Fairer Scotland Duty: interim guidance for public bodies

This is the interim guidance for the Fairer Scotland Duty which comes into force in April 2018.

Meeting the Duty day-to-day

This Section Sets Out An Example Process For Meeting The Duty On A Day-To-Day Basis.

These steps are intended to be similar to those used by many public bodies for equality impact assessment ( EQIA) [4] , as part of the PSED. This should mean it's straightforward for public bodies to fit the Duty into its day-to-day processes.

Note that the PSED is currently subject to review and any findings will inform future iterations of this guidance.

A summary diagram of the process is shown below.

Stage 1 – Planning – Is this proposal/decision strategically important or not?

Begin the Fairer Scotland assessment process during development of the proposal.
Move to Stage 2.

NO –
There is no requirement for a Fairer Scotland assessment.
Move to Stage 5.

Stage 2 – Evidence

What evidence do you have about socio-economic disadvantage and inequalities of outcome in relation to this issue or decision? Is it possible to gather new evidence, involving communities of interest?

Stage 3 – Assessment and Improvement

In discussion, consider: What are the main impacts of the proposal? How could the proposal be improved so it reduces or further reduces inequalities of outcome?

Stage 4 – Decision

This stage is for an appropriate officer to confirm that due regard has been paid. They should be satisfied the body has understood the evidence, considered whether the policy can narrow inequalities of outcome, considered improvements and the links to socio-economic disadvantage and equality.

Step 5 – Publication

Public Bodies covered by the Duty must be able to show that they have paid due regard to meeting it in each case. This should be set out clearly and accessibly, and signed off by an appropriate official from the body in question.

Stage 1 – Planning

The Planning Stage of the process enables public bodies to determine whether a Fairer Scotland Assessment will be required and, where it is, to start planning how to deliver it.

The key question to ask at this stage is: Is this a strategic programme/proposal/decision or not? If it is not strategic, there is no formal requirement for a Fairer Scotland Assessment. However, public bodies may wish to consider socio-economic factors in their planning in any case, as good practice. There is of course still a requirement for due regard under the PSED and appropriate equality impact assessment.

If the decision is clearly not strategic and there is no perceived benefit from a Fairer Scotland Assessment, move to Stage 5.

If it is strategic, there are three initial tasks to complete.

  • First, develop a plan for the remaining stages below, ensuring that there is sufficient time to do so. Note that the public body will need to pay due regard during the development of the proposal, not simply when the decision is being taken. This means starting your assessment early.
  • Second, confirm the aims and expected outcomes of the programme/policy/decision.
  • Third, alert appropriate officers in the organisation that the assessment is now underway and that it may affect the final decision to be made.
  • Once you've done that, Move to Stage 2.

Stage 2 – Evidence

The Evidence Stage of the process is where public bodies should make full use of the data they hold or can access as they consider how to exercise their responsibilities under the Duty.

The key questions to ask at this stage are:

  • What does the evidence suggest about the policy's actual or likely impacts on socio-economic disadvantage and the key inequalities of outcome under consideration?
  • What existing evidence do we have about the proposal being developed, including what could be done differently?
  • Are some communities of interest or communities of place more affected by disadvantage in this case than others? What does our EQIA planning work – for this issue and previously – tell us about gender, ethnicity, disability and other protected characteristics that we may need to factor into our decisions.
  • Is it possible to collect new evidence quickly in areas where we don't currently have any? For example, through consultation meetings, focus groups or omnibus surveys?
  • The voices of people and communities will be important here. How do we involve communities of interest (including those with lived experience of poverty and disadvantage) in this process?

Most public bodies already have access to a wide range of relevant data (both quantitative and qualitative), from a range of sources. This includes administrative data, data about local neighbourhoods ( e.g. SIMD), local child poverty estimates, new experimental statistics on combined low income and material deprivation (now available at local level for the first time), and health, education and employment data. Some public bodies will have access to richer data than others – for example, local authorities may be able to use Council Tax Reduction, free school meals and Housing Benefit data that others may not have access to. There is a resources section at the end of this guidance with more details of available data sources.

Where no evidence is available, it may be possible to generate this via focus groups, omnibus surveys or consultation exercises.

Evidence can also be sought from communities and groups directly, particularly when there are evidence gaps – for example, where a significant new policy is being developed. Engagement processes should ideally reflect the principles of the National Standards for Community Engagement.

Another source of help – particularly in terms of integrating equality and socio-economic considerations is the Scottish Government Equality Evidence Finder. [5] This is an updated web resource providing equality evidence by subject area and protected characteristic. We intend to expand this over the next year to include socio-economic disadvantage as an additional category, also including child poverty considerations.

Stage 3 – Assessment and Improvement

The assessment and improvement stage is a bringing together of the evidence and a consideration of potential improvements to the proposal, plan or decision.

It's essential that appropriate officers in the organisation are involved at this stage to ensure that opportunities for developing a better proposal are able to be taken up. This will be key for meeting the 'due regard' test.

The key questions to discuss at this stage are:

  • What are the potential impacts of the proposal/decision as we currently understand them?
  • How could the proposal/decision be improved so it reduces or further reduces inequalities of outcome, with a particular focus on socio-economic disadvantage?
  • How will this policy assist you to reduce inequality in outcomes?
  • If you are now planning to adjust the proposal/decision, could it be adjusted still further to benefit particular communities of interest or of place who are more at risk of inequalities of outcome?

The outcomes of the assessment phase, with any options emerging for consideration, should be clearly set out for consideration by the appropriate officer(s) in Stage 4. If proposals have changed considerably, there may also be a case for further consultation with communities.

Stage 4 – Decision

This decision stage allows appropriate officers to consider the assessment process from Stages 2 and 3, agree any changes to the policy, proposal or decision and confirm that the public body has paid due regard to meeting the Fairer Scotland Duty in this case. In terms of who the appropriate officer should be, in the case of the Scottish Government this would be a Deputy Director or a Director in most cases.

Key questions to ask at this summary stage are:

  • What, in brief, does the evidence base underpinning the proposal say about its potential impacts on inequalities of outcome?
  • What changes, if any, will be made to the proposal as a result of the assessment? Why are these changes being made and what are the expected outcomes?
  • If no changes are proposed, please explain why.

A note of this discussion, with answers to the above questions, should be prepared ahead of Stage 5.

Stage 5 – Publication

Stage 5 requires public bodies covered by the Duty to show that they have paid due regard to meeting it in each case.

Where a proposal, plan or decision is not considered to be strategic, this needs to be set out clearly and accessibly, and signed off by an appropriate officer from the public body in question. This could be made available via one of the following routes:

  • As a section in or an annex to a publication setting out the proposal, plan or decision.
  • As a separate section within an EQIA, focusing on the proposal, plan or decision.

Where a proposal, plan or decision is considered to be strategic, a record from Stage 4 needs to be set out clearly and accessibly, and signed off by an appropriate officer from the public body in question. This could be written up in one of the following ways:

  • As a section in or an annex to a publication setting out the strategic proposal, plan or decision.
  • As a Fairer Scotland Assessment document, published separately.
  • As a separate section within an EQIA, focusing on the strategic proposal, plan or decision.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these approaches. On balance, the Scottish Government practice during the implementation phase will be to publish a separate assessment.


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