The Fairer Scotland Duty (the Duty) came into force on 1 April 2018 and places a legal responsibility on named public bodies in Scotland to actively consider (‘pay due regard’ to) how they can reduce inequalities of outcome caused by socio-economic disadvantage, when making strategic decisions.
In deciding how to fulfil the Duty, public bodies must take into account this statutory guidance, which has been developed with public bodies, grounded in experience of working on the Duty, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Improvement Service and third sector organisations. Thanks to all those who have worked on the text with us.
The Duty seeks to tackle socio-economic disadvantage and reduce the inequalities that are associated with being disadvantaged. This is a complex, multidimensional problem, closely related to poverty. Having less access to resources can mean that individuals fare worse on outcomes including health, housing, education or opportunities to work or train, and these negative outcomes can reinforce each other. Adversity in childhood can have life-long impacts, and growing up in poverty is associated with poorer educational attainment, employment prospects and health inequalities. Therefore it is crucial that public bodies consider the impact that their decisions have on socio-economic disadvantage and the inequality of outcome that both adults and children may experience as a result.
As reported in the joint Scottish Government and COSLA report on “Scotland’s Wellbeing: The Impact of COVID-19” the pandemic exacerbated existing inequalities. Those already experiencing disadvantage – minority ethnic communities, disabled people, older and younger people, women – were disproportionately impacted, often in multiple ways and with compounding effects. This suggests that, unless significant action is taken in the post-COVID policy space, unequal outcomes for different groups could increase across National Indicators in the future – in particular inequalities relating to income or socio-economic status, gender, age, ethnicity and disability.
The unequal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people experiencing socio-economic disadvantage means that consideration of the Duty is more important than ever and will be key in informing future strategic decision-making to assist with the recovery and renewal process in order to build back stronger and fairer.
The Scottish Government continues to encourage innovation in how public bodies meet the Duty and welcomes different approaches. However public bodies must take this guidance into account when deciding how to fulfil the Duty.