Publication - Minutes

Equality Budget Advisory Group minutes: June 2021

Published: 25 Oct 2021
Date of meeting: 14 Jun 2021

Minutes of the Equality Budget Advisory Group (EBAG) meeting held on 14 June 2021.

Published:
25 Oct 2021
Equality Budget Advisory Group minutes: June 2021

Attendees and apologies

Attendees

  • Angela O'Hagan (Chair)
  • Jennie Barugh, Director Performance and Strategic Outcomes, SG
  • Chris Birt, Joseph Rowntree Foundation
  • Aaron Bolton, Policy Assistant, COSLA
  • Emma Congreve, Fraser of Allander
  • Sara Cowan, Scottish Women’s Budget Group
  • Tim Ellis, Performance & Outcomes, SG
  • Matthew Farrell, Head of Economic Recovery and Insights, SG
  • Nuala Gormley, Budget, Pay and Pensions division, SG
  • Liz Hawkins, Equality & Social Justice Analysis, SG
  • Jon Hunter, Equalities Analysis, SG
  • Tom Lamplugh, Office of the Chief Social Policy Adviser, SG
  • Dougie McLaren, Public Spending, SG
  • Trevor Owen, Mainstreaming Equality and Human Rights, SG
  • Richard Robinson, Audit Scotland
  • Simon Steele, Public Spending SG
  • Kenny Stewart, EHRC
  • Sean Stronach, Equality & Human Rights Division, SG
  • Phil Young, Fiscal Transparency project, SG
  • Gillian Achurch, Equality & Social Justice Analysis, SG (Secretariat)

 Apologies   

  • James Fowlie, COSLA
  • Ali Hosie, Scottish Human Rights Commission
  • Mirren Kelly, COSLA
  • Lisa McDonald, Economic Policy & Capability, SG
  • Fiona Page, Public Spending, SG

 

Items and actions

Item 1. Welcome and update from the chair

Angela noted that the focus for this meeting was to discuss a range of different issues which synergise the Group’s different areas of focus, looking to the coming parliamentary term. Key areas of focus are: strategy for equality budgeting; supporting Scottish Government to build learning and competence; and information and experience exchange across the four nations. Angela noted that Ukraine is recent good example of gender budgeting work. Angela emphasised that there is currently a window of opportunity to maximise the potential of these different strands of work to deliver the outcomes the Group is aiming for.

Item 2. Scottish Government post-election updates

2.1 New ministerial set up and agenda in Equality Unit

Sean outlined the new ministerial team with oversight of equalities (Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government (Ms Robison) supported by the Minister for Equality and Older People (Ms McKelvie)). He noted that this is now part of a wider portfolio, presenting real opportunities in terms of the broader social justice agenda, and that it is helpful that the internal DG Communities’ responsibilities now closely mirror those of the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government. DG Communities are also working closely with the Deputy First Minister (DFM) in his cross-cutting role on COVID recovery. Sean also gave an overview of relevant SNP manifesto commitments and the focus on the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) review and incorporation of UN human rights treaties into Scots Law.

2.2 Performance and Outcomes update

Tim gave an update on Performance and Outcomes work. He noted that DFM is clearly focused on what SG delivers and how that is achieved, with an emphasis on cohesive working for greater collective impact. This year’s Programme for Government (PfG) will be an opportunity to amplify and sequence the manifesto commitments and set out next steps for delivery. The PfG is in development, including consideration of spend, and is likely to be published around the start of the next parliamentary session. Teams are being asked to include consideration of national outcomes, equality, socio-economic and human rights impacts in their proposals. They hope to include a stand-alone equalities and human rights section in the PfG as well as integrating throughout.

Kenny asked who specifically has responsibility for progressing legislation, and Sean confirmed that it would be the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government. Kenny also asked if impact assessments will be published alongside the PfG and how the team are thinking about the Fairer Scotland Duty (FSD). Tim anticipates that impact assessment will be policy-specific and that the FSD will be considered within the NPF and outcomes.

Angela suggested that there is an opportunity to capture the learning from the last PfG and Tim noted that while the PfG is just one manifestation of broader set of issues, as reflected in EBAG’s recommendations, the team are looking at learning on the format that they are asking people to submit proposals in.

Richard asked how easy it would be to distinguish pre-COVID from COVID impacts on outcomes and inequalities. Tim confirmed that this will be incredibly difficult, but that his team will do the best they can. He added that there is a tension between trying to break down the impact of individual policy areas versus overall outcomes, but that there is a definite awareness of the inequalities exposed and exacerbated by COVID and a determination not to return to how things were before.

2.3 Mainstreaming work

Trevor updated that a new mainstreaming and strategy unit in SG is now working to the Director for Equality, Inclusion and Human Rights and they are starting to shape a strategy focused on evidence, lived experience, capacity building, and enhancing accountability (both internally and with regulators and parliament). They are planning deep-dive stakeholder engagements during summer and autumn and will do a formal consultation on the strategy. They will shortly be engaging with Ministers on the SNP manifesto commitment to develop a diversity and inclusion strategy and explore the integration of workstreams. Finally, they have been working on the PSED review and expect to consult formally in late 2021 subject to Ministers’ views, following further engagement on the improvement proposals set out in the Phase 1 review report. New SG equality outcomes were published pre-election along with the mainstreaming report.

Emma noted that it was unfortunate that learning disability and autism policy does not sit within the Equality Unit.

Angela asked how equality outcomes are being incorporated into the PfG and NPF work. Tim stated that the PfG is about setting out what Government is going to do, and part of the job is to integrate outcomes into this. There is always a balance to strike between a central and more diffused approach. Trevor noted that his team want to use supporting the PfG process as an opportunity for engagement and capacity building, looking at what has been said on returns around equality outcomes and offering feedback. They hope to develop this going forward.

Chris suggested that it is more of a capacity and skills than process issue within teams in terms of the analysis that goes into returns. He asked what was planned for improving this. Tim agreed but suggested that process is also important, and hopes that this will encourage people to think about their capacity locally. Trevor also noted that the mainstreaming strategy has a strong central theme on organisational capability, capacity and culture and this will look carefully and how to improve the application of equality and human rights analysis across the organisation.

2.4 Economic Recovery Plan implementation

Matthew set out that following the Economic Recovery Implementation Plan, Economic Policy and Capability are now looking at bringing all the various actions published across different documents together and thinking about a structure for this. There is also a manifesto commitment to deliver a 10-year National Strategy for Economic Transformation. A timeline for recovery has been developed which moves from immediate recovery, to transition to normality and longer term transformation in the next 18 months, then with development of longer term actions over the next three They are looking to identify actions that can ‘turbocharge’ recovery. He noted that the National Economic Forum was taking place the same week and invited EBAG members.

Emma asked whether there are specific actions linked to those most impacted by COVID. Matthew said that analysis is focused on understanding where each action will impact, but that they could look to make this clearer in the outputs. Emma suggested that policies should be developed based on evidence about inequalities rather than assessing the impact on different groups. Angela also agreed that it should be conceptual as well as in the process.

Kenny asked if the recommendations from the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery give sufficient basis to consider equalities and human rights in recovery, and Matthew said that the team are planning stakeholder engagement to explore this more – and that he would include EBAG within that.

Chris asked how the recovery plan will contribute to child poverty targets and highlighted the importance of this. Matthew noted that specific actions are yet to be determined but that he will take this back as a strong recommendation. Tom also flagged a need to ensure that economic recovery work is explicitly linked to wider recovery work across SG to ensure that it supports cross-government objectives in a co-ordinated way.

Sara asked how the transformation strategy will be incorporated with other key plans and strategy, such as National Care Service, and Matthew said that this work will be led by Ms Forbes but working closely with DFM.

2.5 Finance update

Simon noted that Ms Forbes’ brief now includes economy. He updated that there is engaging with HM Treasury on UK funding plans for this year, this includes the timing of any UK Spending Review and UK Budget. He confirmed that the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy is aware of the EBAG recommendations.

Angela noted that she, Ali and Lucy Mulvagh (Heath and Social Care Alliance) met with Simon Wakefield from SPICe, and tried to encourage them to include equalities and human rights in the induction of new members. She notes that it will be interesting to see the quality of pre-budget scrutiny this year. Dougie noted that the establishment of committees has been delayed, so there will be a lot to be done quite quickly. Angela added that she will be sending the EBAG recommendations to committee convenors and clerks in due course. She also noted that it has been suggested that SPICe might be observers on EBAG, which will be considered.

Item 3. Fiscal transparency discovery project

Angela welcomed Jennie and Phil and noted that this project aligns with some of the process issues EBAG have been looking at.

Jennie and Phil presented their project. Its aims are to be open and transparent about how public funds are used and what is achieved with them. Currently a wide variety of organisations produce information and there are a lot of overlapping responsibilities. There are also a number of existing frustrations – e.g. scattered, disjointed, opaque processes, inflexible documents and inconsistent data. There is a key challenge around being able to categorise budget lines, spend and outcomes by key factors, including equality factors. Benefits of improved data presentation would include people being able to spend their time on advocacy rather than disentangling data, and improved transparency, hopefully leading to improved data quality. The next steps are to create capacity, capability and governance; creating the foundations for the portal; and identifying and implementing ‘quick wins’. They plan to approach this in an agile way.

Emma suggested that one quick win could be enabling the tracking of budgets over time, for example in a spreadsheet. Jennie agreed to add this to their list to look at. Chris echoed Emma’s point, and further suggested that it would be useful to be able to break down the large totals often referred to in terms of spend in a given area, as well as the interaction between money spent by local and national governments and other sister organisations.

Chris noted that the South Korean government have some interesting work in this space and Liz added that South Korea are also very strong on gender budgeting, with it being a legal requirement. Phil noted that it can be hard to understand the processes and tools behind the information presented in international outputs. Liz agreed, noting that it’s often the same for gender budgeting tools.

Angela asked how EBAG and this project could best work together to align goals. Jennie suggested that they will be soon looking at governance (likely a group of external users) so it could be that some EBAG members are part of that, as well as being engaged in terms of internal users and oversight.

Item 4. Equality Data Improvement Programme (EDIP)

As the agenda had run over, it was agreed that Jon would send slides and pick up any questions over email afterwards. He also gave a brief overview of the 18-month EDIP. It will focus on protected characteristics in the first phase, with potential to broaden it out at a later stage.

 Item 5. AOB and closing remarks

It was agreed that Angela, Liz and Gillian would draw together a paper for the next meeting mapping the overlap between all these projects, to structure EBAG’s work for the coming parliamentary term. This should also include noting how best to remain sighted on each project and where there needs to be structured engagement.  Angela invited members to submit questions or suggestions, including areas of specific policy focus.

Actions:

  • Angela, Liz and Gillian to prepare a paper for the next meeting mapping the overlap between all these projects, how best to remain sighted on each and where there needs to be structured engagement. 

Matthew to include external EBAG members within stakeholder engagement around integrating equality and human rights considerations into recovery.