Equality outcomes and mainstreaming: report 2021

Update on our progress incorporating equality across its activities, summary of equality outcomes 2017 to 2021, report on new outcomes 2021 to 2025, data set and mainstreaming information.

Part 1 - The Scottish Government as a Policy Maker

1. Policy

Policies and legislation

Building on policies and legislation already in place, the Scottish Government continues to seek to promote and advance equality in all that it does. This report provides a picture of this ongoing work and examples of good practice across the organisation. It also provides information on how as an organisation the Scottish Government has ensured that equality has been central to the response to the coronavirus pandemic. It should however not be viewed as a totality of the wide range of work that the Scottish Government is progressing to promote and advance equality.

2. Consultation and Collaboration


1. A cornerstone of the Scottish Governments, response to the pandemic has been consultation and collaboration to ensure that the voices of diverse communities are being heard and that measures to protect people from the virus are informed by the best information we have.

2. The report acknowledges the importance of this approach in developing a wider and more innovative means of participation and dialogue. Examples of good practice include the following.

3. The Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government and the Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People announced, in June 2020, the creation of a Social Renewal Advisory Board. The purpose of which was to drive progress towards a fairer, more equal Scotland in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The board met regularly since coming into being, and drew upon the expertise from equality and disabled people's organisations, housing and homelessness bodies, town centre and regeneration groups, and anti-poverty campaigners.

4. The Board who reported on 21 January 2021[3] built upon on the shifts in policy and practice that we have seen as a result of working across portfolios and in partnership with frontline service deliverers in local government, the third sector and communities. Its aim was to bank the policy and practice shifts seen during COVID-19 and utilise our current practice and knowledge with an emphasis on delivering equality and social justice. Focusing on reducing poverty and disadvantage, embedding a human rights-based approach and advancing equality. A programme to bring in the voices of lived experience sat alongside the Board.

5. An Expert Reference Group on COVID-19 and Ethnicity was established in June 2020 to consider and inform the Scottish Government's approach in relation to the impacts of COVID-19 on Minority Ethnic (ME) communities. This was in response to reports at a UK-wide and international level that some ME groups may be at risk of experiencing disproportionate effects, both in terms of adverse health outcomes and in a wider context, including economically.

6. The creation of the Expert Reference Group was one of the five key actions being taken forward by the Scottish Government in response to COVID-19's impact on ME communities. The other four actions are: an ongoing programme of work to understand the data in relation to any disproportionate risks and impacts on ME groups; the publication of workplace assessments to ensure that ME staff working in health and social care settings receive the support they need; a targeted marketing campaign run throughout May, to ensure ME communities received core public health messages in accessible formats, and; direct engagement with ME communities and representatives, to listen to and address concerns, and outline Scottish Government work.

7. The Group, which comprised of academics and other expert advisers alongside Scottish Government officials, worked to contribute to the Scottish Government's emerging approach, and advised on proposed actions to mitigate the harms felt by ME communities in relation to COVID-19. The Group fed into the work of the Race Equality Action Plan Programme Board, as well as making strong links with the COVID-19 Advisory Group and other key groups.

8. The ERG on Covid and Ethnicity has submitted initial advice and recommendations to Ministers on issues highlighted by the pandemic – the two papers (on data and on systemic issues) were published autumn 2020.[4]

9. The Scottish Government published its initial response in November 2020.

10. The Scottish Government established an Advisory Group on Economic Recovery (AGER) in April 2020. The remit of the Group, who reported in June 2020[5] was to provide expert advice on Scotland's economic recovery once the immediate emergency, created by coronavirus, has subsided. Specifically the Group was asked to advise on the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, including: measures to support different sectoral and regional challenges the economy will face in recovery; how business practice will change as a result of coronavirus, including opportunities to operate differently and how Government policy can help the transition towards a greener, net-zero and wellbeing economy. The report highlighted how the pandemic had illuminated inequality with three dominant themes emerging from the report: inequality, education, and unemployment.

11. Solutions will be brought forward to enable a swift economic recovery and one that also ensures the Scottish economy will emerge stronger and more resilient. This will be done through proactive engagement with those affected by this crisis, and listening to those who are crucial for the rebuilding of a resilient economy. This Group is one of a number of mechanisms the Scottish Government will use to identify and inform its approach to shaping Scotland's economic recovery. It is recognised that the Group will need to consider how economic recovery will increase wellbeing, fairness and inclusivity, and makes the most of opportunities towards a greener, net-zero society.

3. Mainstreaming Equality

Creating the conditions to mainstream equality

1. In September 2020, the Scottish Government published its annual Programme for Government 'Protecting Scotland, Renewing Scotland'[6]. It includes a commitment to "develop an equality and human rights mainstreaming strategy, which is underpinned by a comprehensive approach to improving data collation and analysis, and will ensure that the voices of those impacted shape our approach and policies".

2. It will seek to strengthen the mainstreaming of equality and also human rights in Scottish Government policy-making as a single joint endeavour, and by extending its reach across those characteristics, defined as "protected characteristics" by the Equality Act 2010. Strengthening the Scottish Government's strategic approach to equality and human rights, as a policy maker, employer, and legislator, is a longstanding priority for Scottish Ministers, consistent with the Public Sector Equality Duty.

4. Leadership


1. To drive this commitment forward a new Directorate of Equality, Inclusion and Human Rights has been created, which became operational, following the appointment of a new Director at the end of 2020. The new directorate will focus on using data and lived experience to improve outcomes and challenge us when a policy is not working. It will also develop our approach to service design, ensuring our health, education, justice, housing and social security services work for the benefit of everyone in Scotland.

2. The development of the Equality, Inclusion and Human Rights Directorate came about following a recommendation from the First Minister's National Advisory Council on Women and Girls, who had called for the Equality Unit to be up-scaled to a Directorate. The NACWG stated that this Directorate should have "the express purpose of ensuring intersectional gender competent policy coherence across Scottish Government's policy development" and "have a role in ensuring the consistent application of EQIAs across policy-making by also acting as a review panel, should the competence of an EQIA be questioned".

3. In accepting this recommendation the Scottish Government will: consider the role of the group in relation to the development and subsequent implementation of our Mainstreaming Equality and Human Rights Strategy and related activity, to ensure senior collective corporate ownership of this agenda; consider the relationship between the group and existing senior structures, including the Scottish Government Executive Team and Directors' Network, and the Scottish Leaders' Forum. In relation to the suggestion that this group should act as a review panel for EQIAs, we are considering the outputs of a literature review, published 11 February 2021[7], commissioned by the Office of the Chief Social Policy Adviser which will provide evidence on other governments' approaches to assessing different policy impacts and their effectiveness, and use this to shape the Group's approach.

5. Strategy

Workstreams and learning

1. The equality and human rights mainstreaming strategy will therefore complement a number of existing work streams. This includes our Human Rights Improvement Programme initiated in December 2019, and our ongoing review of the operation of the Public Sector Equality Duty, both in terms of the regulatory framework for mainstreaming equality and the implementation environment.

2. It will also be influenced by our experience of responding to the coronavirus pandemic. The impacts of COVID-19 have been and will continue to be experienced disproportionally by different groups, including women, people from minority ethnic communities, older people and disabled people, and by people who share a number of those characteristics in combination, often with deprivation as an additional aggravating factor. That these groups experience inequality is not new – but the experience of COVID-19 has exacerbated and exposed these pre-existing deep-seated inequalities. COVID-19 has highlighted the fundamental importance of ensuring that equality and human rights are central to our policies and decisions, across all areas of government.

6. Equality Data and Evidence

Data and evidence

1. Good equality evidence is key to the performance of the Public Sector Equality Duty and we are committed to improving the gathering, collation and use of equality data. The Scottish Government continues to work to strengthen data and evidence to support equality analysis and assessment. Our Equality Evidence Finder[8] continues to evolve, and is a key resource for the Scottish Government, public authorities and other organisations to locate in a central repository equality evidence to inform policy and decision-making.

2. In June 2020, Scottish Government equality analysts produced and published a paper - Coronavirus (COVID-19): health and social impact assessment[9] - that reviews the evidence on how the first three categories of harm (i.e. the health and social impacts) disproportionately impact people who are socioeconomically disadvantaged and how they vary depending on Equality Act protected characteristics (age, disability, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation and transgender).

3. The economic impacts on individuals are considered in a separate paper, published in April 2020, Coronavirus (COVID-19): economic impact of labour market effects[10].

4. Within the Government's Programme for Scotland 2020-21, we have committed to developing a comprehensive approach to improving data collation and analysis to support our mainstreaming strategy.

5. Our work will also build on existing activity, including, the work of the Sex and Gender in Data group, which was established by the Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People in June 2019. The group is comprised of professionals from across statistical services and led by Scotland's Chief Statistician. Its aim is to provide a clear statement about the collection and use of data about a person's sex and gender from the Chief Statistician of Scotland to Scottish Ministers. The work was paused temporarily in order to support our response to COVID-19. The draft guidance which is currently being consulted on, will recommend that data should be disaggregated by men and women to highlight if there are inequalities between men and women generally which need to be tackled, and where privacy allows (i.e. If the data is large enough), it should be broken down across a number of demographic characteristics - an intersectional analysis - to give an insight into how a combination of socio-demographic characteristics might create discrimination.

6. Innovative work on a Scottish Specific Gender Index was published in December 2020. This new Index has been designed to set a baseline and monitor the change of the agreed set of indicators. These indicators were developed over the course of a two-year period by a Scottish Government-led working group with prominent women's organisations and academics. The index will be focussed on gender but under each domain intersectional data will be included where it is currently available.

7. The index has been supported by funding from the Scottish Government to expand the Office of National Statistics population survey to include collection of time use data for Scotland and to develop other data on how resources are controlled within a household and on attitudes to violence against women and girls. The index will develop over time as data sources emerge and new indicators become possible.

8. Scottish Government equality analysts also produced and published a set of accompanying slide packs, which will be updated as evidence develops. The slide packs are designed to focus on key structural inequalities across a range of policy areas related to the four categories of COVID-19 harm. They present analysis by age, disability, ethnicity and sex. The audience for the slide packs is policy makers who require evidence to inform policies and programmes to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19.

7. Stakeholder Engagement and Centres of Expertise

1. The Scottish Government values its stakeholders and places considerable emphasis on working collaboratively with them and the communities they serve. This report highlights activity around communication and engagement including support for a range of organisations and projects designed to increase the capacity and voice of equality communities and those experiencing discrimination or disadvantage.

2. We have already committed to the development of a centre of expertise on equality and human rights in the Economy family of Directorates, as part of our response to the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery's report 'Towards a Robust, Resilient Wellbeing Economy for Scotland'[11].

3. The Economy Centre of Expertise on Equality and Human Rights will work across the economy portfolio to develop an understanding of the evidence base on equality and human rights; to ensure we identify and capitalise on opportunities to advance equality and human rights, and build capacity, skills and understanding within policy teams.

4. Building on the learning gleaned from this work as it develops, we will consider the best means and models to deliver centres of expertise throughout the Scottish Government as part of our work to develop a Mainstreaming Equality and Human Rights Strategy. We will review models used within the Scottish Government, consider examples of best practice utilised elsewhere in the UK and internationally, and learn the lessons from our efforts to strengthen the mainstreaming of equality and human rights as a more cohesive joint endeavour during the period of our response to COVID-19.

8. Procurement

1. There are a number of provisions in the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 that are used to advance equality through procurement including: the sustainable procurement duty; use of community benefit requirements; and steps to engage with supported businesses. The national sustainable procurement tools and guidance have been updated to help buyers across the public sector in Scotland identify and pursue equality outcomes in relevant procurements. The revised equality guidance was endorsed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

2. Buyers are being encouraged to consider equality systematically alongside other social, economic and environmental factors through use of the revised tools and guidance. For example, in the tender for search and selection services for executive appointments for the Scottish National Investment Bank the successful contractor was required to: align recruitment processes to the principles for fair work as set out in the Fair Work Framework; ensure that every effort is made to maximise the potential for the Scottish Government's commitment to 50:50 gender balance on Boards by 2020 target is met; and to confirm if they have calculated their gender pay gap and developed an action plan for addressing the gender pay gap within their company.

3. As an example of the contribution that procurement can make to advancing equality through the inclusion of community benefit requirements in relevant public contracts and framework agreements, Scottish Government published a case study. In addition to the original candidate getting a permanent contract, this work encourages recruitment from the pool of talent within Scotland's disabled community.

9. Equality Budget Process

1. The Scottish Government is committed to equality and tackling inequality, which is reflected in its strategic policy direction. This strategic policy direction establishes ongoing and new policy and resource allocation across Ministerial portfolios. Understanding the intended and unintended equality impacts of policy and spend is critical to ensuring that the strategic policy direction is being achieved for people with one or more of the protected characteristics.

2. To support this drive, equality assessment and budgeting is increasingly a year-round process. In 2019, we published informal guidance which challenged policy makers to systematically think through six key questions to identify ways in which budget decisions could be improved to advance human rights and address inequalities. More specifically, new approaches were developed to equality assess the impacts of all proposals in the Programme for Government and new tools were developed to help with the analysis of budget allocations on outcomes including testing the feasibility of cumulative distributional analysis of tax, benefits and spend.

3. One of the key equality budgeting documents is the Equality and Fairer Scotland Budget Statement (EFSBS) a document which is published each year alongside the Scottish Budget. The 2021-2022[12] statement sets out substantial work, across all the portfolios of the Scottish Government, to achieve greater equality and social justice. The Scottish Government is clear that work must continue to raise the bar and work to ensure that actions to progress equality are as impactful as possible.

4. The 2021-2022 budget includes resources to develop a strategic programme to embed equality and human rights across the Scottish Government. This reflects a clear understanding that these are not niche concerns but fundamental underpinnings for policy-making and delivery across the public sector in Scotland – and essential prerequisites to delivering the outcomes set out in the Scottish Government's National Performance Framework.

5. The EFSBS is a continually evolving process and document. Working with the independently chaired Equality Budget Advisory Group (EBAG), efforts are made each year to try to improve the processes and reporting to provide clearer analysis of the links between spend and outcomes. EBAG collaborated in producing informal guidance for policy makers on equality and human rights budgeting, published in August 2019. In December 2020, EBAG made recommendations for the future of equality budgeting processes in the Scottish Government for the incoming government to consider in summer 2021.

6. An analysis of the impact of income tax changes (2020) across income groups and with respect to age, sex and disability is published alongside the Budget. The Scottish approach to taxation is founded on the four principles of efficiency, convenience, certainty and proportionality to the ability to pay. These principles have been applied in developing and implementing tax policy. For example, the Scottish Government has taken a progressive approach to the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) protecting those purchasing their first home and supporting people as they progress through the property market.

7. The Scottish Government will continue to use the additional powers over Income Tax set out in the Scotland Act 2016 in a progressive manner, aiming to protect taxpayers on low incomes and raise revenue to fund high-quality public services for all. Analysis of Income Tax policy for the 2021-22 Scottish Budget found that almost 45% of adults in Scotland – which is 2 million individuals - will not pay Income Tax in 2021-22 as they will earn less than the Personal Allowance and they are therefore not directly affected by our Income Tax policy decisions. The analysis also shows that, taken together with changes in the UK-wide Personal Allowance, the Scottish Government's Income Tax policy choices over the course of this Parliament (2016-17 to 2021-22) have been highly redistributive and protected low income earners. As average incomes are lower amongst people with some protected characteristics, this approach has a potential positive impact on equality.

10. Governance

8. The importance of EQIA and equality mainstreaming is recognised in the Scottish Government's governance structure. The procedure for accounting for public funds is as set out in the Scottish Public Finance Manual (for more information, see here).

9. Certificates of assurance by deputy directors inform a governance process that leads through Directors and Directors General to the Permanent Secretary. This process is designed to ensure that equality is embedded throughout the Scottish Government. An assessment of the governance process for 2019-2020 across Scottish Government divisions showed an overall confidence rate of 69.9% that support structures were in place to enable staff to undertake and complete EQIA. We know that we need to improve in this: both our new mainstreaming strategy and the review of the operation of the PSED in Scotland will consider ways in which we can increase this level of confidence. A range of work is already being taken forward in relation to strengthening the equality impact assessment process and this is set out below.

10. A cross-cutting review of policy impact assessments, including EQIA in Scottish Government has been undertaken as part of planned audit coverage in the updated Internal Audit Plan for 2020/21. While the review will cover all types of policy impact assessments, the Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) will be a specific focus of the findings. Recommendations from this report will inform our strategy to strengthen the impact assessment process and will help to drive up confidence that impact assessments are at the heart of the policy-making process.

11. The Office of the Chief Social Policy Adviser is working with impact assessment leads across government to design a review of the Scottish Government's approach to impact assessments. The purpose of this work is to develop a range of recommendations setting out how the Scottish Government's approach to impact assessments could be improved in order to support better policy-making and an improved focus on National Outcomes. As part of that work a literature review completed and published on 11 February 2021[13] is providing evidence on approaches to assessing policy impacts by other governments and their effectiveness. As part of the commission, contractors were asked to identify any early evidence regarding the effectiveness of impact assessments by other governments during the COVID-19 pandemic. The review focused on four-to-six governments with a particularly strong approach to impact assessment. These countries were identified on the basis of the review of the broader literature.

11. Plans to tackle inequality

1. The Scottish Government is progressing a number Action Plans and Strategies which are designed to promote and advance equality - for example, the Race Equality Action Plan, A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People Employment Action Plan[14], the Gender Pay Gap Action Plan[15] and the Equally Safe strategy co-owned with the Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) to prevent and eradicate violence against women and girls[16]. The Scottish Government recognises that there is an appetite to streamline if possible the number of plans across the range of protected characteristics and this is something that will be considered in the future.

12. Fair Work

Action Plan

1. The Fair Work Action Plan[17] commits the Scottish Government to embedding Fair Work across portfolios. This includes a Fair Work and Gender Equality Ministerial Working Group to drive a strategic approach to embedding Fair Work across Ministerial portfolios. Fair Work is an agenda for all, and goes beyond statutory employment rights and protections. Fair Work also applies to all groups of society and aims to ensure those with protected characteristics can access and progress in work and enjoy the benefits from working, as others do.

2. Creating more diverse and inclusive workplaces is a key theme in the Fair Work Action Plan. Improving workplace equality is ever more pressing as we know that particular groups are disproportionately affected by the impacts of the pandemic.

3. The principles of Fair Work hold true for all workers: direct employees as well as others who are paid to work for and on behalf of an organisation, such as contractors, consultants and seasonal workers, and including those on permanent and temporary contracts.

13. Disability

1. In December 2019 the Scottish Government published A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People: progress report 2019. This report provides a progress update on the implementation of A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People action plan, published by the Scottish Government in 2016. We believe that a fairer Scotland can only be realised when equal rights are enjoyed by everyone. We recognise that effective solutions to the problems and barriers faced by disabled people must be drawn from the lived experience of disabled people and we are committed to working with disabled people to develop policies and the approaches required to solve problems and dismantle barriers. This report will form the basis of a further report to the Scottish Parliament in early 2021. At that time a more detailed account of the progress on each of the 93 actions in A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People will be published.

2. A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People: Employment Action Plan was published in December 2018, and sets out key actions that will be undertaken to deliver the ambition to at least halve the disability employment gap by 2038. The first Annual Progress Report of the Employment Action Plan was published in March 2020[18] and highlighted the work undertaken, as well as outlining work being taking forward in 2020/21. Latest figures show that the disability employment gap in 2019 – 32.6 percentage points – was the lowest recorded in recent years. Working with partners we will seek to better integrate this work within each of the No One Left Behind Workstreams.

3. Following the publication of the first ever British Sign Language (BSL) National Plan in October 2017, the first national BSL Progress Report will be published in 2021 alongside a further set of actions for delivery before the end of the plan in 2023.

4. The Scottish Government funds initiatives in Malawi and Rwanda aiming to enhance the economic sustainability and participation in development processes of disabled men and women; we are supporting a community ear and hearing care and rehabilitation of disabling hearing loss in Zambia; and we support disability mainstream training through a range of other projects in our partner countries.

5. In 2019 the Digital Directorate appointed a Head of Digital Accessibility. Inaccessible digital services exclude disabled people, limiting their opportunities for employment and capacity to live independently. The remit is to develop an organisational approach to improving digital accessibility for both the digital workplace and digital services provided by the Scottish public sector to citizens of Scotland. An early action was to appoint and manage an Accessibility Lead in the Social Security Directorate. This role seeks to assess and assure digital accessibility within the new Social Security services being developed in Scotland. This is paramount with Personal Independence Payment and Child Disability Allowance being key benefits being delivered.

6. The Scottish Government has demonstrated its commitment to co-production in the Reform of Adult Social Care Programme by supporting the establishment of the People-led Policy Panel, a diverse group of people with protected characteristics from across Scotland with lived experience of adult social care support. The Panel worked with Scottish Government, COSLA and the social care sector to co-produce the Reform of Adult Social Care Programme launched in June 2019 and to ensure access to the co-produced Reform Programme documents these were produced in Easy Read and British Sign Language (BSL).

7. Both Scottish and Local Government remain committed to the shared ambition of No One Left Behind, to deliver a Scottish approach to employability that focuses on the needs of the individual first and foremost. A person-centred system that is more flexible and responsive to the changing labour market, tackles inequalities and grows Scotland's economy is needed now more than ever as we shape our collective economic and wellbeing response to the current public health crisis.

8. The National Assistance Phone line was set up in April, to connect callers to their Local Authorities local support. It was for individuals considered at increased risk from COVID-19 or the wider impact of isolation, including disabled people, older people, those self-isolating, and who didn't have family or community support could ask for help with essentials. A phone line was set up recognising that older people, disabled people and those with lower incomes were least likely to have access to the internet, and therefore access to other advice and support options. A text phone number was also established. If individuals could not use a telephone they could contact their Local Authority to access support through other local routes. Local Authorities offered services such as: helping people access essential food and medication; links to local social work services for vulnerable children or adults; emotional support; and contact with local volunteer groups.

9. From the start of the pandemic officials were in touch with Disabled People's Organisations (DPOs) and deaf people's organisations to ensure they were aware of funding opportunities to help their membership cope with the coronavirus outbreak. Organisations were funded to provide BSL versions of key public health messages as well as Easy Read, Braille, Moon, XXXL Print versions to help a variety of disabled people. One DPO received funding to increase the support their helpline could provide and acted as a pilot project for the Connecting Scotland initiative to provide digital kit and training to disabled people who had been digitally excluded. This helped them keep up to date with the public health messages, as well as connect to DPOs, family and friends and therefore reduce the threat of social isolation and loneliness. A few weeks after lockdown started officials started having fortnightly discussions with key DPOs to learn about the impact of the lockdown on disabled people and to ensure the information was appropriately distributed across the Scottish Government.

14. Age

Older people

10. A Fairer Scotland for Older People – A Framework for Action[19]' was published in April 2019. The Scottish Government has continued to work with the Older People's Strategic Action Forum (OPSAF), who helped develop and shape the Framework, on our key commitments to take forward. Those commitments included a progress report to be published in April 2020 - due to the impact of the pandemic this work was paused and will be rescheduled.

11. Whilst work was progressing, the pivoting of work in response to the evolving coronavirus situation which took precedence over the remainder of 2020 was necessary.

12. In responding to the pandemic, the £350 million Supporting Communities Fund directly assisted organisations providing immediate support to people and communities. This funding included £1.3 million which went to directly to organisations supporting older people.

13. Throughout the pandemic relationships created by the development of the Framework have allowed Ministers to hear first-hand the issues older people were facing. OPSAF members have also contributed to the wider cross-cutting work of the Social Renewal Advisory Board allowing issues that directly affect older and disabled people, including the damaging effects of social isolation and loneliness.

14. We have also repurposed funding because of the virus. As part of our commitment to celebrate ageing, and tackle ageism, the Minister for Older People funded the Festival of Ageing in 2019. The second festival due to be held in June 2020, was sadly postponed, however the funding was repurposed to carry out a piece of research to identify the impacts on the virus on older people in Scotland. The research was provided to the Minister in January 2021 and provided a number of illustrations and case studies on the direct impact of the virus on older people. The report findings were shared with the Older People's Strategic Action Forum and will help to inform our ongoing approach.

15. As above the National Assistance Helpline was set up in April 2020 to connect callers to their Local Authorities for local support in recognition that older people, were least likely to have access to the internet, and therefore access to other advice and support options. A text phone number was also established. If individuals could not use a telephone they could contact their Local Authority to access support through other local routes.

15. Age

Children and young people

1. On 20 August 2020 the Scottish Government published the second annual progress report on child poverty setting out the action taken, right across government, to tackle and reduce child poverty. The report highlights progress made to support low income families, including the launch of a new Parental Employability Support Fund, delivery of all three elements of the Best Start Grant with £21 million of awards made in 2019-20 and work to develop and finalise the policy and delivery mechanisms for the Scottish Child Payment. The report highlights that spend targeted at low income households increased to £1.96 billion in 2019-20, £554 million more than the previous year, and spend specifically targeted at children in low income households increased by £144 million to £672 million over the same period.

2. The annual report reiterates our strong commitment to supporting six priority family types at higher risk of poverty, which have very strong links with the protected characteristics for equality. These are: families with a child under one year old; families with young parents; lone parent families; minority ethnic families; larger families; families with a disabled adult or child. All programmes are required to plan how best to reach these priority families and develop programmes with them as the key focus.

3. Phase 5 of the Cashback for Communities Programme, which runs from 2020 to 2023 with a budget of £19 million, provides a range of activities for young people between the ages of 10 and 24 to: support people, families and communities most affected by crime; support those most at risk of being involved in antisocial behaviour, offending or reoffending into positive destinations; and support young people most at risk of entering the justice system. Work was done for Phase 5 to require CashBack partners to embed an EQIA within the application process. The CashBack projects also focus on tackling inequalities in areas of deprivation, working with some of the most disadvantaged young people aged 10-24. CashBack cuts across many policy areas such as education, employability, mental health and wellbeing and antisocial behaviour. Phase 5 also provides intergenerational support for parents, families and children impacted by Adverse Childhood Experiences.

16. Race

1. The Scottish Government published a Race Equality Framework which sets out long-term goals (March 2016). Thereafter the Race Equality Action Plan (REAP) outlining more than 120 actions to secure better outcomes for minority ethnic communities in Scotland (December 2017). To support delivery of actions in the plan a Programme Board of senior officials has been established to oversee the implementation of the REAP. On 20 March 2020 the Year 2 progress update on the REAP was published, with a final report due for publication in 2021 with early recommendations for next steps in working toward the Race Equality Framework.

2. In addition to the work of REAP the 2020-21 Programme for Government contains a number of commitments designed to advance and promote equality for minority ethnic people and communities. These commitments cut across economy, employment, health, housing, and acknowledge the need to address systemic racism.

3. The Scottish Government, in partnership with COSLA established the cross government Gypsy/Traveller Action Plan 2019 – 2021 which is an essential part of our plan to tackle the deep-rooted inequalities faced by the community. All 32 Local Authorities have signed up to the Action Plan; which works in clear recognition of the need for action to make lasting changes that improve the lives of Scotland's Gypsy/Traveller community. This is being conducted through inter-related policy and interventions, across Scottish Government, COSLA & the third sector. In recognition of the need to coordinate work across Ministerial portfolios a ministerial working group continues to meet supported by lead officials in each portfolio area, as well as by colleagues at COSLA. Work is focusing on the four key areas of accommodation, education, poverty and health. A set of draft actions was published in spring 2019, and following consultation the Scottish Government will publish a firm set of commitments that are to be delivered before May 2021.

4. The Scottish Government is also working in partnership with the John Smith Centre to fund up to fifty places on a Leadership Development Programme for minority ethnic people, focussed on helping people to break down the barriers to accessing and contributing to public service and public life.

5. September 2020 saw the publication of a toolkit to support employers in recruiting from minority ethnic communities. The toolkit is for recruitment managers in the public sector looking to improve the diversity of their workforce by recruiting more people from minority ethnic backgrounds. This toolkit includes a range of suggestions and ideas for organisations who will appreciate some initial guidance.

6. We know that some minority ethnic groups have been disproportionally affected by COVID-19, both in terms of health outcomes and wider impacts, including economically. Therefore to understand this better, and shape our response, An Expert Reference Group on COVID-19 and Ethnicity with membership consisting of academics and other expert advisers alongside Scottish Government officials was established to consider and inform the Scottish Government's approach in relation to the impacts of COVID-19 on Minority Ethnic (ME) communities. The group submitted initial advice and recommendations. These include recommendations on systemic racism and structural issues, as well as data and health inequality.

7. The creation of the Expert Reference Group is one of the five key actions being taken forward by the Scottish Government in response to COVID-19's impact on ME communities. The other four actions are: an ongoing programme of work to understand the data in relation to any disproportionate risks and impacts on ME groups; the publication of workplace assessments to ensure that ME staff working in health and social care settings receive the support they need; a targeted marketing campaign ran throughout May, to ensure ME communities received core public health messages in accessible formats, and; direct engagement with ME communities and representatives, to listen to and address concerns, and outline Scottish Government work. The Group will feed into the work of the Race Equality Action Plan Programme Board, as well as make strong links with the COVID-19 Advisory Group and other key groups as necessary. The ERG on Covid and Ethnicity has put its initial advice and recommendations to Ministers on issues highlighted by the pandemic.

8. The initial cross-portfolio response to the ERG was published on 4 November. Throughout the pandemic, more than £312,000 of funding has been provided to help ensure that people had access to culturally appropriate support services.

9. In June 2020, Scottish Government established an independent expert group to recommend how Scotland's existing and future museum collections can better recognise and represent a more accurate portrayal of Scotland's colonial and slavery history.

17. Sex

1. The Scottish Government recognises the range of inequalities faced by women and is taking action to tackle them. For example, evidence shows us that for many women accessing the labour market is a significant issue, particularly disabled women, older women, minority ethnic women, women from poorer socio-economic backgrounds and women with caring responsibilities is progressing a range of work with the objective of improving the lives of women. The Gender Pay Gap action plan[20] is at the heart of our sustainable and inclusive economic growth ambitions is central to tackling this inequality.

2. The Scottish Government's Programme for Government 2019-20 set out a commitment to deliver a Women's Health Plan to underpin actions to tackle women's health inequalities. The Women's Health Group was established in February 2020 to work together to develop, promote and implement a Women's Health Plan. The Women's Health Group will build on the work already being undertaken across Scottish Government, NHS Scotland and the third sector. It will provide a focal point for discussion, leadership and direction to focus policy development and quality improvements on the needs of all women across Scotland. It will link strategically with other developments and policy areas across the Scottish Government to ensure women's health and wellbeing is considered in policy output by the Scottish Government, identifying gaps in the provision of services, consider existing areas of best practice. It will develop actions to address these gaps producing a Women's Health Plan and supporting Health Boards, Local Authorities, partner agencies and Professional Organisations to work collaboratively to ensure services best meet women's health needs.

3. At the outset of the pandemic an additional £1.5m was provided to Scottish Women's Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland to support service redesign, expand National Helpline capacity and provide support for vulnerable women and children. Furthermore, at the end of September 2020, an additional £4.25m was provided to support projects and services tackling violence against women and girls.

4. The Scotland Pakistan Scholarship Scheme for Young Women and Girls is a five-year commitment (2019-24) to provide scholarships to women and girls at secondary school, undergraduate and masters level of education; we are supporting a project in Rwanda for victims of sexual and gender-based violence; and our partnership with Comic Relief in our joint 'Levelling the Field' Programme in Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia uses the power of sport to tackle social issues experienced by women and girls, developing essential life skills, fostering confidence and improving their self-esteem.

5. Scotland's new Gender Equality Index[21] will measure the country's progress over time on gender equality, using statistical indicators to inform a number of domains covering a range of key policy areas. The baseline data was published in December 2020 and will be made accessible using an online dashboard to a wide range of users who have an interest in gender equality, including policy makers, the media and the public. It will show an up-to-date picture of the many facets of gender equality, and will be designed to demonstrate future change. The main index will only cover gender, but the commentary will include intersections of gender where evidence is available. In order to develop the index new data was collected on the intra-household distribution of resources, time use and violence against women and girls. Each of these data collections were published in separate reports in October, November and December 2020[22].

6. The social care workforce is predominantly women and policy in this area therefore has a particular impact on this protected characteristic. Since 2016 there has been a joint policy with COSLA to ensure that all adult social care workers are paid at least the real living wage. During 2018/19, this commitment was extended to include those undertaking overnight social care support. It covers adult social care workers providing direct care and support to adults in care homes, care at home, day care and housing support. In partnership with COSLA we established the Fair Work in Social Care Group to develop and implement proposals to embed fair work principles that will lead to better terms and conditions and more rewarding roles for the social care workforce.

7. The independently co-chaired First Minister's National Advisory Council on Women and Girls (NACWG) was established in 2017 and work with a dedicated stakeholder membership (their Circle - currently 1300+) on an initial three-year strategy. This strategy looks at annual topics, from a systemic perspective, and reports to the First Minister on each, including any recommendations. In 2018 the focus was Attitudes and Culture Change and the Scottish Government responded positively accepting seven of the recommendations in full. We have taken steps to implement the remaining four recommendations, which fall outwith Scottish Government competence.

8. Since the publication of our substantive response to the NACWG first year report on Attitudes and Culture Change in June 2019 a range of work has been taken forward which includes: establishing Human Rights Taskforce that is investigating how to incorporate CEDAW (Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women) into Scots Law as part of wider work to incorporate Human Rights Law into Scots Law; funding a post in Gender Equal Media Scotland to support gender-equal and gender-sensitive representation in media; funding research, managed by Zero Tolerance, to investigate and develop a model for a What Works? Gender Institute; Established the Gender Equality Taskforce in Education and Learning to implement policies to ensure that gender equality is further embedded in all aspects of education and learning.

9. A model for the creation of a Gender Beacon Collaborative has now been agreed and will bring the Scottish Government together with organisations from the third sector, other public bodies and businesses to work collaboratively to implement gender equality policies in their organisations and record learning for future organisations.

10. In 2019 the NACWG focused on Policy Coherence publishing its second year report on Policy Coherence in January 2020. The Scottish Government response, published in December 2020, accepted all recommendations directed at the Scottish Government including: establishing a Senior Officials and Leaders Group for the express purpose of ensuring intersectional gender-competent policy coherence across Scottish Government's policy development; creating of 'Policymakers National Standards' to support quality standards and accountability on intersectional gender competence in policy-making. Scottish Ministers delivering an Annual Statement, followed by a debate on Gender Policy Coherence to the Scottish Parliament. Create a genuine effort in coproduction of policy-making with evidence of lived experience at its heart. Ensure adequate resourcing to enable the collection and analysis of robust intersectional data.

11. We are undertaking preliminary work to generate an implementation model for these ambitious recommendations as part of the Scottish Government's 2020/21 Programme for Government commitment to develop a renewed mainstreaming strategy.

12. In 2020, due to the COVID pandemic, the NACWG switched to an entirely digital strategy. The NACWG already understood the unequal impact of crises on women and girls based on previous evidence and that more than ever their topic of exploration in 2020 was crucial in helping to address this going forward. In place of in-person events, with speakers to help inform and table discussions to debate, they developed a digital package of engagement that included a dedicated page on their website with written, visual, webinar, and podcast content, along with Easy Read support. They surveyed the whole of their Circle, encouraged them to undertake virtual Annual Topic Circles with their organisations, and took forwarded targeted engagement to ensure they heard from particular communities. Already having a firm digital infrastructure allowed for the switch from in-person to digital to be taken forward seamlessly. The dynamic response of the NACWG to the pandemic enabled the timely publication of the third report on Creating an Intersectional Gender Architecture on 26 January 2021[23]. We welcome this report and will provide a substantive response in due course.

13. The NACWG also concentrated on widening the conversation and engaging with those that might not necessarily be involved in the gender equality debate, or have an understanding of the complex impact of gender inequality. Running in tandem to their core strategy the NACWG have a digital one that reaches out to the public of Scotland (and beyond) to explore issues that affect women and girls. They seek feedback and encourage people to do this in groups in what they call a Spotlight Wee Circle, to spread awareness of the complexities of gender inequality and normalise this type of conversation amongst the general public. The NACWG[24] believe that their digital channel is a key aspect to changing attitudes and culture change.

18. Wider Cross-cutting Policy Initiatives


1. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning reconvened the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG) to recommend the additional actions needed to tackle and prevent homelessness during and after the pandemic. HARSAG members consulted with a range of stakeholders, including organisations representing people with one or more of the protected characteristics, prior to drafting their recommendations and publication of their report in July 2020. In October 2020, jointly with COSLA, we published the Ending Homelessness Together Updated Action Plan. The updated action plan was revised following the HARSAG recommendations. The action plan sets out how national government, local government and third sector partners will work together on our shared ambition to end homelessness in Scotland.

2. Equality underpins the action plan and is reflected throughout. For example, it reflects that the biggest difference between men's and women's homelessness is the impact of domestic abuse, which is the most common reason for women making a homelessness application. We are therefore working closely with Scottish Women's Aid and the Chartered Institute of Housing as they jointly chair a working group to identify ways to achieve better housing outcomes for women and children experiencing domestic abuse.

19. Adult Support and Protection

1. Guiding principles of the Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007 include taking into account an individual's abilities, background and characteristics (including their age, sex, sexual orientation, faith and belief, race and cultural and linguistic heritage).

2. A survey of Adult Support and Protection Committees has been commissioned to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on service users and services, to assist in future planning and for ensuring underlying principles are upheld.

3. Scottish Government Mental Health and Social Care Directorate committed to co-production in the Reform of Adult Social Care Programme by supporting the establishment of the People-led Policy Panel, a diverse group of people with protected characteristics from across Scotland with lived experience of adult social care support.

4. The Panel worked with Scottish Government, COSLA and the social care sector to co-produce the Reform of Adult Social Care Programme launched in June 2019. The Panel is central to our work in ensuring that the views, experiences and expertise of people with protected characteristics who use social care support and carers are at the heart of decisions that are made about adult social care policy. We published the co-produced Reform Programme documents in Easy Read and British Sign Language (BSL).

20. Social Care

1. In recognition of the importance of flexibility during the COVID-19 pandemic to enable good outcomes for people who use social care support, including disabled people and older people and others with protected characteristics. Stakeholders were involved in the development and publication of the Self-Directed Support COVID-19 guidance for Local Authorities, Health and Social Care Partnerships and social care providers[25] to support local social care systems and services to continue to respond appropriately and flexibly during the pandemic. This is accompanied by an FAQ for supported people on the Social Work Scotland website.

2. In August 2020, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport extended funding for the Support in the Right Direction programme with an additional £2.9 million of Scottish Government backing. This helps ensure that people accessing and managing their social care across Scotland can continue to access organisations who provide information, advice and advocacy.

3. An overview of the range of poverty and equality impacts evidenced in relation to the complex range of measures as Scotland moved out of lockdown was published in July 2020. This overview set out the need to ensure that due regard has been given to the three needs of the Public Sector Equality Duty and provided a summary of evidence to help inform impact assessments for measures which collectively form the route map out of lockdown.

21. Investment

1. The Scottish Government recently published its Inward Investment Plan, Shaping Scotland's Economy. The Plan sets out a change in approach to inward investment policy focused on nine opportunity areas where Scotland can not only demonstrate strong international comparative advantage mapped to strong global demand, but which also yield greater "spillover" benefits into the Scottish economy (supply chain benefits, spending on R&D and regional impact) and which align with Scotland's values of Fair Work, Net Zero and Sustainable and Inclusive Economic Growth.

2. The aim of the Plan is to change how and where we focus public resources to increase the benefits that Scotland's people and economy derive from inward investment, essentially using inward investment as a tool to benefit wider Scottish society. To fulfil the requirements of the Equality Impact Assessment process, we have taken a new approach, in consultation with Mainstreaming Equality, whereby a high level strategic document has been produced setting out the direction Scotland will travel in attracting inward investment, and setting a framework for the development of further impact assessments should these be required as specific policy proposals outlined in the Plan are developed and implemented.

22. Refugee and Asylum Seekers

1. The Scottish Government is working in partnership with COSLA and Scottish Refugee Council to support refugees, people seeking asylum and our communities through the pioneering and collaborative approach of the New Scots refugee integration strategy. The current strategy runs from 2018-22, with the key principle that integration begins from day one of arrival, and not just when leave to remain has been granted.

2. The New Scots strategy placed Scotland in a strong position to respond to the humanitarian crisis arising from the conflict in Syria, enabling refugees to quickly be resettled following the announcement of the UK Government's Syrian Resettlement Programme in October 2015. Over 3,500 refugees have since been welcomed into communities across all 32 of Scotland's Local Authorities under the Syrian programme and the Vulnerable Children's Resettlement Scheme.

3. The Scottish Government and COSLA have been working together to develop an anti-destitution strategy covering people subject to No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) restrictions. We undertook engagement with stakeholders and people with lived experience during 2019 and early 2020 to inform the strategy, and following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we focused on the provision of immediate support for essential needs to ensure people remained safe during the public health emergency. The anti-destitution strategy is due to be published in 2021.


Email: bruce.sutherland@gov.scot

Back to top