A practitioners’ discussion and examination of how to raise the profile and make progress in mainstreaming equalities and in regeneration in the Community Planning environment in Scotland.

Held in Edinburgh on 23.03.2004


Paddy Tomkins, Chief Constable Lothian & Borders Police
Yvonne Strachan, Head of Equalities Unit, Scottish Executive
Jon Harris, Strategy Direct, COSLA

Chair, Edward Harkins, Networking Initiatives, SURF

This is a summary of the fuller Issues Paper issued to SURF members. The views stated here reflect the broadest consensus views of the forum participants.

Core Issues:

i. The attendance and the quality of discussion demonstrated commitment and determination on the part of the participants and their organisations on progressing equalities mainstreaming. There is a continuing challenge to ensure sufficient awareness and basic understanding of what Community Planning is and what the implications and opportunities are. This is true for professional staff of agencies and public service organisations, as well as for participants and service users in the voluntary and community and private sectors.

ii. There are clear and explicit statutory and regulatory requirements on equalities that Community Planning partners must comply with. These include the Local Government in Scotland Act where (Section 59) it requires local authorities and others to participate in community planning in a manner which encourages equal opportunities and… the observance of equal opportunities requirements, and where (Section 17) it requires community planning partnerships to report on their performance on encouraging equal opportunities. In addition, the duty of Best Value requires local authorities to secure continuous improvement in a manner that complies with equal opportunities legislation.

iii. Monitoring, audit and evaluation activities, with appropriate statutory or regulatory backing are all critical for transparency and accountability in equalities mainstreaming in Community Planning. These are challenging and difficult activities but they must be undertaken. They must be applied to decision making agencies and public organisations led by senior personnel as well as to ‘frontline’ organisations and middle management.

iv. If fundamental change and improvement in public services delivery are to be achieved, Community Planning Partnerships (CPPs) must engage with normally excluded groups and individuals (such as young people and travelling people). It is at least equally important that the most appropriate (and senior) decision-makers are ‘brought to the CPP table’ and that they are empowered and willing to share power. There is a need to understand that not all partners in CPPs are equal; there was a tendency whereby more powerful partners to perceive less powerful partners as ‘whingers’, rather than address the fundamental issues of power and capacity-building.

v. Instances of best practice equalities mainstreaming at the operational level in Scotland remain relatively unusual. There are episodes of sharing but there is a need for more identification and dissemination of best practice.

vi. For equalities mainstreaming, as with regeneration, to work it has to be promoted and implemented as a cross-cutting activity; it must cross organisational boundaries. It cannot be implemented in professional or interest group ‘silos’. For deep rooted and long term change, mainstream business policies, processes and activities have to integrate equality.

vii. A central and powerful tool for promoting equality is ‘changing the climate’. Mainstreaming equality has to be alongside legislative change, developing policy and practice and extracting the evidence through effective engagement with communities and individuals.