An Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) is a way of systematically and thoroughly assessing, and consulting on, the effects that a proposed policy is likely to have on people, depending on ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability and religion.
The philosophy behind the EIA process is to ensure that every service and policy for, or delivered to, the general community is appropriate and accessible and does not, however unwittingly, disadvantage or discriminate against any group.
EIAs are necessary because equality is not about treating everybody the same. Equality means making sure that the individual requirements of different people and different communities are taken into account. For example, providing a public service only on a Friday will adversely affect certain religious groups. Similarly, altering funding arrangements for community and voluntary sector groups would disproportionately impact on particular communities.
Under the Equality Duty 2010, Local Authorities are required to identify all of the services, policies, plans and strategies which have an equality dimension and to carry out an EIA against these. Wyre Forest District Council has built on this requirement, and has extended its assessments across the areas of religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation and age as well as the protected characteristics of Maternity and Pregnancy, Transsexual and Marriage or Partnership. It then goes even further, to assess the impact of services and policies on the basis of geographic location and income.
Where a policy or service is found to have a potentially adverse impact for any particular group, the policy or service will be changed. Those that are found to have a positive impact will be kept under review in order to ensure that its potential is fulfilled. Although we have a legal duty to conduct impact assessments, they are improvement tools that have many benefits.
Impact assessments initially focused on the effect of policies on different racial groups. The methodology was developed by the Commission for Racial Equality and conducting race equality impact assessments is a requirement under the Race Relations Amendment Act.
As part of the Disability Discrimination Act (2005) it became a requirement that assessments look at the potential impact a policy or service may have on people with disabilities. In addition to this gender issues needed to be considered as part of the Gender Equality Duty.
The introduction of the Equality Duty in 2010 meant that public bodies now have a duty to consider all six strands of equality as well as protected characteristics.
As a result we now use a standardised Equality Impact Assessment Form (26K) in order to complete our Equality Impact Assessments.
All managers conducting Equality Impact Assessments have been fully trained in this area.