Sunday, January 30, 2011

The continued importance of Equality Impact Assessments

Welcome back to the Just Plain Sense Blog and I'm sorry that I've not posted anything for a year or so. The main reason for the gap is that the last year has been exceptionally busy, engaged in some groundbreaking work for my NHS Clients.

During 2010 I prioritised any time I had into producing new shows for the Just Plain Sense Podcast. However, I thought it was time to try and get back into the business of blogging too.

So here goes...

Whither Equality Impact Assessments?

I was asked recently whether the new Equality Act meant that public sector organisations needed to update their Equality Impact Assessment templates, or whether indeed there was still a need for the process under the new law.

My advice is primarily that  EIAs remain a useful (and arguably essential) methodology for doing what the forthcoming equality duty will require. I.e. You can’t do any of the things relating to identifying discrimination / adverse outcomes or promoting equality if you don’t have a tool for carrying out a gap analysis to begin with.

The difference is that whereas the previous statutory requirement was a bit of a blunt instrument, and led to people having to do EIAs on everything in sight and publishing them, we can all in future take a far more intelligent approach.

Lose the blunderbuss, keep the bullets.

The coming changes mean that that instead of everyone producing equality schemes (as the legacy equality duties required), we’ll be looking at a requirement for organisations to formulate prioritised outcome focussed action plans, targeting specific inequality areas each year. In the NHS, where most of my work is focussed, this will be linked with the proposed Equality Delivery System.

However, as I say, without the basic tools of investigation ... EIAs, desk research, consultation with Equality Target Groups, and targeted local research ... it wouldn’t be possible to say what those priorities need to be and whether the interventions you plan are fit for purpose.

This means that you might modify the design of your EIA templates to support the new process better, especially in terms of covering all the protected characteristics. You might also review how and when you carry out the assessment process. However, I don’t expect people to be ditching the methodology altogether ... it's too useful and informative for that.

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