Aberdeen City Council are due to meet on 15th December to discuss ceasing or reducing the Fairer Scotland Fund. The purpose of the fund is to tackle individual poverty and multiple deprivation, and should either of these options be exercised, this will have a significant impact on minority groups and communities in the city.
‘All new functions, policies and procedures should go through the EHRIA process’ (see Appendix 1)
In advance of these scheduled discussions, ACC Equalities Team have, in accordance with their duty to ‘carry out our Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessments (EHRIAs) early on in our budget setting process so that elected members are aware of any potential negative impacts of budget decisions on the equality groups’, have prepared the necessary documents.
According to Impact Assessment in relation the cessation of the fund: (see Appendix 3)
- ‘Support to get people into employment would cease. This would affect those furthest from the job market, including specialist support for race, disability, older, younger and gender groups.
- ‘Financial Inclusion support, including Credit Union support, money advice and income maximisation, would cease affecting those in poverty.
- ‘Health initiatives would cease, affecting access to mental health and wellbeing services for those in poverty.
- ‘A range of educational and cultural activities would cease affecting older, younger, gender and associated poverty groups.
- ‘Youth work in disadvantaged communities would cease affecting younger and youth poverty groups.
- ‘Neighbourhood improvements and community safety initiatives aimed at improving quality of life in disadvantaged communities would cease thereby affecting people living in poverty.’
These proposals, and their potential fallout also appear to be at odds with the Council’s Single Equality Scheme 2009 – 2012.
‘This Single Equality Scheme and its accompanying action plan builds on a wide range of work carried out by Council services to promote diversity and equality. The Scheme sets out how we will fulfill our legal duties in terms of the Race, Disability and Gender Equality strands and identifies arrangements, which go beyond current challenges of legislative requirements, embracing the strands of age, faith/ religion/ belief and sexual orientation.’(see Appendix 2)
the staffing implications fall hardest on women in employment
Having observed that there appear to be only negative outcomes for groups such as older persons, younger persons, and those financially disadvantaged, there is surely a strong case for councillors to reject the proposals on 15th December.
In a separate impact assessment – this time regarding staffing implications of reducing the council’s workforce, a disproportionate negative effect on female employees is identified (see Appendix 4):
‘Due to the impact of one proposal (given the gender profile of the workforce) which proposes a 50% reduction in Pupil Support Arrangements, the staffing implications fall hardest on women in employment.’
‘The proposal to reduce the number of Pupil Support Assistant’s (PSAs) by 50% will seriously affect this one job title, which is almost exclusively undertaken by women. The option, if accepted, would result in those employed either being redeployed or made redundant.’ In the High Court in London on Monday the Fawcett Society brought a case against the Government’s Budget cuts which will hit women far harder than men, as women account for 65% of all public sector employment and were more likely to be affected by pay freezes and job losses.
Campaigners say ministers are legally obliged to carry out an equality impact assessment before taking policy decisions and, where this reveals a risk of discrimination, to take urgent action.
Taking all of this into account, it would seem that there is a strong case for councillors to take the findings of these Impact Assessments very seriously and reject the proposal to reduce the number of PSAs, as this will not only have a disproportionately negative impact on women, but also the pupils most in need of this kind of support.
We wait and wonder.
(Appendix1) http://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/nmsruntime/saveasdialog.asp?lID=21290&sID=14152 (Page 5)