Audit Scotland: promoting diversity and equality in public services
Audit Scotland explains how they are promoting diversity and equality and shares examples of their findings from auditing equality in public bodies.
It took the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993, and the findings of the Macpherson Report, to prompt public authorities to embrace a new way of thinking: they committed to promoting equality, it was no longer sufficient for them to simply avoid discrimination.
With the Equality Act 2010 existing equality duties were harmonised and extended across all protected characteristics: age, disability, sex, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation.
In addition, the Public Sector Equality Duty requires public bodies to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between different people when carrying out their activities. It also covers marriage and civil partnerships, with regard to eliminating unlawful discrimination in employment.
What does this mean for Audit Scotland?
As a public body, and an organisation that believes, unequivocally, in ensuring equality for all colleagues, Audit Scotland has an equality outcome to ‘promote, understand and support a diverse and inclusive workforce’.
It also has an equality outcome to ensure that its audit work will ‘reflect how public services meet the diverse needs of all citizens and communities’.
What does this mean in practice?
Over 220 public bodies in Scotland spend over £40 billion of public money each year. The role of the Auditor General for Scotland and the Accounts Commission is to help make sure that public money is spent properly, efficiently and effectively.
This role allows Audit Scotland to encourage and promote equality in public services and bodies, and highlight where improvement is required.
We’ve captured examples of where we’ve reported on aspects of equality in performance audits in our Equality outcomes and mainstreaming report:
- Moray Council Best Value audit –we reported good progress relative to a previous recommendation to maintain momentum in improved leadership and training on equality. Moray has set refreshed equality outcomes and is monitoring and reporting on progress against them, as well as routinely conducting equality impact assessments.
- Social work in Scotland –the scope of the audit included consideration of the provision of services for those with specific equality needs such as gender, ethnicity, faith and sexual orientation. The advisory group included organisations which represented people with a disability.
- Self-directed support (SDS) – SDS aims to improve the impact that care and support has on people’s lives. Feedback was encouraged from people of all ages and with diverse support needs, third-party organisations assisted with the preparation of accessible surveys, and the auditors ensured they went out to engage with a wide range of users and carers.
What have we learned?
One of the biggest advances we have made is the establishment of an equality and human rights advisory group. It includes people who represent the protected characteristics. They assist us with the review of our forward work programme of performance audits to identify which characteristics we should be considering when scoping our audits.
Some of them have then gone on to join an audit advisory group and others have put us in touch with service user groups to ensure we are collecting relevant and reliable audit evidence.
We are constantly learning from our engagement in this area. When we published one set of annual diversity statistics for our own organisation we noted that the number of staff aged from 16-24 was below that of the Scottish population, probably due to our tendency to recruit university graduates for our two business groups.
Today you’ll find we have a modern apprentice in Corporate Services and a school leaver undertaking the AAT programme in Audit Services.
Lauryn Graham said “I really liked the idea of being part of a bigger organisation that covered so many different aspects of public life ... I could end up going further than if I’d gone down the usual route of going to university as I’ll be gaining practical experience while studying.’
We also closely monitor and evaluate the gender balance throughout the organisation. We made particular effort when recruiting, to increase diversity in the membership of the Accounts Commission, with success.
Our latest statistics show that this has been successful:
For further information, refer to what Audit Scotland is planning to do to promote, encourage and embed equality and the Public sector equality duty in Scotland.