Publication - Minutes

Equality Budget Advisory Group minutes: May 2019

Date of meeting: 29 May 2019

Minutes of the Equality Budget Advisory Group (EBAG) meeting held on 29 May 2019.

Equality Budget Advisory Group minutes: May 2019

Attendees and apologies

Attendees

  • Angela O’Hagan, WiSE, Glasgow Caledonian University (Chair)
  • Hugh Buchanan, Public Spending
  • Liz Hawkins, Communities Analysis
  • Alison Hosie, Scottish Human Rights Commission
  • Uzma Khan, Office of the Chief Economic Advisor
  • Jim McCormick, Joseph Rowntree Foundation
  • Sarah Watters, COSLA
  • Gillian Achurch, Communities Analysis (Secretariat)

For housing discussion (Item 1)

  • Elaine Bell, More Homes Division
  • Carol Calder, Audit Scotland
  • Ingrid Drever, More Homes Division

Apologies

  • Tim Ellis, Performance and Outcomes
  • James Fowlie, COSLA
  • Mirren Kelly, COSLA
  • Anne Meikle, Scottish Women’s Budget Group
  • Chris Oswald, Equality and Human Rights Commission
  • Fiona Page, Public Spending 
  • Richard Robinson, Audit Scotland
  • Sean Stronach, Equality Policy Unit

Items and actions

1. Update on Housing to 2040

Elaine Bell (Team Leader, Housing to 2040 Strategy) and her colleague Ingrid Drever offered an overview to the Group of the background and current progress on the Housing to 2040 strategy. The strategy will offer a vision for Scotland’s homes and communities in 2040 and set out how we will get there. Early stakeholder feedback welcomed the whole systems holistic approach, highlighted a need to improve existing stock, and suggested a need to recognise different needs of rural communities and to ensure input from communities. Options will be published in a consultation this autumn, followed by a route map to 2040 in spring 2020. 

Elaine confirmed that inclusive growth would be part of the narrative. Liz asked whether the supply side emerged as a theme in feedback and Elaine stated that many people mentioned the need to continue the affordable supply programme. The private sector suggested that the paper had downplayed their role. Elaine noted that a broad range of stakeholders were consulted but that the vast majority of responses came from the social housing sector. The team recently talked to Homes for Scotland and will encourage individual house builders to respond. 

Ali asked about whether the right to housing was raised and Elaine confirmed that a couple of people mentioned that this should be seen as a human right. Ali noted that this framing contradicts the fact that the right to housing already exists in international law that Scotland has ratified. 

On equalities budgeting, Elaine noted that work up to now has been on high level principles and policy options. Accessible housing is a theme in the discussion paper and intergenerational inequity has been discussed. Work on the EQIA will frame their thinking, and the Director for Housing and Social Justice is hoping to host a seminar with reps from the housing sector to consider equalities.

Ingrid noted that they are at the very start of the EQIA process. Angela asked what baseline data we have on housing need and how good this is. Gillian will pass this to Adam Krawczyk, SG analyst working with the Housing to 2040 team, but Liz summarised that we have data on housing tenure  over time from the Scottish Household Survey and data on completions and approvals in the social rented sector on a yearly basis. There are also regularly produced homelessness statistics. Local authorities are required to produce housing strategies which consider all aspects of housing needs. Elaine and Ingrid left the meeting.

Carol noted that Audit Scotland are starting an audit of affordable housing, which will look at whether housing built as affordable meets the needs of the population. They will take a case study approach as they are not able to see the level of demand by council areas and will consider whether the needs of different groups (older, disabled, people of future) are being met. There will be 4 case study areas. Fieldwork will take place in June-July 2020, with publication in spring 2021. Ali asked whether it will include the experiences of those living in the housing and Carol stated that case studies councils will be asked how they have engaged the people in their area. Audit Scotland’s Human Rights and Equalities Advisory Group has been asked to recommend groups to consult. Ali sits on this group and so will feed in. 

The case study councils are being selected for geographical spread, urban/rural mix and a mix of councils with and without their own housing stock. Uzma suggested that an area with a significant minority ethnic population should be included.

Angela asked about how the audit is intended to inform the Housing to 2040 strategy given that the Housing to 2040 route map will be published in spring 2020. Carol suggested that the audit will partly be a backwards look at previous objectives, with the second part identifying barriers and issues that need to be addressed.

Jim asked whether the previous focus on settled accommodation will be retained, or if the current issues around temporary accommodation will also be in scope. Carol noted that this is the first in a series of performance audits on housing, so the scope this time is tightly focused on whether objectives were met. It won’t look specifically at issues such as homelessness or housing for older people but will ask how well it has involved people, met their needs, and equalities in the widest sense. Carol left the meeting.

Jim reflected on the need to ensure that those experiencing housing insecurity is integral to housing policy work and not an optional add-on. He suggested that the Group should emphasise that the key is to always consider these issues and strive to improve participation rather than it having to be done perfectly. Angela voiced concern that engagement seems to be through intermediaries, rather than directly. 

Sarah noted that COSLA are keen to look at the issues faced by Gypsy Travellers and to ensure that culturally appropriate accommodation is part of the 2040 scope. Angela proposed that the Group feedback the need to start with lived experience and for this to inform consultation planning and resource allocation.

Sarah added that COSLA have scope to help councils with Housing Need and Demand Assessments and can also seek to influence the guidance especially around the use of available data. Liz noted that we don’t currently know who goes into the affordable homes that we build.

Actions

  • Carol to let Gillian know when their scoping note has been published on their website.
  • Gillian will circulate the link to the Group so that they can offer feedback.

2. Update on COSLA representation on EBAG

Mhoraig has left COSLA and recruitment is ongoing. Mirren will take Mhoraig’s place on EBAG for now. Sarah will feed the housing discussion back to Kathy Cameron who has a housing remit and sits on Audit Scotland’s group. 

3. Presentation from Ali on HR budgeting

Ali gave an overview of the background to the SHRC’s work and how HR budgeting has become a significant part of this. She noted that Ms McKelvie’s (Minister for Older People and Equalities) support has been key. A lack of fiscal transparency has made budget analysis very difficult and consequently they have focused on HR principles within the budget. 

Ali noted that there is a lot of international guidance about the minimum that governments should be providing, and we need to establish what the minimum core should look like in Scotland. Our minimum core will look different to some other countries but there are some areas where we’re not currently meeting the minimum international core, such as the rights to housing and adequate and nutritious food. 

Budgeting is a key part of HR because it helps us understand what the reality of resource allocation is, and how commitment to HR goes beyond rhetoric. Ali highlighted that it is illegal to take backward steps and that there is an obligation to maximise resources as well as to responsible resource allocation. Jim noted that prioritisation of existing resources nevertheless also needs foregrounding.

Uzma suggested that we need to consider how to mainstream this, and asked whether this could be done through the NPF. Ali noted that while it is a positive step to have a HR outcome in the NPF, SHRC are now pushing for HR-based process indicators as well as outcome indicators. Uzma also observed current struggles with relating the outcomes back to policy. Hugh added that we also need to think about this through the political lens in identifying not just the available options but the best option, and justifying this decision. Ali noted that a new HR Act would open the door to look at these things afresh. 

Ali and Uzma noted the tricky balance that has to be struck with performance frameworks, from which some important policy focuses will always be left out.

Uzma posed the question of whether HR budgeting is easiest done from top-down national level or bottom-up from local areas.

Angela suggested that we should improve what’s already in existence, rather than framing HR as a new addition. She noted the importance of not seeing equality, gender, and HR budgeting as distinct, but as different legislative levers, with the key being to draw on people’s lived experiences and improve real lived lives.

4. Presentation from Angela on gender/equality budgeting

Angela discussed gender budgeting examples from Barcelona, Andalucía and Berlin. 

She noted that Barcelona have taken dual strategy, combining mainstreaming an office for feminism and LGBTI. Barcelona’s principles are gender justice and a feminist economy – in contrast, Angela noted that Scotland lacks an overarching framework without gender equality or HR strategies.

Actions

  • Gillian to circulate Angela’s slides.

5. Update from Tim Ellis on NPF Outcomes Report

Tim shared a written update with the Group ahead of the meeting. It was suggested that we collate some EBAG commentary on this when it is published at the end of the week.

Actions

  • Gillian to circulate the link to the report when it is published.
  • EBAG to provide comments on the NPF Wellbeing Report.

6. Discussion of the proposed pre-summer equality budgeting product

Liz discussed a draft guidance note. She noted that the aim of the guidance is to encourage thinking not only about budgets, but also policies from an equalities and human rights perspective. Getting senior buy-in should be a priority. The intention was for this to be for the public sector as a whole, but views on this are welcome.

It was agreed that it should be kept short, with the current length the maximum. Angela suggested that it should stress the legal aspect as the underpinning but not the rationale. Sarah suggested that it should not be statutory guidance. It was agreed that pulling Fairer Scotland, equalities and human rights together is useful, and that something tying this together could be added at the start. 

It was agreed that the guidance should offer support to the wider public sector. Jim agreed that this needs visible leadership and asked if there was a process that could follow publication. He suggested that a joint public sector and government Discovery group, could usefully create some examples and champion the guidance to ensure it doesn’t get lost.

Angela proposed more messaging about seeing policy and resourcing decisions in the round, as well as sharp examples to make clear that issues that might not have an initially obvious gender dimension, often do. Jim suggested that it should also focus on how least harm can be done if spending cuts have to be made. 

Angela suggested that the forthcoming Welsh work might have some interesting learning for us, and that we could think later in the year about whether some pan-UK collaboration would be useful.

Hugh noted that the MTFS would be published on 30 May, including a framework for the expected spending review. UK Gov have not made clear their plans for a spending review, which is a challenge. SG are working towards 3-year resource budgeting. 

Liz raised the question of whether or not the EBS should be repeated in its current format this year. If EBAG thinks that it should change then agreement and new guidance would be required by end October. Angela reiterated the need to consider the best way of supporting effective scrutiny, such as among committees. 

Actions

  • Comments on the draft to be sent to Gillian by 7 May.
  • Liz to share the draft with a few senior civil servants.
  • Angela to ask if the Minister would be happy to put the guidance out with a covering letter.