Spotlight on… Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessments
In the first of our new monthly series, we shine the spotlight on Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessments (EHRIAs) – an area of our work you might not have heard of yet. However, they are hugely important and can make a significant difference to the way we develop and provide services to children and families, our staff and partners.
We talk to Indiya Kurlus, SCRA’s Inclusion and Diversity Manager and Melissa Hunt, our Policy and Public Affairs Manager, to find out more…
So what are EHRIAs?
At SCRA we are committed to providing a service and a workplace founded on fairness, respect, equality, diversity, inclusion, engagement and dignity – where people’s individual needs are met and their rights respected. Therefore, Equalities and Human Rights Impact Assessments or EHRIAs are a vital part of our work.
They are an assessment that we carry out during the planning and development of any new policy, process or practice to make sure it is fair and doesn’t negatively impact on people in any way and, if it does, we can mitigate against this. EHRIA’s should be considered at the start of any planning so we consider all the possible impacts – good and bad – on children and families, our workforce and our partners.
Do you have to do this?
Yes, we have a legislative responsibility to conduct impact assessments. We have a duty to conduct impact assessment under the Public Sector Equality Duty, the Fairer Scotland Duty and the Islands Communities Impact Assessment, alongside considering human rights and corporate parenting responsibilities. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has statutory powers to ensure all public bodies adhere to the law.
Meeting all these statutory responsibilities is challenging, particularly as they are inextricably linked. At SCRA we have developed an holistic and integrated approach to impact assessment combining all our statutory responsibilities into Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessments. We wanted to ensure that we fulfilled our statutory duties and that our process was meaningful and impactful.
We also believe that it is the ‘right’ thing to do – we can genuinely improve the work that we do if we really consider the impact that any change will have in advance.
So what happens?
When we are about to develop a new process or service, such as the introduction of Virtual Hearings during the pandemic, we should carry out an EHRIA right at the start of the planning process. We have trained colleagues and provided detailed information guides about how to do this (although this was somewhat thwarted by the pandemic). Impact assessment is not a quick process and can seem quite daunting. However, we have taken an integrated holistic approach – so we combine a number of different impact assessments into the one EHRIA. There are different levels of impact assessment as well and at the end of the process it is reviewed by the Equalities Review Group – who use a further assessment form and again consider all aspects of the proposal/the EHRIA that has been completed and the possible impacts that have been identified.
It sounds like quite a big responsibility?
It is, but it is an essential legal and moral responsibility that everyone in SCRA should be aware of. We have built in a process of support and review to provide accountability, governance, transparency and quality assurance to the EHRIA process by embedding an Equality Review Group (ERG) into the process. As a critical friend, with the full support of our Executive Management Team (EMT) and our Board, the ERG has the power to challenge EHRIAs. As such, the ERG has a key role to play as it ensures that we proactively identify areas of improvement to mitigate against negative impacts and also ensures that we commit to making the necessary improvements. Members of the ERG also provide support to colleagues carrying out the impact assessments.
So are EHRIAs making a difference?
The short answer is yes. Out of 27 EHRIAs reviewed by the ERG since June 2020, there were five where further actions or considerations were required before the implementation of the policy or process was agreed by the ERG – Virtual Hearings is a great example of where the EHRIA and ERG review really does make a difference to how we work. If these EHRIAs hadn’t been completed and the ERG hadn’t identified improvements and/or mitigating actions we could have been unjustifiably in breach of our statutory obligations. We are incredibly proud that our EHRIA process is not tokenistic. As we have embedded EHRIAs into all the work that we do, they are making a difference.
Can I see an example of one?
All our EHRIAs are published on our website in the Inclusion and Diversity section.
This sounds interesting, where can I get more information?
We have already been approached by a number of public bodies and organisations interested in our approach as a recognised example of best practice. We are happy to share our learning and our materials, so please get in touch! You can contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org