsibilities under the public sector equality duty (and the Scottish specific duties), the ethnicity employment gap remains unacceptable and much more needs to be done to reduce the ethnicity pay gap and occupational segregation
- The Committee concludes that Chief Executives and senior leaders within public authorities must demonstrate leadership in this area. It is two decades past the time for acknowledging there is work to do. Now is the time for concerted, definitive action to be taken
- This Committee sincerely hopes that our successor committee will not have to revisit this subject, unless it is to reflect on the result of positive action, accountability, and eradication of institutional racism
A strong response from Scottish Government ensued, with the Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Jamie Hepburn MSP, writing to all public bodies about the importance of tackling institutional racism. He requested information from these organisations on their approaches to implementing the report's recommendations. This led to the online Race Employment Summit in March 2021, where organisations were asked to sign up to a joint statement affirming their commitment to implementing the recommendations.
This is a positive example of Scottish Government using its influence to encourage consistent approaches to race equality in the public sector, and an indication that Scottish Government is increasingly working from an anti-racist perspective.
An earlier evaluation of work undertaken by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland to support public bodies, including national agencies, to better perform the equality duties published findings which remain relevant today.
In particular, the evaluation identified opportunities to better support public bodies to successfully undertake equality work:
- There were clear indications that 'one to one' support was the most effective form of support
- Support interventions needed to be proportionate and targeted ways of dealing with, and supporting different types and sizes of organisations, particularly smaller organisations
- There appeared to be a perceived disconnect for authorities that are remote from the central belt; methods of improving connections with these organisations to ensure that they have greater access to a range of good practice needed to be explored
- Performance measurement was a challenge, particularly for smaller organisations; tailored training, support and guidance were recommended
The body of evidence available on race equality work within national agencies and other public bodies suggests that, despite good intentions, many missed opportunities and inconsistencies have hampered progress.
Scottish Government may wish to consider whether there are opportunities to offer support and guidance to its national agencies on embedding race equality work.
Examples of interventions that Scottish Government could consider include:
- Working with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, if possible, to identify ways to strengthen enforcement of the Scottish specific public sector equality duties
- Assisting national agencies to 'join up' their approaches to seeking expertise and capacity building on race equality
- Identifying incentives to motivate national agencies to increase their focus on embedding race equality, accompanied by disincentives for inaction (for example, working with audit and inspection bodies and using levers such as outcomes agreements and funding requirements)
- Building on the work begun through the 2021 Race and Employment Summit, where public bodies were asked to sign up to a joint statement committing to tackling institutional racism and implementing the recommendations of the Equality and Human Rights Committee's inquiry report on race equality, employment and skills