Local Governance and BME Groups - Equality Issues

Place Based Policy 

One of the key areas in which current approaches to local governance create and maintain racial inequalities is in the emphasis on place based policy, which has been shown to fail people with protected characteristics.* There are some instances where place based policies have actively tried to be responsive to the experiences of local minority ethnic communities, for example decision making processes around service provision in areas like Govanhill in Glasgow, which has high concentrations of particular minority ethnic communities. However, even within areas where race equality is taken into account, there is an ongoing tendency in practice for place based policy making to problematise people who live in an area, rather than focussing on the economic and structural factors impacting their life experiences and inward / outward migration patterns within the area. In our experience, this has particular impact on people with protected characteristics as policy makers tend to view the inequalities associated with these characteristics as endemic to the people themselves, rather than something imposed by discriminatory attitudes and structures designed without thought to their needs.

*Serious issues for concern about engagement of communities of interest, including minority ethnic communities, have been evidenced through research including the two following publications, both entitled Hard to Reach, Easy to Ignore: What Works Scotland (2017) ‘Hard to reach’ or ‘easy to ignore’? and Matthews, P., Netto, G. and Besemer, K. (2012). ‘Hard to Reach’ or ‘Easy to Ignore?’ A Rapid Review of Place-Based Policies and Equality.

Socioeconomic Inequality 

Within local governance, issues of equality for people with protected characteristics and socio-economic equality are frequently misunderstood. These are often conflated or cited interchangeably. This is likely to worsen any potential lack of focus on equality, as socio-economic issues are often a higher priority local decision making processes and equality issues for people with protected characteristics are often poorly understood. It is imperative that each of these separate (though linked) agendas are given adequate consideration. We believe this is likely to worsen with the introduction of the Fairer Scotland Duty.

Equality Impact Assessments 

The poor quality of Equality Impact Assessments used in decision making processes within the public sector broadly suggests that this avenue for improvement of practice is not currently likely to mitigate against the potential for racial inequalities to arise in local governance processes. The fact that Community Planning Corporate Bodies created under Section 17 of the Community Empowerment Act are not subject to the Scottish Specific Public Sector Equality Duties further compounds this. CPP organisations involved in local governance are required to comply with SSPSED as individual organisations but not as a Community Planning Partnership. In our experience, the practical interpretation of this is often that work considered by those organisations to be Community Planning Partnership activity as opposed to individual activity is not being treated as subject to SSPSED, and therefore not requiring consideration in regard to the setting of equality outcomes, mainstreaming equality or equality impact assessment.


Why the contribution is important

The review of local governance aims to make democracy work better for everyone, and especially for those who feel left out. BME groups in Scotland have long felt disadvantaged, ignored, and left-behind in local governance. It would be remiss to consider improvements to local democracy without considering the race equality aspects.

by CRER_Scotland on November 26, 2018 at 02:51PM

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