18 July 2017
Public sector to do more to reduce
In a UK first, public bodies in Scotland will be required to put
reducing poverty and inequality at the heart of their decision
The introduction of a socio-economic duty was included in the UK
Government's Equality Act 2010 - however, it was never implemented.
The Scottish Government is now pressing ahead alone and is seeking
views on how best to apply the duty across the public sector.
Once implemented, it will mean bodies like councils and the NHS
must consider what more they can do to reduce poverty and
inequality, whenever they make major decisions. A consultation will
ask which public bodies should be subject to the duty and what they
need to do to demonstrate they are carrying it out.
Equalities Secretary Angela Constance launched the consultation
while visiting the Star Project in Paisley, a community resilience
and support programme that works in partnership with Renfrewshire
Council to tackle poverty and deprivation.
Ms Constance said:
"Tackling inequalities will never be an optional extra for this
government - it is core to everything we do. Implementing this
duty, and requiring public bodies to put reducing inequalities at
the heart of their decision making, is an important step. It
further contributes to our actions on inclusive growth, ensuring
increased economic prosperity goes hand in hand with a fairer, more
"Public bodies already do a huge amount to reduce inequalities,
but with more than one in four children in poverty, we must all
work together to do more and make a difference. The duty will
further embed this into the DNA of public sector decision-making -
including that of Scottish Ministers. It is not only the right
thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.
"Our action on inequalities is in stark contrast to the UK
Government, who have refused to implement this requirement to
reduce inequalities through decision making - all while scrapping
child poverty targets. Instead we are ensuring our public
bodies listen to and respond to the views of communities,
particularly those with direct experience of poverty."
Renfrewshire Council Leader, Councillor Iain Nicolson, said:
"The STAR Project are one of Renfrewshire's key partners,
working towards our ambition that every child reaches their full
potential, regardless of their background.
"We know the reasons behind poverty and deprivation are complex,
which is why understanding local issues and providing opportunities
that really support people and families, where and when they need
it, continues to be vital for Renfrewshire.
"Acting locally in partnership with organisations like the STAR
Project makes a real difference to the lives of many families and
this supports parents and carers to ensure children feel healthy,
happy and valued, no matter how much money is in a household."
John Wilkes, Head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission in
"For the first time public bodies will be required to set out
how their plans will help in reducing poverty. In recent years the
number of people living in poverty has shrunk, but poverty has
become more concentrated in some communities.
"The new Socio Economic Duty will help by focussing on how major
decisions like the type of housing we build, our transport
strategies and investment plans can narrow the gaps in experience
between the most and the least advantaged in Scottish society.
"As regulator, we stand ready to ensure the Scottish Government
make the most of this opportunity and will be pushing for similar
moves by the government in Westminster."
public consultation is now open and closes on 12 September.
The introduction of the duty is the next step in the Scottish
Government's implementation of equalities powers secured through
the Scotland Act 2016. It follows the introduction of legislation
to address the underrepresentation of women in public
Introducing a socio-economic duty was the first of 50 measures
set out in in the Fairer Scotland
Action Plan, the Scottish Government's vision for a fairer and
more inclusive country, as well as a key recommendation by the
Independent Advisor on Poverty and Inequality, Naomi Eisenstadt, in
the curve report.
The Scottish Government has also introduced statutory targets for the
reduction of child poverty - which were recently scrapped at a
UK-level. Meanwhile, the
three-year rolling funding commitment for the equalities budget
gives third sector bodies much needed reassurance.
Source - The Scottish Government website