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Equal Opportunities Committee

Questions for Equal Opportunities Scrutiny of Policy and Legislation

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1. The Equal Opportunities Committee is in the process of commissioning research on "mainstreaming equality" in committee activities. The attached sets of questions draw on several sources in an attempt to further strengthen the interim checklist (from EOC/CRE) previously adopted in this work.

2. The Committee has already agreed that those bills previously flagged for routine scrutiny will have the proposed questions sent to the appropriate Sponsor (Minister for SE bills, Convener for committee bills and MSP for Members bills) under cover of a letter from the Convener.

3. In order to further inform the mainstreaming equality research, and also to demonstrably set a good example, the Committee welcomes comments (via the Clerks) on the initial questions and will review their usage after three months.

4. Comments may be submitted using the following methods:

  • Email it to equal.opportunities@scottish.parliament.uk or
  • Fax it to 0131 348 5600 or
  • Send it on a 3½" disk in Word 97 format or
  • By post to:

    Equal Opportunities Committee,
    Room G10 Committee Chambers,
    The Scottish Parliament,
    EDINBURGH,
    EH99 1SP.

5. If you have any questions, ring us on 0131 348 5216 or use the minicom on 0131 348 5415.

Policy and Legislation - Initial Questions

Introduction

The Equal Opportunities Committee of the Scottish Parliament has commissioned research into mainstreaming equality into committee activity. In the meantime, it has agreed that, as a minimal level of scrutiny of all legislation, it will ask the relevant Bill sponsor the questions set out in this annex. Naturally, this does not preclude further questions.

The Committee uses the legal definition of equal opportunities requirements and equal opportunity as set out in Schedule 5, Section L2 of the Scotland Act 1998:
"the prevention, elimination or regulation of discrimination between persons on grounds of sex or marital status, on racial grounds, or on grounds of disability, age, sexual orientation, language or social origin, or of other personal attributes, including beliefs or opinions, such as religious beliefs or political opinions."

It is therefore expected that ALL of these areas should be considered. Please note that this is not meant to be all encompassing guidance on equalities proofing, but it is recommended that this be the minimum standard to be attained.

In addition, the Committee has agreed the following definition of "mainstreaming equalities":
"Mainstreaming equality is essentially concerned with the integration of equal opportunities principles, strategies and practices into the every day work of Government and other public bodies from the outset, involving 'every day' policy actors in addition to equality specialists. In other words, it entails rethinking mainstream provision to accommodate gender, race, disability and other dimensions of discrimination and disadvantage, including class, sexuality and religion."

The Committee will examine the policy development process that brings legislation and issues to Parliament. Given the clear standards set it expects to see a process which encompasses a strategic vision, is effective and seeks continuous improvement. It is therefore likely that it will clearly display the following nine features:

  • forward looking;
  • outward looking;
  • innovative and creative;
  • evidence based;
  • inclusive;
  • joined-up;
  • subject to regular review;
  • subject to formal evaluation of outputs; and
  • learns lessons which are disseminated.


The Committee will review the use of these initial questions sets at regular intervals. The Committee welcomes discussion and comment on the initial question sets. Comments and queries may be addressed to the Clerking Team.

The Committee recognises that there will be occasions when some of the answers are in the negative. However, it expects that this will be as a result of a decision once the issues raised have been considered: it does not expect a nil response due to an omission of action.

FORWARD LOOKING

Definition - Policy makers clearly define the outcomes the policy [and legislation] is designed to achieve and, where appropriate, take a long-term view based on statistical trends, and informed predictions of social, political, economic and cultural trends, for at least five years into the future of the likely effect and impact of the policy

Broadly what process has been used to identify, define and refine policy issues

  • What is the issue?
  • Who says it is an issue?
  • Why has it become an issue?
  • What are the root causes?
  • How are the root causes perpetuated?
  • What factors (e.g. legal, economic etc) are influencing this issue?
  • Does this issue require further policy analysis?
  • If so, why take action now?

Broadly, what process has been used to define the intended outcome

  • What outcomes does government want to achieve with this policy?
  • Is this outcome targeted on particular groups, or society wide?
  • What outcomes would other stakeholders reasonably expect from this policy?
  • If there are priority target groups, on what is this priority based?
  • Can any of these outcomes be achieved by means other than new or revised policy/legislation?
  • Is the development of a policy/legislation the best means to produce the desired outcome?
  • How do these outcomes meet or hinder other government values, objectives or policies?
  • What FABRIC compliant outcome indicators are identified?
  • What factors/forces could contribute/detract from the outcomes?
  • Have the indirect, as well as the direct, effects of proposals been taken into account?
  • What options are indicated by the data/ information/research?
  • How are the options directly related to the desired outcomes previously identified?
  • How do your values, those of the system and those of society limit the range of options being developed?
  • How do these options influence or change the factors affecting the issue as previously identified?
  • How do each of the options meet or hinder existing policies, programs or legislation?
  • How to ensure accountability?

OUTWARD LOOKING

Definition - Policy makers take account of influencing factors in the national, European and international situation: draw on experience in other countries; and consider how the policy will be communicated with the public [and stakeholders]

Broadly, what consultation processes have been used

  • What did you need to know about the issue?
  • What influencing factors are there at the national, European and international level?
  • Did you consider there were any underlying problems?
  • Did you consider there were any values held, which would influence the approach adopted towards the issues?
  • Who was involved in determining what information is needed?
  • What information sources were available?
  • Were there any partners in information gathering/provision?
  • What processes were are required to effectively consult with these partners?
  • What information was required to ensure that all perspectives will be taken into consideration?
  • Who has been consulted, and how?
  • How was the fact that it is harder for some groups than others to speak out been taken into account?
  • Were the Cabinet Office guidelines on consultation followed? If not why not
  • How was the full range of options and their differential impacts on all equality groups presented as part of the consultation process?
  • Did each of the options present a "real" alternative for government?
  • Was there, at any time in the policy process, a decision made as to whether the policy should be redefined in light of the availability and appropriateness of the information?

Broadly, what communication processes are used for public and other stakeholders?

  • What is the message you want to communicate?
  • To whom do you want to communicate it?
  • What is the main message to be communicated to each audience?
  • How will the policy be communicated?
  • What information will be given to whom?
  • How?

INNOVATIVE AND CREATIVE

Definition - Policy makers are flexible and innovative, questioning established ways of dealing with things; encouraging new and creative ideas; and, where appropriate, making established ways work better. Wherever possible, open to comments and suggestions of others. Risks are identified and actively managed. Experimentation and diversity are encouraged through the use of pilots.

The Committee does not seek to stifle creativity by delineating possible activities as having greater value than others have: it will evaluate on result.

EVIDENCE BASED

Definition - Policy makers' advice/decisions are based upon the best available evidence from a wide range of sources: all key stakeholders are involved at an early stage and through the policy's development. All relevant evidence, including that from specialists, is available in an accessible and meaningful form to policy makers [and also to public scrutiny]

Broadly, what research has been done to provide evidence?

  • Is the data you have been provided with broken down into sub-categories of gender, ethnic origin, age and disability?
  • What was the analysis seeking to determine (e.g. cost/benefit, social impact, and effect on government priorities)?
  • Who determined the research question(s)?
  • What were the research question(s)?
  • What factors affected the research design?
  • Who was involved in the research and the research design? How?
  • What guarantees existed that the scope and nature of the research design were appropriate for this policy issue?
  • What methodology (ies) were used?
  • What type of analysis was carried out?


INCLUSIVE

Definition - Policy makers take account of the impact on and/or meet the needs of all people directly or indirectly affected by the policy; and involve key stakeholders directly in the policy process

  • Does, as a minimum, the policy properly consider the needs of diverse groups of women and men?
  • Have equalities dimensions been explicitly addressed in line with SE Equality Strategy?
  • Do we have full information and analyses about the impact of the policy upon all equalities groups?
  • If not, why not, and when will we have it?
  • How can you demonstrate you have mainstreamed equality?

JOINED-UP

Definition - policy makers take a holistic view, looking beyond institutional boundaries to the government's strategic objectives and seek to establish the ethical, moral and legal base for policy. Consider appropriate management/organisational structures needed to deliver cross-cutting objectives. Develop a rewards and incentives system that encourages and maintains cross-cutting working.

Broadly, how would the strategy proposed work to overcome organisational boundaries and deliver a holistic, cross-cutting service?

  • What are the direct and/or indirect implications of each option?
  • Are there unintended outcomes?
  • What factors will positively and negatively affect the implementation of each option?
  • Who would implement each option?
  • What resources are required for each option?
  • How have resources been allocated to support the chosen option?
  • How have resources been allocated for future support?
  • What resources are they (e.g. financial, resources, staff etc)?

SUBJECT TO REGULAR REVIEW

Definition - Existing/established policy is constantly reviewed to ensure it is really dealing with problems it was designed to solve, taking account of associated effects elsewhere.

Broadly, how can the quality of the outcomes be assured?

  • What monitoring and accountability processes are needed to ensure the outcomes?
  • Who will establish the criteria to judge the success of the outcomes?
  • At what stage in the process were the success criteria defined?
  • Who will report on the outcomes, and to whom?
  • Who is accountable for the quality

SUBJECT TO FORMAL EVALUATION OF OUTPUTS

Definition - Systematic evaluation of the effectiveness of policy is built into the policy making process

  • What outcome indicators should be identified?
  • What monitoring and accountability processes are needed to ensure the outcomes?
  • Can we measure progress through existing data collection
  • What proportion of current and future allocation has been ring-fenced for evaluation purposes?


LEARNS LESSONS WHICH ARE DISSEMINATED.

Definition - Learns from experience of what works and what doesn't

  • Who will be involved in external and peer reviews of the relevant processes?
  • What measures will be taken to communicate the policy, program and legislation to those who participated in its development?

 

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