On 19 November 2012, the government announced that it was “calling time” on equality impact assessments.  We understand the Government's view is that equality issues can be properly considered as part of decision making processes without the need for a full impact assessment being undertaken every time. The intention, therefore, behind scrapping the use of impact assessments is to enable policy makers to use their judgement in equality issues, saving necessary time and costs.

However, given that there is no formal legal requirement to produce equality impact assessments in the first place, Cameron’s remarks do not deliver the peace of mind and relief that he had intended.  Despite the alleged scrapping of a non-mandatory step, how far will this have any real impact?

There had already been a change in approach by many Local Authorities when assessing equality issues moving from ‘equality impact assessment’ to an ‘analysis of equality’ (under the Equality Act 2010). This was intended to focus attention more on the quality of the analysis and how it is used in decision making, rather than on the production of a tick box impact assessment. Equality analysis is a way of considering the effect on different groups protected from discrimination by the Equality Act. It involves using equality information, and the results of engagement with protected groups and others, to understand the actual effect or the potential effect of functions, policies or decisions. It can help to identify practical steps to tackle any negative effects or discrimination, to advance equality and to foster good relations.

The issue with scrapping the use of Equality Impact Assessments is that public bodies still need to be able to evidence their compliance with the Public Sector Equality Duty under the Equality Act. In addition, we are aware that quite often, the outcomes from such assessments are filtered through to key policies in order to achieve ‘joined up’ thinking.  If there is no equality impact assessment we consider Local Authorities will still need to document evidence to demonstrate that they have had “due regard” to the relevant duties to ensure they can defend any judicial review applications made relating to their public sector duties.

For more information

For further information on the impact of the announcement on you or your organisation, please contact Kate Watkins on 0121 212 7494 or kate.watkins@anthonycollins.com.