Background to S31 Project

As part of the Section 31 Assessment (2010 - 2012), the Commission carried out a detailed analysis of the process by which decisions were taken for nine of the measures announced in the Spending Review 2010. Out of these, we found that six were fully in accord with the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED)

These were

  • Removing Child Benefit from households with a higher rate taxpayer.
  • Reform of Legal Aid.
  • A £2.5 billion pupil premium for disadvantaged children.
  • Removal of mobility component of Disability Living Allowance from claimants in residential care homes.
  • Council Tax Benefit: 10% reduction in expenditure, and localisation.
  • Time-limiting the contributory Employment and Support Allowance to one year for those in the Work Related Activity Group.

In three cases, the Commission was unable to establish whether or not the decisions were in full accord with the requirements of the PSED because of a lack of clarity as to where the true site of the decisions lay and whether or not some decisions were the responsibility of other government departments or the government as a whole. These were:

  • Introduction of a household benefits cap - no evidence of any gender analysis or equality screening of the measure provided to HM Treasury ministers prior to the announcement of the measure on 4 October 2010.
  • Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG) - the potential impact on people with disabilities was not included in the advice provided to HM Treasury ministers.
  • Replacing Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) with local discretionary funds - there was no reference to ethnicity, disability or gender in information provided to HM Treasury ministers.

Recommendations from the May 2012 S31 Assessment Report:

The Commission’s S31 report identified key findings and made a number of recommendations around the next steps for HM Treasury. These were:

  • Greater transparency, including clear HM Treasury guidance on data and analytical requirements for the whole of government.
  • Common rules to allow easier sharing of equality data within government, such as standardised data collection rules.
  • Authoritative sources of advice and support for government departments on equality impact analysis.
  • The development of a common model of analysis to predict the likely equality effects of policy

We suggested that Government should also consider:

  • a single point of government responsible for monitoring and assessing the cumulative impact of future Spending Reviews and budgets
  • independent and authoritative equality analysis of public spending policies.

Further recommendations in the report were that:

  • Case law confirms that public authorities need to analyse and understand the impact of proposed policies and decisions on the protected groups at the formative stages of policy development, in advance of the adoption of such policies. For future Spending Reviews HM Treasury should bear this in mind during the early stages of policy development. This allows HM Treasury ministers to judge what actions would be considered proportionate, and should also inform the prioritisation of objectives and policies.
  • All departmental functions or services under consideration for change under future Spending Reviews should be subject to an initial screening for their potential impact on the different protected characteristics. This would ensure that HM Treasury ministers are better informed on whether it may be necessary to gather further evidence on which to base their final decision.
  • An evidence base relating to current consumption and participation by equality groups would help to reduce pressure within the Spending Review process and to ensure that the focus of analysis can be on the proposed changes. Government could make better use of existing data and improve data collection processes, to help inform policy development and decision-making.
  • Ministers should be provided with information about the potential impact of decisions that they are taking. Where complete analysis is unavailable, for example due to data gaps or policy not yet being fully defined, the best possible proportionate analysis should be provided, with the necessary caveats.
  • When potential adverse impact is identified for a protected group, consideration should be given at the early stages to mitigation and to the effectiveness of any proposed mitigating actions.

Expert Advisory Group

In February 2013, the Commission set up the Fair Financial Decisions - Expert Advisory Group, chaired by Mark Hammond, the Commission's Chief Executive, which consists of representatives from government departments and stakeholder groups. Specifically, representatives are civil servants, analysts and experts drawn from economic, policy and equality roles inside and outside government.

The remit of the Group is to inform, advise and steer the development of the Commission’s work on follow-up to the original recommendations. In particular, to consider emerging evidence and insights from newly-commissioned work and to advise on the form of impact methodology and guidance that would best support fair, efficient and well-evidenced policy and decision-making for spending reviews and fiscal events.

Discussions and co-operation within the Group have been extremely useful. HM Treasury has been very co-operative and a willing participant in helping the Commission to progress the recommendations from the original S31 Assessment report.

The Group met on a number of occasions between 2013 and 2015.

Terms of Reference

To advise on ways of implementing the recommendations of the EHRC’s S.31 Assessment Report: Making Fair Financial Decisions and to support the development of efficient and effective ways of assessing impact of proposed spending measures on protected groups as an integral part of good policy and decision-making. In particular:

  1. to help to address some of the evidence, data and analysis challenges faced by government, HMT and Departments in assessing potential impact on protected groups
  2. to comment on new and emerging research, evidence and ideas
  3. to advise and comment on form and content of draft briefing notes, guidance and case studies so that any products are tested and informed by specialist and front-line practitioner perspectives.
  4. to advise on what is possible and practical, given the importance of a straightforward, unbureaucratic approach across government to assessing equality impact for spending reviews
  5. to advise on how best to support and promote real change in practice particularly in the context of planning for the next spending review
  6. to engage with key partners to join up thinking across government departments and key organizations
  7. to help to take forward the agenda for change set by the project.
  8. to act as critical friend and adviser to EHRC in developing and promoting new approaches to impact assessment for spending reviews and fiscal events.

Confidentiality - While members of the Advisory Group will be encouraged to engage fully with the project, all discussions, presentations and reports will be confidential until made public by the EHRC. Advisory Group members will be asked to abide by these rules of confidentiality.

Last updated: 14 Apr 2016