Chapter 4 Future Support Needs
4.1 This chapter sets out the future support needs identified by authorities - both in relation to equality outcomes and employee information. Participants were asked to identify additional support that would help them to overcome some of the key barriers or challenges that they had faced when developing their equality outcomes, or producing their employee information. The support needs across both areas of work were very similar, in many instances.
4.2 Across all types of authority, there was a strong call for practical and clear guidance on:
- which bodies are covered by each of the specific duties;
- what is expected in terms of equality outcomes; and
- what is expected in terms of employee information.
4.3 There was a particularly strong desire for clearer guidance on the expectations of smaller and specialist authorities - including Licensing Boards, education authorities, Community Justice Authorities and authorities not delivering services to the public. A minority of these types of organisation had not realised they were covered by certain aspects of the duties, and were keen that this was clarified in the future.
4.4 In relation to outcomes, authorities wanted to see practical guidance on topics such as:
- how to develop and frame outcomes;
- how to measure performance - particularly less tangible impacts;
- how to align equality outcomes with service plans and budgets;
- how to mainstream equalities outcomes within their organisation;
- precisely what information is required on employee characteristics;
- what terms such as "retention, staff development and occupational segregation" mean in detail; and
- how to produce equal pay, pay gap and occupational segregation information.
4.5 There was a strong and consistent call for more templates, which clearly set out what was required, and examples of outcomes and employee information in practice. Some also called for more detailed advice on wider equalities topics, such as use of Equality Impact Assessments, and mainstreaming equalities in procurement.
"More detailed guidance, with more examples and in a common format so that it is easy for the Government to compare across councils."
"More practical examples and more guidance on producing equality outcomes would be useful."
4.6 Many were concerned that with the current guidance there was "lots of room for interpretation".
"Different organisations gathered and published different data."
4.7 Many felt that there was a real need for guidance which was practical and written in plain English. Authorities (particularly education bodies) stressed that this should include the basics - including explaining an outcomes focused approach - as many organisations in this sector are just beginning to use and understand outcomes.
"We are desperate to get it right... but we are bogged down with jargon."
4.8 A small minority of authorities had worked closely with the EHRC to develop their response to the specific duties. This was largely the case for smaller organisations which had not initially met their duties, and received support to ensure that they did so - or those which had approached the EHRC to indicate that they were struggling to meet or interpret their duties. Where this one to one support was provided, it was normally welcomed and viewed very positively.
"They [the EHRC] were very helpful and practical and, importantly, non-judgemental. It was clear that they wanted to help to make sure that you got it right."
4.9 However, some organisations - including NHS Boards and Other Bodies suggested that the EHRC became less supportive and more about ensuring compliance as time went on. Some wanted more clarity about the role of the EHRC in relation to the general and specific duties.
"They started off supportive and progressively offered less and less support."
4.10 The vast majority of other authorities indicated that they were disappointed and frustrated that they had not received any formal feedback from the EHRC on their equality outcomes and employee information. Most felt that constructive feedback would enable lessons to be learned and help inform future approaches.
"Some feedback would have been helpful in order to gauge how we're doing against some other public sector organisations, so that you know you're on the right track."
"The EHRC pointed out gaps in the work carried out by organisations in our sector, but they did not go into specifics. As such we are not sure if we did it right or did it wrong."
4.11 A minority indicated that they would be de-motivated from doing any further work in relation to their equality outcomes or employee information if they did not receive any feedback. And some specialist organisations with "unique" functions indicated that this feedback and support was required in order to help them to move forward with confidence. However, there was recognition that the EHRC had a small and busy staff team, and may not have the resources to provide one to one feedback.
"We are still not sure if this is what the EHRC are looking for or if it is good enough... We don't know if what we have done is hitting the mark...That is the least they can do, given the amount of work we put in."
"We always comply, but we'd like to know how well we are doing."
4.12 Others, across all sectors, commented that they felt the focus to date had been on compliance, rather than the quality of equality outcomes and employee information produced, and the ethos of the approach. Some felt that the EHRC should adopt a more positive, enabling approach to support effective delivery of a mainstream equality approach.
"We think the EHRC need to look again at how they provide feedback to public bodies in a more positive manner, so that it does not act as a disincentive."
"It's about winning hearts and minds and getting emotional buy-in. The EHRC needs to think about the narrative and be sensitive to individual circumstances.
Scottish Government role
4.13 There was a strong feeling that there was a clear role for the Scottish Government in supporting listed authorities to meet the specific duties. This was raised across all sectors. Some (particularly NHS Boards and local authorities) talked of the need for more leadership and communication from the Government in promoting the agenda.
"[Better communications are required] to demonstrate the political drive behind and commitment to the agenda."
"A clear directive from Ministers would help to drive the agenda forward."
4.14 Some suggested that the Scottish Government should make a clear statement about the importance of equality, and the role of equality outcomes and employee information in promoting equality in Scotland.
"It would have been easier if there had been a national awareness raising campaign to explain what was happening and why."
4.15 It was felt that integration of equality outcomes into other outcomes, targets and plans at a national level would also help to demonstrate the priority attached to this area of work. For example, some NHS Boards suggested that the Scottish Government should make sure that the HEAT targets for NHS Boards included clear equality targets, to ensure that equality is embedded in the work of the NHS.
4.16 Many of the suggestions around the role of the Scottish Government related to the publication of guidance. It was felt that in addition to providing practical assistance such guidance would demonstrate a clear commitment to supporting authorities to meet their duties.
"There was minimal information provided by the Scottish Government on best practice."
4.17 Some (particularly local authorities) called for better co-ordination between the Scottish Government, the EHRC and other networks in relation to the provision of support, training and guidance to assist public authorities to meet the duties. A minority of authorities suggested that there should be named contacts within the Scottish Government for support with equality outcomes and employee information.
"More comprehensive information and guidance - and more co-ordination across the Scottish Government and EHRC about this."
4.18 A small number of authorities felt that the provision of funding to public authorities to assist them to comply with the equality duties would be a key way of demonstrating that this was important, and was a priority across Scotland. Some felt that funding would allow the organisation to move beyond merely being compliant with the legislation, to taking real action to deliver on their equality outcomes. However, many felt that this was unlikely in the current financial climate.
Access to robust evidence
4.19 Many respondents across stakeholder groups called for enhanced provision of reliable and up to date information to inform the development of their equalities outcomes, or to enable comparison of the profile of their workforce with local and national statistics. Many authorities indicated that measuring progress over time, particularly in relation to equality outcomes, was challenging as they were often unable to develop a robust and reliable baseline.
4.20 Authorities also felt that quicker release of national data - such as the 2011 Census results - was required in order to enable them to produce baselines and assess evidence to inform their equality outcomes.
4.21 Many authorities, across all sectors, highlighted the role the Scottish Government could play in ensuring access to robust evidence, to inform the development of equality outcomes. Many commented that the Scottish Government Equality Evidence Finder was a good starting point, but this needed to be developed further. In particular, authorities called for more national data and support on pregnancy and maternity.
Support to networks
4.22 Those who participated in networks of public authorities felt that they could play a considerable role in supporting a consistent approach to meeting the equalities duties across sectors. Some called for more information about equalities networks and events, as this would help to encourage more collaborative working within and across sectors. Others said that existing networks of public authorities should be appropriately funded and resourced, as the work that they were doing was invaluable.
4.23 Some suggested that the EHRC had a role in facilitating better information sharing between public authorities. Some local authorities suggested that COSLA could play a bigger role, particularly in practical areas such as co-ordinating employee information templates for local government, and negotiating access to high quality data from shared systems (such as My Jobs Scotland).
4.24 Finally, authorities suggested that it was important to allow the general and specific duties time to bed in over future years, without significant change to the responsibilities of public authorities in relation to equality. Many felt that their approach to producing and monitoring equality outcomes and producing employee information would become more effective and more sophisticated over time, if the existing duties guided the approach for years to come, and they were not required to produce new and different information in the near future.
"We need a period of stability and consistency, otherwise public bodies will not take the equalities agenda seriously."
Summary of chapter four
4.25 Across all types of authority there was a strong call for practical and clear guidance on the detail of producing and monitoring equality outcomes, and producing employee information. There was a strong and consistent call for more templates and practice examples, to provide more practical guidance.
4.26 Smaller and specialist authorities demonstrated a particularly strong desire for clearer guidance - including Licensing Boards, education authorities, Community Justice Authorities and authorities not delivering services to the public. Authorities which were relatively new to using outcomes (particularly education bodies) felt that the guidance should start from the basics, including explaining the outcomes focused approach. All felt that it should be written in plain language.
4.27 The vast majority of authorities indicated that they were disappointed and frustrated that they had not received any formal feedback on their equality outcomes and employee information. Most felt that constructive feedback would enable lessons to be learned, and help inform future approaches. A minority felt de-motivated that they did not know how well they had performed, and (in some cases) whether they complied with the law.
4.28 There was a strong feeling that there was a clear role for the Scottish Government in supporting authorities to meet the specific duties. Respondents across all sectors talked of the need for leadership, communication and guidance from the Government. Some (particularly local authorities) called for better co-ordination between the Scottish Government, the EHRC and other networks.
4.29 There was a suggestion that the EHRC should play more of a supportive and enabling role, rather than focusing on compliance.
4.30 Those who participated in national networks often felt that these could be better supported, to enable more sharing of good practice around equality.
4.31 Authorities wanted to see a period of stability, with the current duties bedding in, to allow their approach to equality outcomes and employee information to develop and strengthen.
Email: Alison Stout
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