Public Sector Equality Duty - operation review: consultation analysis

Independent analysis of consultation responses to the Scottish Government Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) Review. The consultation ran from 13 December 2021 to 11 April 2022.

14 Strengthening Leadership and Accountability and Enhancing Capability, Capacity and Culture

14.1 Context

The Scottish Government views the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) regime as an important lever to drive change and sits as part of our wider agenda to mainstream equality and human rights. Strengthening leadership and accountability, and enhancing capability, capacity and culture will form part of the equality and human rights mainstreaming strategy currently being developed. Throughout the proposals in this Consultation Paper, we believe we have put forward proposals to ensure the Scottish Government and Scottish Ministers are playing an effective leadership role.

Throughout our engagement to date, stakeholders have put forward the following suggestions which are relevant to this area:

  • Funding: Ensuring there is long-term and protected funding for the public and third sectors for equality and human rights.
  • Protected budgeting: Requiring the public sector to spend a certain percentage of its budget to advance equality and human rights.
  • Training: Ensuring that there is effective and mandatory equality training, particularly for senior leaders and public appointments.
  • Equality accountable officers: Requiring public bodies to appoint an accountable officer, who would provide internal advice, guidance, and competence building.
  • Improved forums or portals to share best practice: Improving existing forums to share best practice across the public sector or establishing a new online portal to share consolidated guidance, best practice and publications.

The Scottish Government believes that these issues and suggestions need to be explored further, and do not think a statutory footing is the best approach at this stage or whether the Scottish Specific Duties (SSDs) would be the appropriate vehicle to take them forward. These matters will be subject to further consultation as part of the mainstreaming strategy consultation.

14.2 Question 11.1 – Mainstreaming Strategy

The Scottish Government will consult on the issues in this section further through the mainstreaming strategy. However, if you think any of these matters could be addressed through the PSED review, please give details here.

Almost two-thirds of respondents provided a response Question 11.1 (64%).

Theme 1: More appropriate to consult through the mainstreaming strategy

Many respondents, particularly listed authorities, agree with the Scottish Government proposal that it would be more appropriate to consider the issues outlined above and outlined in the Consultation Paper as part of the consultation process for the mainstreaming strategy.

Some respondents agree with the Scottish Government's view that the proposed actions to strengthen leadership and accountability and enhance capability, capacity and culture should not be considered as part of the PSED review and do not require a statutory footing. Although it should be noted that a few respondents explicitly state that certain issues, mainly training and improved forums, could be addressed through the PSED review.

Theme 2: Broad agreement with proposed actions

Most respondents agree with the proposed actions and mechanisms outlined in the Consultation Paper around funding, protected budgeting, training, equality accountable officers, and improved forums or portals to share best practice. Further, these respondents recognise that listed authorities would require capacity building support, and additional resources, staffing and funding for effective implementation. These respondents consider each element "critical if the ambitions of the PSED are to be met", and to some listed authority respondents are "long overdue."

Further, Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) welcome the "recognition that regulatory change is one part of a wider cultural shift which includes strengthening leadership and accountability and enhancing capability and capacity."

Theme 3: Additional funding

Many listed authority and equality advocacy group respondents consider that long-term funding would be essential to help improve leadership and accountability and enhance capability, capacity and culture, and to drive change.

"There needs to be a sustainable funding commitment to support this work at local level, accompanied by standard training and development made mandatory within listed public bodies to secure improved practice and achieve improved outcomes for individuals and communities."

Stirling Council

Theme 4: Protected budgeting

There are mixed views among respondents regarding the proposal on protected budgeting.

Most respondents support the proposal and consider that the proposed requirement of the public sector to spend a certain percentage of its budget to advance equality and human rights is a positive step, and an important lever to drive change.

Whilst supportive in principle, some listed authority respondents highlight constrained public sector finances and reduced public sector budgets as an issue. For example, it is noted that a reduction in the overall budget to the public sector would reduce the ring-fenced allocation and may limit impact/change.

Raised to a lesser extent, some listed authorities feel that further consultation and discussion may be required about projected budgeting, with some holding the view that the Scottish Government could have greater trust in listed authorities to set their own budgets to advance equality and human rights and express a preference for greater autonomy in this area.

"If the assumption is that this will come from existing, stretched budgets, this is likely to dilute the equality impacts due to lack of funding and as such resources to dedicate to this key area of work."

Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland (MACS)

Theme 5: Training

Many respondents, especially listed authorities, agree that there is a need for effective and mandatory equality training, particularly for senior leaders and public appointments. The focus on leadership training is therefore welcomed as a catalyst to effect change. Some equality advocacy group respondents note that the Scottish Government has an important leadership role to play in this regard.

Support with training and for equality accountable officers are viewed by these respondents as a good opportunity to involve people with lived experience in the process (e.g. to shape decision-making, to share knowledge and expertise).

A few respondents note that training could be considered as part of PSED review.

"Whilst training and awareness raising are already part of some but not all listed authorities activities, it has to be the right training. This should mean involving those with lived experience and their own organisations, not those run by people who do not share that protected characteristic. There is potentially a leadership role for Scottish Government to play here in promoting this and providing for the necessary regulation of quality standards and professionalisation for training."

Inclusion Scotland

Theme 6: Equality accountable officers

There is consensus among respondents to the consultation that dedicated equality accountable officers would be critical in helping the public sector to advance equality and human rights. Some respondents further note in their response that the public sector has used dedicated staff resources in other cross-cutting areas to good effect (e.g. legal compliance officers are mentioned).

A point raised by a couple of respondents is that there would need to be sufficient resource which is proportionate to the size and scale of the organisation. For example, these respondents feel that this would help to avoid the case where a sole individual within a large organisation is given full responsibility for equality accountability – it is noted that this may be unmanageable and limit the impact of the proposal.

Theme 7: Improved forums or portals to share best practice

Respondent feedback is much more limited on the Scottish Government proposal relating to improved forums or portals to share best practice.

For example, some listed authority respondents simply state their agreement that this is an area which requires greater focus or that the proposal is viewed positively.

Additional points raised by respondents on improved forums or portals to share best practice are that this would require to be adequately resourced to achieve maximum impact, and that any portals would need to be easy to use/navigate, accessible, and routinely updated. A few respondents point to hubs such as the Improvement Service and Fairer Scotland Duty's Knowledge Hub as examples that the Scottish Government could learn lessons from.

"Improved forums and portals to share best practice and guidance would be welcome but would rely on appropriate resource to ensure they were effective, up-to-date and promote cross sector partnership working opportunities. Often organisations are busy and resources are low so any wider forums require to add value with minimal abstraction."

Scottish Police Authority/Police Scotland

14.2.1 Further clarification on the proposal requested

Some respondents (e.g. some listed authorities and equality advocacy groups) call for further detail and clarity from the Scottish Government on the proposals to strengthen leadership and accountability and enhancing capability, capacity, and culture, including:

  • How the proposals would be resourced.
  • Whether a proportionate approach would be adopted by the Scottish Government to reflect the differences between organisations (i.e. size, scope, nature of activity).

"Experience to date suggests that without strong legislation, accountability and enforcement, many bodies will not effectively meet their legal obligations. The critical issues of adequate resourcing of equalities work and improved organisational / staff capacity to implement this also tie into leadership and accountability."

Joint Submission from Equality Stakeholders



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