1. Executive summary
The Public Sector Equality Duty requires the Scottish Government to pay due regard to the need to meet its obligations under the Equality Act 2010 by assessing the impact of applying a proposed new or revised policy or practice upon equality. Therefore, the Scottish Government undertook an Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) as part of the process to develop the Adult Learning Strategy.
An EQIA aims to consider how a policy may impact, either positively or negatively, on different sectors of the population in different ways. Equality legislation covers the Protected Characteristics of: age, disability, gender reassignment, sex, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion and belief, and sexual orientation. A full EQIA was undertaken to consider the impact of the Adult Learning Strategy on people with protected characteristics.
The purpose of creating the Adult Learning Strategy is to remove barriers to learning for the most marginalised people within society and to increase opportunities to adult learners in all of Scotland's communities. Particular areas of focus will be creating opportunities for people who left school with few or no qualifications, those who require help to engage in learning opportunities and people who have faced barriers to learning or require help to navigate their options for learning or progression.
Initial stages of development highlighted that data for learning that takes place under Community Learning and Development (CLD) and adult learning was not collected routinely and in a coherent and consistent way. This highlighted the need for more comprehensive and higher-quality evidence, as well as insight, to enable us to assess how policy decisions in adult learning are fair and are advancing equality of opportunity. A strategic action to develop coherent and consistent data and measurements based on methods used across Scotland was included in the strategy's plan in order for more robust evidence to be collected. This will involve collecting equalities data, which will better enable us to understand the experiences of learners from different protected characteristics.
The EQIA process highlighted that the barriers that adults faced in their learning were numerous and diverse and that extensive work needed to be carried out as part of the strategy's delivery to fully explore them. A theme on Access, Diversity and Inclusion was developed and refined throughout the drafting of the strategy and a strategic action has been developed:
- In consultation with learners, explore, define and reduce the barriers which impact adult learners, assessing how well systems provide accessible routes into and through learning leaving no-one behind and responding to learners' changing access requirements.
Analysis took place throughout the EQIA process and changes to the Adult Learning Strategy were notably made after assessing the impact of the pandemic on groups which showed that digital exclusion and employability needs had exacerbated. These changes were made to ensure that access to employability from community based adult learning was strengthened and that online learning was more available;
- Connect community-based adult learning with careers and employability services to create positive pathways for learners who face significant barriers to accessing work.
- Increase availability of, access to, and support for, online learning options for adult learners.
This EQIA has found that despite limited evidence for some protected characteristics specific to CLD, evidence for the wider context in which CLD operates shows that the impact of the Adult Learning Strategy will be positive across all many protected characteristics, in particular age, disability, sex, pregnancy and maternity, gender reassignment, sexual orientation and race. For religion and belief we have particularly limited data. However, we have found no evidence of negative consequences for people with this characteristic at this time. The strategy will focus on improving data collection on Community Learning and Development, including on equalities. If this reveals specific barriers around religion or belief we may explore whether future research is needed in this area.
The EQIA process did not identify indirect or direct discrimination through the policy intention, design or actions being implemented as part of the Adult Learning Strategy.
This EQIA analysis will be kept under regular review, with new data and evidence analysed as we improve data collection for CLD to monitor the impact of the Adult Learning Strategy on people with protected characteristics.
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