Race equality action plan: final report

Progress made on the actions in the Race Equality Action Plan 2017 to 2021 and action taken to tackle race inequality in response to the 2020 to 2021 COVID-19 pandemic as well as action from 2021 onwards to implement the aims of the Race Equality Framework 2016-2030.

3. Introduction and Context

The Race Equality Framework 2016-2030 and our long-term vision for race equality in Scotland

The Race Equality Framework for Scotland 2016 to 2030 (REF) sets out our long-term vision for race equality in Scotland, and acknowledges the leadership role that the Scottish Government must take to realise this vision. The REF is also clear that the Scottish Government cannot achieve these goals alone, and highlights the importance of engaging and empowering communities, and taking a partnership approach, spanning the public and third sectors, to work towards common aims.

That partnership approach is a key component of the Scottish Government's commitment to mainstreaming equality and human rights. Mainstreaming means making sure that progress towards equality is built in to the design and delivery of policy, legislation and services across the Scottish Government and the wider public sector, by thinking about equality early and often, and ensuring that considering equality is part of everyone's job. More detail on our approach to mainstreaming equality and embedding lasting change is at Section 4 of this report.

An evidence-based approach was taken to develop the REF, with significant engagement undertaken with minority ethnic communities, as well as stakeholder organisations, the public and voluntary sectors, and academics.

A wide range of people and organisations contributed. The views of minority ethnic communities fed into the development process through a Community Ambassador's Programme, which took a transparent, inclusive and participatory approach.

That approach led to the creation of the six underpinning Visions for the REF, which are based on the priorities, needs and experiences identified in the evidence-gathering process. Those Visions, which remain the guiding light for our work, are set out below:

Theme Area of work Vision
1 Overarching work Our Vision for a fairer Scotland is that by 2030 Scotland is a place where people are healthier, happier and treated with respect, and where opportunities, wealth and power are spread more equally. The Race Equality Framework aims to ensure that this vision is achieved equally for people from all ethnicities, helping to build a Scotland where we all share a common sense of purpose and belonging.
2 Community cohesion and safety We build good race relations and community cohesion across all communities, and all minority ethnic individuals feel safe, protected and included, and experience less racism.
3 Participation and representation Minority Ethnic participation and representation is valued, effective, fair and proportionate at all levels of political, community and public life.
4 Education and lifelong learning Everyone has the opportunity to learn in an inclusive environment without disadvantage in relation to racial inequality or racism.
5 Employability, employment and income Minority Ethnic people have equal, fair and proportionate access to employment and representation at all levels, grades and occupation types in Scotland's workforce and experience fewer labour market, workplace and income inequalities.
6 Health and home Minority Ethnic communities in Scotland have equality in physical and mental health as far as is achievable, have effective healthcare appropriate to their needs and experience fewer inequalities in housing and home life.

As well as having its six themes, the REF sets out the principles that underpin it. These are:

  • Creating an awareness of how race equality benefits the whole of society;
  • Developing a detailed understanding of racial inequality and racism;
  • Promoting policy and practice that is evidence based;
  • Complementing mainstreaming approaches with lawful positive action;
  • Valuing capabilities and capacities;
  • Looking at race equality from intercultural and intersectional perspectives.

These principles highlight the centrality of taking a joined-up approach to race equality which underpins not only the REF itself but the work flowing from it. Key to that is our Race Equality Action Plan (REAP), which takes the visions and principles of the REF, and applies them to tangible actions designed to further those goals.

The Race Equality Action Plan 2017-2020

As a 15-year Framework, the REF is a high-level document that sets out our long-term goals and underpinning principles. In order to deliver on the commitments set out in the REF, we developed our Race Equality Action Plan (REAP) 2017-2021, to set out the specific actions the Scottish Government committed to undertaking between 2017-2020 in order to advance race equality, tackle racism, and address the barriers that can prevent minority ethnic people from realising their potential. These 120 actions cut across a range of policy areas within the Scottish Government, and collectively, are helping us work towards realising the ambitions set out by the REF.

Much of the content of the REAP was developed as a response to the

Recommendations of the Race Equality Adviser - Kaliani Lyle (Dec 2017). Ms Lyle's remit was to provide strategic independent expertise, insight and advice to the Scottish Government in taking forward the goals of the REF, and her 72 recommendations, made in 2017, were key to informing the REAP. Ms Lyle also served on the REAP's Programme Board for two years after the publication of her report, which provided continuity and a crucial external perspective to the work as it developed.

This report will provide a comprehensive update on progress across all 120 actions set out in the REAP when it was published in 2017. Over the life of the REAP, some actions have been altered to take account of changing circumstances. Where that is the case, we have explained any changes to the action within the update. The full list of actions and progress is in Annex A-I of this report.

Highlights of this report show that the Scottish Government has made marked progress, in particular in areas of Employability, Employment and Income, (identified as a particular area of interest for the REAP from the end of Year 1 onwards), Education and Lifelong Learning and Participation and Representation. Case studies from these three areas illustrate measurably improved outcomes for minority ethnic people in Scotland in areas such as ethnicity data monitoring, staff recruitment and retention, and public appointments. These areas and others are explored in detail in Section 5.

The life of the REAP has been a time of significant volatility and uncertainty. The vote to leave the European Union, in June 2016, has brought about considerable change, and has caused concern for many people. The Scottish Government has been clear throughout that we will continue to welcome everyone who chooses to make Scotland their home, and we will continue to celebrate the contributions those people make to our rich and varied culture and society.

COVID-19 – Disproportionate Impacts, and Structural and Persistent Inequality

Throughout 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has had significant impacts on all aspects of our lives. The pandemic has also exacerbated, highlighted and exposed many of the existing inequalities in society. For Scotland's minority ethnic communities, there has been evidence of disproportionate impacts since the early stages of the pandemic, both in terms of immediate health outcomes and in a wider context, including economically.

In order to understand and address these impacts, the Scottish Government established an Expert Reference Group on COVID-19 and Ethnicity (ERG) in June 2020 (See Case Study 1), to help shape and inform our emerging policy response. In recognition of the pandemic's highlighting and exacerbating existing inequalities, the recommendations of the ERG concerned both immediate health issues, in particular relating to data-gathering, as well as the systemic and persistent inequalities that underpinned them. These complex, cross-portfolio issues will help form the basis of our next steps (see Section 6).

As is noted throughout this report, progress cannot be made by Scottish Government alone. Throughout the pandemic, community and grassroots organisations have played a vital role in supporting the people who need them, and in identifying priority issues for the groups they serve. This has been invaluable in supporting and informing our response to COVID-19.

COVID-19: Immediate response work

To support the work of these organisations, the Scottish Government provided over £312,000 during the early weeks of the pandemic to support minority ethnic people with culturally appropriate food and support services, with a particular focus on young people, and older people experiencing isolation.

We, along with BEMIS, supported the establishment of the Scottish Minority Ethnic Resilience Network, which includes over 100 local and national organisations supporting minority ethnic people across Scotland. Ministers and Officials have benefitted from engagement with this network.

We have also funded Intercultural Youth Scotland to support the mental health of young people – a key challenge for young ME people, particularly those self-isolating. They provided extensive youth work support to assist young people in their transition from school to employment at a very difficult time as well as using social media to raise awareness of their work and the support on offer to young minority ethnic people.

As well as financial support to meet immediate practical needs, a multiagency Gypsy/Traveller Action Group was convened to focus on immediate or developing issues as a result of COVID-19, with a membership that included the Scottish Government, COSLA, Police Scotland, and third sector partners with engagement experience within the Gypsy/Traveller community.

As we move beyond the immediate COVID-19 crisis, it is clear that we must continue to identify, analyse, and respond to the issues raised by the ERG and by grassroots organisations. More on our plans following the end of REAP are at Section 6 of this report.

The renewal date for existing funding arrangements for Scottish Government equalities stakeholders, including key race equality third sector organisations, has been extended to end September 2021. This has provided financial stability so organisations could rapidly adapt their work to meet the changing needs of communities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In February 2021, we opened the new Equality and Human Rights Fund, which will support work to further equality and support people to realise their human rights, from October 2021.

Winter Support Package

In late 2020, we awarded a further £170,000 and in early 2021 £200,000 in funding to support those most acutely impacted minority ethnic communities in this uniquely challenging winter season. These projects have supported expert organisations in offering mental health support, digital devices to enable people to stay connected with loved ones and curbing the harms of loneliness as well as frontline support to access food and medical supplies. A portion of this Fund has also supported our collective efforts to aid the vaccination programme, encourage up-take and also develop interactive resources in a variety of languages and dialects to ensure effective communication and engagement with the vaccination programme.

The Winter Support funding allocated to organisations to support specific work with ME communities (£370,000 in total) is outlined below:

  • £25,000 awarded to MECOPP topurchase and provide vital digital equipment to help ensure that vulnerable people are connected throughout the winter. Part of this funding has also been used to encourage vaccine up-take.
  • £190,000 awarded to BEMIS to cover the additional work that COVID-19 has made necessary. This funding has supported over 100 projects across 8 regions to curb the harms of loneliness and provide adequate food and medicine supplies. Part of this funding has been used to support minority ethnic organisations and communities to encourage up-take of the vaccine and develop targeted resources to ensure effective communication and engagement with the vaccination programme.
  • £15,000 awarded Sikh Sanjog so that they can provide support to the Sikh community to tackle loneliness, stay connected and to run support groups for vulnerable people. Part of this funding has also been used to support the development of vaccine promotion materials to encourage up-take of the vaccine in the Sikh community.
  • £15,000 awarded to STEP to help serve the educational needs of vulnerable young people in the Gypsy Traveller community.
  • £15,000 awarded to Article 12 in order to purchase digital devices for vulnerable Gypsy Traveller young people.
  • £15,000 awarded to support CEMVO's work developing an app focused on promotion of health information for minority ethnic people.
  • £30,000 to the African Council and African Women Group Scotland to provide support for those most disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and support the vaccine rollout among the most hard to reach communities.
  • £65,000 awarded to Intercultural Youth Scotland to conduct a variety of activities such as counselling and therapy to support minority ethnic young people suffering from poor mental health, loneliness and isolation as a result of the pandemic.

Year 3 of the REAP in Practice

At the end of Years 1 and 2 of the REAP, we have published progress reports that both look backwards and forwards. Our Year 2 Progress Report was published in March 2020, and set out the planned way of working for Year 3.

Key to that plan was the establishment of a new Equality, Inclusion and Human Rights Directorate within the Scottish Government, with the aim of:

  • Enhancing the profile of equality both internally and externally;
  • Supporting greater policy coherence across connected areas;
  • Promoting effectiveness and efficiency, and;
  • Supporting greater capability in relation to diversity and inclusion, including intersectionality.

That work has now commenced, with the inaugural Director of Equality, Inclusion and Human Rights taking up her post in December 2020 and the new Directorate forming in line with that.

The Year 2 Report also noted that the REAP Programme Board, which provides Director-level oversight on progress, had agreed in late 2019 to meet more frequently, in order to accelerate progress. As a result, the Board has met eight times in 2020 and twice in 2021 (to date), in contrast to quarterly meetings in previous years. The Board has also been strengthened with the addition of a Depute Non-Executive Director who joined in late 2019, and by the inclusion of Kaliani Lyle, former Race Equality Adviser - as an independent member (until March 2020). Recognising the significance of the COVID-19 pandemic on the REAP, the CEO of Public Health Scotland joined the Board in June 2020. These changes to the Board have helped to ensure that progress has continued, despite challenging circumstances, and momentum remains high as we move beyond the REAP and onto next steps.

During Year 2 of the REAP, we identified that in order to better meet the REAP objectives, the REAP actions should be re-evaluated and reprioritised. A full account of this re-prioritisation is provided in the Year 2 report, and prioritised actions have been highlighted in the Annexes. Notably, the year 2 progress report reiterated our determination - across government and the wider public sector - to improve diversity, representation and engagement within the context of employability, employment and continuity in employment. We made the decision to focus on improving employment outcomes for minority ethnic communities within specific sectors, concentrating on the measures that can be taken to diversify the workforce within key public and private sector employers. Given the COVID-19 context, the specifics of this approach have been shifted slightly, informed by our assessment of developing events, however this does not detract from the importance of this focus going forward.

What Does This Report Do?

The role of this report is to set out the progress made across the three-year life of the Race Equality Action Plan (REAP), from 2017-2020. All those activities support the visions and goals in the 2016-2030 Race Equality Framework.

The work undertaken to progress the REAP has been cross-portfolio and collaborative, with significant engagement with, and support from, stakeholders working both in the field of race equality and across contexts including education, health, local government, employment, and many more. The REAP Programme Board, chaired by the Director General for Education, Communities and Justice, has provided an executive oversight structure for work towards the REAP, and the Delivery Group, comprising Deputy Directors from across Scottish Government, has driven forward actions at operational level.

That cross-portfolio approach has been key to the success of the REAP. At Section 4, this report sets out our approach to mainstreaming equality across all that we do in Scottish Government, and how that ensures that we create and embed lasting change. How we can further advance these aims is a key strand of work for the newly-created Equality, Inclusion and Human Rights Directorate within the Scottish Government, which will be the home for driving forward the REF as we enter its next stage.

An overview of some of the REAP's key successes and challenges is set out at Section 5 of this report, and a full list of the actions and their statuses, along with explanatory comments, is at Annexes A-I. As well as the original 120 actions, more have been added over the REAP's lifespan as priorities and ambitions have evolved. Our actions will be reviewed as we move into our next cycle of race equality work, with the expectation that those which are still relevant and of value will be included within that work.

Although this report marks the end of the REAP's lifespan, it also points the way forward for the next cycle of work to achieve the goals set out in the REF. At Section 6, this report looks to the future of our work to achieve race equality in Scotland, while making clear that next steps will be decided in collaboration with stakeholders and in the context of our wider work to make Scotland a fair and equal place for everyone who lives here.


Email: charlie.goodwin@gov.scot

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