Coronavirus (COVID-19): evidence gathered for Scotland's route map - equality and Fairer Scotland impact assessment

This is the first publication of an overview of the range of poverty and equality impacts evidenced in relation to the complex range of measures that will be taken as we follow the route map out of the crisis and focus on the mission of making Scotland a greener, fairer and more prosperous country.

This document is part of a collection

2. Background to Equality and Fairer Scotland considerations for the Route Map

Recognising the extraordinary impact of the measures, Scottish Ministers have put in place a statutory requirement to review the restrictions every three weeks to ensure they remain proportionate and necessary. The Framework for Decision Making makes clear that these reviews will be informed by assessments of options for relaxation in relation to their impact on the 'four harms', their viability, and broader considerations.

As we implement the Route Map, the Scottish Government is mindful of its obligations under the Equality Act 2010 and the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012. Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 places a general duty (known as the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED)) on public authorities to have due regard to: eliminating discrimination, harassment and victimisation; advancing equality of opportunity; and fostering good relations between persons who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.

In the decisions that we make we must consider how they will meet the three needs in the general equality duty. We are also required by the Fairer Scotland Duty (which forms part of the Equality Act 2010) to actively consider ('pay due regard' to) how to reduce inequalities of outcome caused by socio-economic disadvantage. In order to address those needs and requirements, and to fulfil our legal duties, we have sought to assess impacts across the range of protected characteristics as specified in the Equality Act 2010 based upon existing and developing evidence.

The Scottish Government considered from the outset whether the lockdown provisions were consistent with the Equality Act 2010 and also considered whether the provisions could constitute indirect discrimination. The Act states that indirect discrimination occurs when a policy which applies in the same way for everybody has an effect which particularly disadvantages people with a protected characteristic, unless the person applying the policy can justify the differential treatment.

Where potential indirect discrimination has been identified we are mindful that this must be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim to comply with equality law. This will be kept under close review. While in many cases, the provisions have applied to all persons irrespective of protected characteristic, we recognise that not all people or communities are affected in the same way or to the same degree. Therefore, the evidence we have gathered and ongoing dialogue with stakeholders, including equality stakeholders, will help to inform thinking as to how the proposals may need to be adjusted or mitigated to remove barriers or disadvantages for particular equality groups, to better advance equality; to foster good relations; or to reduce socio-economic disadvantage.

From the start, measures were put in place to support people as they complied with lockdown guidance, alongside maintaining vital services to continue to support the health and wellbeing of the population. New measures included:

  • £350 million of community funding announced on 18 March[5] to support access to food when people are unable or cannot afford to go to the shops; and provide general funding for local community or third sector groups to develop appropriate support in their local area.
  • The Scottish Government's national helpline, which is designed for those people who may be at risk but not shielding and who don't have community support available, as well as those who cannot get online, puts them in touch with their local authority to access essential help.
  • The Scottish Government's COVID-19 guidance for those who are at risk or need additional support provides additional information. For example, Ready Scotland's additional support page provides information for disabled people, linking to Disability Information Scotland.
  • The Scottish Government's COVID-19 guidance also provides a link to domestic abuse support, while Ready Scotland's additional support page also provides links to support for anyone experiencing domestic abuse, forced marriage or anyone affected by sexual violence.
  • Although schools and early learning and childcare (ELC) settings were closed to most children and young people during lockdown, critical provision remained in place for children of key workers and more vulnerable children to support the national response to the pandemic and in recognition of the harm that could come to vulnerable children without ELC or school structure and resources.
  • To meet immediate priorities, £1.5 million has been allocated to Scottish Women's Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland to ensure that these vital services are maintained during the crisis and that they remain open and available to victims. In addition, the Scottish Government's COVID-19 guidance on domestic abuse makes it clear that anyone who is experiencing domestic abuse, or any form of harm, can leave home to seek help from support services, family or friends, to report it to the Police or take measures to stay safe and provides sources of support (online and via helplines).
  • The Scottish Government's COVID-19 Transition Fund helps organisations respond to the changing needs of their members in a sustainable way. This can mean help in accessing food and sustenance, help in getting online and setting up online networks or creating local networks to engage with key services.

The general equality duty is applicable to the ongoing operation of policies, even where they have been subject to impact assessment at the outset, and the Scottish Government is mindful of this. Therefore, measures which form part of the Route Map will be reviewed to ensure that their effect on people with one or more of the protected characteristics or socio-economic disadvantage is central to our thinking. The evidence alongside ongoing dialogue with stakeholders will help to inform thinking as to how the proposals may need to be adjusted to remove barriers or disadvantages for particular equality groups or people in poverty, to better advance equality or to foster good relations.

As Scotland emerges from lockdown, following the Route Map, some changes are delivered through regulations, such as the opportunity to take part in outdoor recreation. Other measures are delivered through changes to guidance, such as the opportunity to take part in some non-contact sporting activities. However, all measures are considered on the basis of their impact on tackling inequality.



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