Publication - Minutes

Equality Budget Advisory Group minutes: October 2019

Date of meeting: 1 Oct 2019

Minutes of the Equality Budget Advisory Group (EBAG) meeting held on 1 October 2019.

Equality Budget Advisory Group minutes: October 2019

Attendees and apologies

Attendees

  • Angela O’Hagan, WiSE, Glasgow Caledonian University (Chair)
  • Joanne Briggs, Scottish Government Economic Strategy & Inclusive Growth Analysis
  • Hugh Buchanan, Scottish Government Public Spending Division (until 11am)
  • Tim Ellis, Scottish Government Performance and Outcomes Division
  • Liz Hawkins, Scottish Government Communities Analysis
  • Ali Hosie, Scottish Human Rights Commission
  • Mirren Kelly, COSLA
  • Richard Robinson, Audit Scotland
  • Gillian Achurch, Scottish Government Communities Analysis (Secretariat)

For Early Learning and Childcare item

  • Alison Cumming, Deputy Director for Early Learning and Childcare
  • Louise Scott, Head of Children and Families Analysis
  • Francesca Iwanyckyj, Policy Officer, ELC Parents and Providers Unit

Apologies

  • James Fowlie, COSLA
  • Uzma Khan, Scottish Government Office of the Chief Economic Advisor
  • Tom Lamplugh, Scottish Government Office of the Chief Social Policy Advisor
  • Jim McCormick, Joseph Rowntree Foundation
  • Anne Meikle, Scottish Women’s Budget Group
  • Sean Stronach, Scottish Government Equality Unit
  • John Wilkes, Equality and Human Rights Commission

Items and actions

1. General meeting 

Introductions were made. Joanne Briggs was attending on behalf of Uzma.

1.1 Minutes       

The minutes of the previous meeting were approved without amendment by those in the room. Members not in attendance have been asked to submit any corrections to the Secretariat by 4 October.

Following on from discussion at the last meeting, Liz suggested a deep dive on planning for 2020.

1.2 Equality Budget Statement (EBS)

Angela asked whether it is realistic at present to ask SG colleagues to reflect on the recently published guidance and say what they are doing in this area. Hugh suggested that this would be difficult at the moment, especially with the uncertainty around what shape the budget will be taking. 

Liz updated the Group that she shared a paper internally to set up a process of improvement for the next 18 months, with the first stage being reasonable actions for this year’s budget. This is still under discussion. We already ask people to use one ‘tool’, essentially a budget EqIA template, and as discussed at the last meeting the suggestion would be to strengthen this this year, perhaps offering some additional tools. 

Liz asked for opinions on whether EBAG would be content with SG being more flexible this year, for example by focusing on certain portfolios. She noted that the benefit of this could be in ensuring that we are not asking people in a time of pressure to produce work that is not fully used, and Hugh added that this focus would also help ensure that the largest areas of spend do not get masked by other things. This was debated by the Group, with discussion of the importance of the EBS role in highlighting how portfolios work together to achieve outcomes. EBAG agreed that removing some portfolios might signal that they do not have to be concerned with equality. It was agreed that all portfolios should be retained in the EBS this year. 

Angela asked whether there is a simple way of mapping the percentage of spend in the budget that will advance gender equality, following the analysis of the Programme for Government (PfG). Tim noted that this was easier for the PfG because there were a specific finite number of policies, but he cautioned that the PfG is only a snap-shot at a point in time. It is not the only statement of government action nor would it  necessarily encompass the things which would have most impact. Angela suggested summarising the budget’s alignment with the PfG in the EBS introduction but that the EBS should continue to address existing as well as new spend.

There was further discussion of what the EBS is used for and by whom, with general agreement that while it is not believed to be widely read it is an important learning tool for promoting the integration of equalities considerations into policy and budgeting decisions. 

The Group discussed how the EBS might help progress towards a more outcomes-focused budget. The relative merits of focusing on ‘key’ inequalities of outcome, how the budget aims to address these, and the impacts of previous spend. Ali proposed extending the trialling of new approaches to next year as well, and then introduce a new process with the new parliamentary term in 2021. The Group agreed that this was a good idea. 

Liz noted that last year’s EBS included a chapter on Fairer Scotland, which essentially addressed the poverty outcome of the NPF. However, it was not found particularly useful or strategic since it is difficult to articulate the whole-economy shift required at individual portfolio level. However, the Group thought this was beneficial to include and Liz suggested that we could perhaps supplement the Fairer Scotland/poverty outcome chapter with one focusing on another NPF outcome but that this would need further thought and consideration of capacity.

Tim noted that an ideal scenario might entail looking at all equality characteristics across each NPF outcome, and plotting how much money from each portfolio goes into these. This is not feasible, but some outcomes could be considered more important for equalities than others. Angela agreed that the NPF should be the starting point and suggested that a narrative about the aims of public spend in relation to key inequalities and which portfolios this spend is found in would be useful. It was agreed that it’s important for the EBS to make the linkages between overall spend and outcomes, and that of individual portfolios. Liz noted that people may be starting to develop these skills having conducted equalities analysis of the PfG.

Joanne noted that the infrastructure spending review is a year later, which could allow more scope to influence it.

2. Update from Early Learning and Childcare (ELC), Scottish Government

Angela welcomed colleagues back to EBAG and thanked them for their preparation and links to recently published EqIAs.

Alison offered a summary of the ELC expansion, including the early phasing that is already underway, and the focus on improving outcomes for children as well as wider wellbeing benefits for families. 3 EqIAs covering the expansion programme have been completed since colleagues attended EBAG in January 2019. Colleagues are keen to seek EBAG’s views on these, as well as a fourth EqIA that has also been published on secondary legislation and their advice on future ELC work and priorities.

Fran gave an overview of the EqIA on the expansion programme and uptake. This considered known barriers to uptake and how these will be addressed – work to further explore this is ongoing. This will be further facilitated once child-level data, including disability, sex, ethnicity, postcode, home language and Additional Support Needs, is available in 2021.

Alison summarised findings from the learning and wellbeing EqIA, which focuses on work to address the poverty-related attainment gap. It identified some areas where actions have the potential to have further positive effects, or where effects could be enhanced. She also offered an overview of the EqIA on the ELC workforce, which considered how to improve its diversity. Work in this area is ongoing, and currently focusing particularly on encouraging more men and minority ethnic people into ELC careers.

Louise presented her paper on evaluating the impact of the expansion with regards to protected characteristics, for which the Scottish Study of Early Learning and Childcare (SSELC) is the main vehicle. Baseline data from the Phase 1 report included indications of parental outcomes at an early stage. Literature indicates the stages that parents/carers tend to move through from children starting childcare to getting back into work, but this research will help us understand the timescales involved. The sample sizes involved in the first Scottish Household Survey (SHS) data on childcare did not allow for analysis by all equality groups, but Louise is working with the research company to explore whether the sample can be increased. Louise noted that there has been significant work on transforming the digital infrastructure to allow for the new census to be collected. The team are also planning to publish a summary of all ELC equalities data alongside their EqIAs. 

ELC colleagues recently met with Jim McCormick from JRF and found their conversation very helpful in thinking of ways to complement current quantitative analysis with more qualitative work to understand people’s stories, such as how they are deciding whether to use the offer, what other decisions they will then also take in their life, and how this policy dovetails with others, such as Fair Work and Universal Credit.

The Group put questions to ELC colleagues. Liz asked whether ethnicity is being measured in terms of visible ethnic minorities, or also white minorities. Louise confirmed that SSELC is collecting both. Ali highlighted that Gypsy/Traveller children have some of the poorest outcomes, and Fran noted that there is an ELC action in the Gypsy/Traveller action plan and they are working with Gypsy/Traveller colleagues to develop this. Angela asked whether recruitment work focuses on entry level jobs or looks across the grading structure, particularly with reference to minority ethnic workers who, when predominantly entering at a more junior level of an organisation, are less empowered to challenge racialized norms and behaviours. Alison responded that because of the national scale of the challenge, the current focus in on growing new entrants to the sector at practitioner level, but that they recognise the importance of stronger career pathways and are looking in the longer term at other actions such as recognition of prior learning. Joanne asked whether the socio-economic status of staff can be measured. Alison wasn’t sure but noted that this is the driver behind the living wage commitments. The team are aware that in England the relative position has been worsening, and so are mindful of this and working closely with STUC and unions to avoid this.

Richard asked what the implications of the living wage commitments would be – whether there is indication that capacity to deliver, especially in areas where need is greatest, will be impacted by the costs of higher wages. Alison noted that in general, areas where the population experiences a wide range of inequalities tend to experience greater deprivation and ELC is dominated by Local Authority provision, where staff are paid more than in the private or third sector. Some private nurseries have also suggested that there might be more motivation for them to operate in lower-income areas if there are more funded places. They are trying to avoid creating a 2-tier workforce. There is a challenge in encouraging the public to recognise the value of high-quality childcare. 

Angela noted the importance of examining the interplay between people’s different incomes and the extent to which ELC might contribute to women’s part-time working, unless the provision is fully flexible. Alison stated that they are working with the Fair Work team on how parental employability funds will capitalise on ELC. There is also a longer-term piece of work for them on engaging with employers’ responsibilities in this area. Alongside Child Poverty colleagues, the team are looking at family learning, parenting, understanding development needs and opportunities for parents to gain qualifications through this. 

Mirren asked whether there is proactive work to get children who need it most into better standard providers. Fran noted that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are no less likely, than those from advantaged backgrounds, to attend the high quality ELC. Alison went onto explain that because of this, our strategy has been to universally ensure high quality.

Liz enquired about the 20% of children aged 3-5 who are not in ELC. Louise noted that this figure is from the SHS, but according to the census, in pre-school years, it is almost universal (over 99%). There is also already a healthy proportion of 2 year-olds in ELC, but what is not known is how many of those who are eligible are absent. Aggregate data tells us that it is the target groups who are most likely to be absent. Alison noted that it is important to keep in mind that it is an entitlement rather than an obligation, but that nevertheless they are not yet satisfied that everyone who is eligible is fully informed about their options.

Angela asked about the linkages with the Child Payment, and Liz said that this will hopefully be explored through ongoing qualitative and systems evaluation work. 

3. Forthcoming meetings

Angela noted that EBAG’s November meeting will be a deep dive on health and social care. The Human Rights budget project will also be looking at social care on 21 October.

Actions

  • Angela to follow up with members for input on the focus of the November meeting.