Helping the Scottish Legal Aid Board embed equality into its work

Case name: Section 23 agreement with Scottish Legal Aid Board

The Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) signed a legal agreement us, committing them to improving their assessment and review of the impact of their policies on people with protected characteristics which put equality considerations at the centre of their work.

Background

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 groups. For most public bodies including SLAB, conducting and acting on the results of equality impact assessments is a key requirement of the duty.

Why we were involved

The agreement, using powers under Section 23 of the Equality Act 2006, was made after we raised concerns with SLAB that they were not always sufficiently assessing the impact of their policies on different groups.

Not only is it is a legal requirement that public bodies build equality into the decisions they make, it is fundamentally important. Developing equality impact assessments as you design policies and processes leads to decisions which are better quality, more robust and which work for everyone.

What we did

We worked with the Scottish Legal Aid Board to ensure they make improvements in this area, and that their policies and processes are designed with equality at the core of what they are seeking to achieve.

What happened

During the agreement, which has been put in place for 26 months, SLAB will implement a jointly agreed action plan and report on its progress. There will be no further enforcement action.

Who will benefit and how

The Scottish Legal Aid Board in signing this agreement, took an important step in embedding equality into their work and meeting their duty to assess the effect of their policies on equality groups.

The Agreement sends a clear message to other public bodies that considering the impact of their work on people with protected characteristics is critical in meeting the needs of all and in fulfilling their legal duties.

Date of outcome

Colin Lancaster, Chief Executive at the Scottish Legal Aid Board said:

Over recent years we have done much to deliver our published equalities outcomes and to start to build our equalities duties into our ongoing work to deliver a high quality user focused service and to enhance the quality, consistency and transparency of our decisions and delivery.

“We have already embarked on a large scale programme of review of our policies guiding how we apply the legal aid schemes and assessing the equalities impacts of those policies is a core element of this work.

“But we recognise that there is more we need to do to fully comply with our duties and so we will be taking this opportunity to work with the Commission to further embed equality into our policies and processes across the organisation. Over the next two years we will be following our agreed action plan across a range of work streams to ensure equality is at the heart of our work.

Court or tribunal:

Decision has to be followed in:

Law applies in:

Our involvement:

Outcome: