Equality and Human Rights Budget Advisory Group minutes: February 2023

Minutes from the group meeting held on 16 February 2023.

Attendees and apologies


Angela O'Hagan (AOH)


  • Naomi Clark (NC)


  • Lesley Irving (LI)


  • David Holmes (DH)
  • Ben Walsh (BW)
  • Alison Hosie (AH)
  • Jillian Matthew (JM)
  • Kenny Stewart (KS)
  • Jacqueline Farmer (JF)
  • Sara Cowan (SC)
  • Joanna Anderson (JA)


  • Joe Smith (JS)
  • Jane McAteer (JM)


  • Tom Lamplugh (TL)
  • Joanne Briggs (JB)
  • Simon Wakefield (SW)
  • Chris Birt (CB)
  • Emma Congreve (EC)
  • Rob Priestley (RP)
  • Mirren Kelly

Items and actions

AOH welcomed to the group, confirmed there is no current actions to cover on the tracker and introduce Lesley Irving (LI) who has been leading on the strategic review of violence against women and girls (VAWG) funding.

Strategic review of VAWG funding

A paper was shared with the group in advance of the meeting - Violence Against Women and Girls - Strategic Review of Funding and Commissioning of Services: terms of reference

LI spoke to the paper that was shared and covered the breadth of work that the review is covering. This includes publishing a report of their findings in early June. This report will include a range of recommendations for Scottish Government to consider.

LI explained the principal aim of the review is to develop a more consistent, coherent, collective and stable funding model that will ensure high quality, accessible specialist services across Scotland for women, children and young people experiencing any form of VAWG.

The work is considering human rights principles, such as exploring minimum levels of customer service and ensuring no regressive steps are made. These areas can be so impactful on services and more importantly, the people using them. LI mentioned the Minority Ethnic Carers of People Project (MECOPP) as a practical example to where services were being impacted by funding.

The review is also looking at funding from both a local and national level, determining if any steps taken can be strengthened by legislation and is suggesting that the role, contribution and resourcing of local violence against women partnerships is more defined in order to progress forward.

LI described the review as taking both an intersectional and Human Rights approach. An example being seen in their developed engagement strategy, which over the last year is being implemented. Over 80 meetings have occurred with different individuals, groups and organisations. Many of these being virtual, which has meant those involved in the review could be resource and time efficient. There has also been instances of face to face conversations and these have also been beneficial. LI also spoke about some great meetings that had taken place with a range of individuals and groups, including with minority ethnic older and younger women, women of faith and gypsy traveller women from three different stages of life. Noting they are also meeting with women with learning difficulties later this month.

LI spoke about the cross-government analysis that took place and reflected on this work, explaining the difficulties of knowing all the areas that were funding VAWG services across Government. Sometimes the information they received was by chance and it is not clear if all areas are being captured. LI noted this was difficult in terms of accessing this information to fully inform the review and that this was a missed opportunity for Scottish Government in many respects. LI also highlighted actual spend of funding was not easy to track nor the outcomes that funding is delivering.

Feedback from the review so far included the reliance on crisis work opposed to early work and prevention measures being implemented. As well as, the service offer for minority ethnic women and girls as being suboptimal.

LI spoke about the challenges that smaller organisation can face, including monitoring and reporting being more onerous on them in comparison to larger organisations.

The recommendations of the review will include the implementation of multi-year spending reviews. There has been an ongoing and strong request for funding periods to be longer, which would be very beneficial to smaller organisations in providing more stability. It takes some small organisations more time to build up their services and by the time they are running, they are then faced with potential funding being stopped. There can be a great loss of expertise because of this. In terms of the length of time of longer funding periods, there has been discussions around both 5 and 10 years funding periods, with recognition that 10 years is significant period of time and flexibility would need built in.

LI mentioned another benefit of the review was having an independent chair and this should be encouraged. Emphasising that an independent chair can bring: knowledge, expertise and connections. LI closed and reinforced the point that critical mass in areas of equality and human rights is needed to have impact.

AOH thanked LI for speaking to the core points of interest for the group – including the cross-government analysis work, transparency against the budget process and how things are evaluated, monitored and followed through.

AOH noted how opaque budget documents can be, with the same amounts of money being mentioned across portfolios without distinction and a lack of overall transparency. AOH noted LI’s point that money can’t be followed in Government budget spending and mentioned the separate workstreams being conducted by Scottish Exchequer colleagues and AH on fiscal transparency.

AOH asked BW if there was anything he could offer in response to the transparency points LI made and an update on multi-spending reviews. AOH also asked JM to offer advice in response to the points made on a lack of traceability and SC to discuss the implications of short run funding, and where her work and the Scottish Women’s Budget Group surveys with woman on violence and domestic abuse in the cost of living crisis might be useful.

Questions and further discussion

AH thanked LI and noted that more examples in how work like the VAWG strategic funding review translates into practise and what the barriers are, is fundamental in understanding how processes can be improved. If we can potentially collaborate on a case study example, this would be helpful in understanding how we currently do it and how we can improve it. When speaking about minimum core and regressive step, the examples are really helpful. AH noted it would be good to explore potentials of collaborating with LI and AOH.

Action: Meeting with AOH, AH and LI on case study examples

AOH mentioned when talking about minimum levels of service that these are very much the starting point and not the aspirational limit. Similarly, minimum levels of service may also look different for different groups of people. Therefore, they must be contextual and tailored to work towards equal treatment. This can be challenging from a messaging point for individuals, depending on the level of equality and equity understood. With funding, this is similar to how we look at gender budgeting and can be linked back to AH’s pie analogy – is the pie big enough to begin with?

LI described the concept of minimum core as a floor not a ceiling.

BW thanked LI and noted reflections from the points made by AH. There is a lot to learn from how the review has been conducted.

BW mentioned the progress being made in our budget documentation. BW recognised the complexity in making really clear links between spending and outcomes, acknowledging the need for the right analysis and how do Scottish Government ensure they are providing it at the right place at the right time.

BW reflected on open government partnership work being done around following the money for fiscal portal, and that integrating this conversation and the examples given could strengthen this work further. BW suggested further conversations in the open government partnership forum will help bring colleagues on the journey.

Action: Meeting with BW and LI on open government partnership work

BW then touched on the Scottish Government multi-spending review and previous indications that we would be in a position to do this. Recognising the government have not been able to go as far as ambitions were laid out. BW reflected that challenges have come from UK government level decisions over the past year, impacting the progress of work. BW noted that improvements were still being sought and Nuala Gormley (NG) is working in this area within public spending. BW also mentioned the challenges of being devolved and controlling half of spending which makes it difficult in fulfilling these commitments. It is likely to be a relatively slow process while dealing with the challenges within the current fiscal framework.

AOH recognised the complexities but urged the need to have the agreement or alignment as discussed at the National Advisory Council on Women and Girls accountability day where the Permanent Secretary spoke to this. AOH noted there is space to work with in this area and work collectively. It might be worth flagging some of the review findings with NG.

Action: Ben to share review findings of VAWG funding with NG

SC introduced herself and spoke about the focus on how to have longer funding commitments. SC noted previous Scottish Government commitments and indication to move to longer funding periods. SC stated the cost of living crisis has seen services be stretched even further and services have been underfunded for some time. The impacts of the pandemic and so forth as seen the increase of vulnerability to these services and their ability to deliver. Services are expected to continue delivering while being worried about keeping or securing future funding.

SC noted that these vulnerabilities, the extra emphasis on the need for multi-year reviews and a longer term solution for funding has been raised for so long. There is a UK wide report from End Violence Against Women and Girls Coalition which shows what it means for people who can’t leave or access the appropriate services. Creation of additional vulnerabilities for groups and services, and the needs and demands for these services are escalating.

JM reflected on the transparency points and remarks made around “following the money”. JM noted it being comparable with what was seen in the review of drug and alcohol services. Which had similar findings with different pots of money and levels of fundings being seen across portfolios and different areas. JM noted it was a short piece of work but is relevant, despite its complexities. There has been some improvement in this area seen late last year.

JM mentioned Audit Scotland will be conducting a deeper review on alcohol and drugs funding from the work carried out last year. JM noted that any transferable learning will be shared in the future.

Future action: JM to update on further review of alcohol and drugs funding when work is underway

KS asked about the procurement and grant funding of some of the core services being discussed. KS also spoke about Regulation 9 of the PSED Scottish Specific Duties which refers to the need for Local Authorities to consider adding equality criteria in their award criteria for procurement, and noted this might be particularly helpful with some of the issues LI raised. KS asked LI if she had seen Regulation 9 being used in the review.

LI noted that core services are still having to being funded by grants. Yes, there is procurement happening, however as mentioned earlier – there is reasons why smaller organisations can be disadvantaged in this process (admin pressures etc.). Rather than seeing the regulation 9 borne out in criteria, what we are seeing is criteria for tender processes that can actually in turn, eliminate this. LI went on to share an example of this from previous work in VAWG. Explaining if a Local Authority decides to go into tender for a service, they may decide they want to take a holistic approach and in this ensure that the eligibility criteria includes perpetrator programmes, support for both men and women and other horizon thinking that is going on. However, the reality of this often means, smaller organisations are not resourced to fulfil these aspirations, and in this case for the three local women’s aids groups because they solely focus on VAWG, were then not eligible for the funding. The award can then end up going to an organisation that may not be the best fit but has the resource to meet the requirements. In the example, this was an organisation called SACRO, who are then unable to deliver the level of services required for the intended groups. Individuals then find themselves trying to access alternative services, like the women’s aids groups. It has always been difficult with this approach and meant that smaller organisations, like the women’s aids groups, have ended up having increased pressures in their services without access to the appropriate funding.

LI noted there are other examples, and it is sometimes the debate being raised around ethical over competitive procurement of goods and services. AOH noted the issues could also be caused in part, by the overall approach to policy making that Scottish Government takes.

AOH remarked from the discussion the opportunities for individuals to follow up, and the usefulness of clear examples given to inform other areas of work or practice.

Any other business

PSED review update

JS noted it was an interesting discussion and that hearing the real life example is extremely useful. JS explained his team have returned in the last few weeks from working in the Ukraine response team and are getting ready to continue delivery of the work required on the review. There is two priorities for the team. One is the mainstreaming report and the other is continuing the review of the Public Sector Equality Duty. They have updated the Minister on latest plans and are seeking agreement for next steps. JS noted they are aiming for an establishment of a working group with both public bodies and equality advocacy groups. Acknowledging, from the first set of stakeholder engagement, there is further work to be done and plans to dive further into these areas this year. This includes looking at international comparator work – this work is often considered in the Scottish or UK context, however, there is increasing interest to look at what happens in other countries. The timescales we are working towards is still 2025 for any new regulations to come into force.

AOH thanked everyone for their time and for the discussion. The EHRBAG secretariat will be in touch over the next couple of weeks with updates and also calls for any views or comments to be considered ahead of meeting Ms McKelvie on the 2 March 2023.

The next EHRBAG meeting will be to discuss the awaited Scottish Government responses to the EHRBAG recommendations.



Telephone: 0300 244 4000

Equality and Budget Advisory Group
Scottish Government
Mainstreaming and Strategy Unit
Area 3H North
Victoria Quay

Equality and Human Rights Budget Advisory Group

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