Reporting on progress
Progress reporting is essential for meaningful work on race equality. Transparency and accountability are certainly important, but as reflected in previous sections, more important still is the potential for identifying what works to reduce racial inequalities.
Approaches to progress reporting on race equality strategies have varied widely over the years. The 2008 Race Equality Scheme, for example, was a labyrinthine document of over 400 pages with 52 separate action plans for directorates and national agencies, often functioning more as reports on ongoing work. In contrast, the final progress report on the Race Equality Statement 2008-2011 was only eight pages long, and not published until 2014 (three years after the statement lapsed).
Aside from a year one highlights report, there has not yet been a progress report on the Race Equality Framework for Scotland. In 2021, the Race Equality Action Plan 2017-2021 comes to an end, creating an opportunity to return to the original visions and goals of the Framework and to develop a new approach to monitoring and reporting on progress.
For this new approach, it is important to recognise that all previous approaches to progress monitoring have shared an intrinsic weakness; the focus on reporting outputs rather than outcomes. From an anti-racist perspective, there is little value in this approach. For race equality work to be meaningful, it needs to result in change in the lives of minority ethnic people.
As previously set out, in the limited number of examples where progress reporting demonstrated this change, the focus was mostly on improving diversity, for example within the workforce or within public appointments. The fact that equality monitoring data is available to track changes over time makes this an area where progress reporting should be routinely possible.
Other areas of race equality work may be more difficult to track, however it is important to identify at the outset how progress will be measured. The recent Race Recruitment and Retention Plan set out measures of progress, some of which were still focussed on creating outputs but many of which would enable reporting measurable changes.
As evident throughout this review, good progress reporting is only possible where action setting and implementation have been robust.
In many cases, progress reports consist of a narrative on the work undertaken with a relatively weak link to the commitments originally given, and a much weaker link (if any) to the change created.
This may be as a result of failures in the implementation process, meaning that commitments were not met. In some cases, they may have been superseded by other activities. There may be some other legitimate reason for work on a particular commitment to have lapsed. However, this is not often explained, creating the appearance of failure.
In some cases, like the 2008 – 2011 Race Equality Statement, the time elapsed between the commitments being made and the progress report (which in this case was published in 2014) makes reporting challenging because, with no regularity to progress reporting, information has been lost. This suggests that regular progress reporting is likely to be more effective; annual progress reporting could allow a cycle to develop which ensures that actions and commitments never fall off the radar.
Progress reporting practices which Scottish Government may want to consider include:
- Reporting on each action individually, for clarity
- Demonstrating the change over time in the issue which an action or commitment aims to address
- Where a commitment has not been met, explaining why and what else is being done to address the relevant inequalities
- Reporting on an annual basis to allow a cycle of monitoring and reporting to develop
The findings of the review regarding policy design come full circle at this point, with progress monitoring feeding into sustainability and continuity, as well as evidence gathering.