Shropshire Council

Equality, social inclusion and health impact assessments (ESHIAs)

This section sets out to outline:

  • The legal status of equality impact assessments
  • Our approach towards compliance with requirements placed upon us in this regard
  • The approaches we take towards consultation and engagement
  • What do service areas do?
  • Rationale for our approaches

Equality impact assessments

It is a legal requirement, laid upon us as a public sector body through the Equality Act 2010, for local authorities to assess the equality and human rights impact of changes proposed or made to services. This is part of what is described as the Public Sector Equality Duty.

The Public Sector Equality Duty, as set out in the Equality Act 2010, requires us to have what is termed 'due regard' to the needs and views of those with protected characteristics when developing and implementing policy and strategy and when commissioning, procuring, arranging, or delivering services.

There are nine protected characteristic groupings defined in the Equality Act 2010.

The full list of groupings is:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

There is also intersectionality between these, eg a young person with a disability would be in the groupings of age and disability, and if they described themselves as having a faith they would then also be in the grouping of religion or belief.

Carrying out these impact assessments helps us as a public authority to ensure that, as far as possible, we are taking actions to meet the general equality duty placed on us by the Equality Act 2010, and to thus demonstrate that the three national equality aims are integral to our decision making processes.

It is up to us as an authority to decide what form our equality impact assessment may take. By way of illustration, some local authorities focus more overtly upon human rights; some include safeguarding. It is about what is considered to be needed in a local authority’s area, in line with local factors such as demography and strategic objectives as well as with the national legislative imperatives.

We need to be in a position to be able to demonstrate to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) that we have made every effort to carry out our equality impact screenings, and that we have done so at every stage where it would be appropriate to do so.

Our approach

In Shropshire, the tool that we use to do this work is referred to as an Equality, Social Inclusion and Health Impact Assessment (ESHIA).

This is a single screening template, usually presented as an appendix to a committee report, either to cabinet or to the Strategic Licensing Committee. The ESHIAs thus form part of the committee paper documentation for elected members to consider in decision making processes: and are a crucial component within such considerations as well as a visible and demonstration of our approach.

Our ESHIA screening sets out to ensure that “due regard” is being given to equality, equity, social inclusion and health and wellbeing.

For us, this is about maximising the opportunity of a legal requirement in relation to considering impacts for the nine protected characteristic groupings to augment it with our own extra efforts as a council.

These are in relation to health and well being, linked to health impact considerations; to environmental impacts, linked to climate change considerations; and to economic impacts.

None of these are legal requirements under the Equality Act 2010, albeit that may change in relation to economic impacts should there be legislation brought forward in that regard.

Together, they add value or at least ensure that the council is visibly seeking to take an holistic view of impacts: and as importantly for our service areas is taking a proportionate and time efficient way in which to do so through use of a single template.

Our ESHIA screening thus sets out to ensure that “due regard” is being given to equality, equity, social inclusion and health and well being, in line with our local aspirations as set out in the Shropshire Plan as well as with our national legal obligations.

Since 2014, our own equality impact screening assessment has encompassed consideration of social inclusion, including consideration of rurality impacts.

Social inclusion is the wider additional category we use in Shropshire, in order to help us to go beyond the equality legislation in also considering impacts for individuals and households with regard to the circumstances in which they may find themselves across their life stages. This could be households on low incomes, or households facing challenges in accessing services, such as households in rural areas, and veterans and serving members of the armed forces and their families, or people that we might consider to be vulnerable, such as young people leaving care or refugee families.

Rurality is not in itself a protected characteristic as set out in the Equality Act 2010. Rurality may usefully be considered in regard to the circumstances in which people find themselves as individuals or as households, including issues such as fuel poverty, lack of access to services and facilities, and lack of opportunities for training and employment.

Please note that the armed forces are now a grouping to whom we are required to give due regard under new Armed Forces legislation, although in practice we have been doing so for a number of years now.

Approaches towards consultation and engagement

ESHIAs are developed alongside consultation and engagement. This is because they are screening templates, to be carried out at appropriate stocktake moments. Sometimes only one will be necessary, for example if a Government change is brought in that requires implementation.

More usually as a council, we would seek to involve communities and stakeholders in development of policy or in changes proposed to policies or services and would therefore carry out one at the start of a consultation process and one at the end.

These screening assessments are recommended to be undertaken at timely points in the development and implementation of the proposed service change.

There is therefore no precise or fixed timetable for an ESHIA, as it will depend upon the circumstances in which a service change is being proposed or developed. These would always be dependent upon service area policy development and the timescales and other context in which a service area is considering a service change or a policy is being proposed.

This enables energies to be focussed on review and monitoring and ongoing evidence collection about the positive or negative impacts of a service change upon groupings in the community, and for any adjustments to be considered and made accordingly.

Where a policy is being proposed or a new strategy is being developed, upon which we then seek to gain views from the community and from groupings within the community, an initial Equality, Social Inclusion and Health Impact Assessment (ESHIA) would be carried out and presented to cabinet alongside the request for permission to consult on changes proposed. This first screening would accordingly include consideration of likely anticipated impacts, whether positive, neutral or negative, based upon evidence available at that point including any previous consultation and engagement. A further screening is then planned in to be undertaken following the consultation, to record and seek to utilise the feedback received.

Additional efforts would be made to engage with the Protected Characteristic groupings most likely to be affected and their advocates, as well as stakeholder groups and organisations, and to identify and seek to enhance any likely positive impacts, identify likely neutral impacts, and identify and minimise likely negative impacts.

The approach also demonstrates efforts around continuing to review and monitor impacts, for example through keeping abreast of good practice, evidence and data from elsewhere and continuing to develop our own good practice and build upon our own evidence base. Using this part of the ESHIA helps us to put on record how we will continue to involve and engage with communities and groupings and with elected members as representatives of those communities and groupings.

This approach, used for examples such as the development and production of the Economic Growth Strategy, demonstrates efforts made to gain feedback from target groupings, the wider community, and stakeholders, including with regard to impacts that could be either positive or negative or neutral in relation to equality, social inclusion and health and wellbeing.

Another example would be the Local Plan Partial Review, as that had to go through a series of formal stages, each presented to cabinet, and an ESHIA was therefore completed at each stage.

There can be a tendency to view ESHIAs primarily as documents that focus upon risks and that record likely negative equality impacts. It is truer to say that, more often than not, they present as an opportunity to articulate a range of likely positive impacts and neutral impacts across protected characteristic groupings as well as identifying and seeking to minimise any likely negative impacts. It holds good, for example, that policy around enhancements to the public realm, designed to facilitate economic growth through measures such as lighting and walking and cycling routes, are likely to achieve positive equality impacts for people in the grouping of disability, including those with neurodiverse conditions as well as those with visual impairments or other physical access considerations.

What do service areas do?

Service areas would ordinarily carry out a screening assessment, or stage one equality impact assessment. This enables energies to be focussed on review and monitoring and ongoing evidence collection about the positive or negative impacts of a service change upon groupings in the community, and for any adjustments to be considered and made accordingly.

These screening assessments are recommended to be undertaken at timely points in the development and implementation of the proposed service change.

For example, an initial or stage one ESHIA would be a recommended course of action before a consultation. This would draw upon the evidence available at that time, and identify the target audiences, and assess at that initial stage what the likely impact of the service change could be across the protected characteristic groupings and our tenth category of social inclusion. This ESHIA would set out intended actions to engage with the groupings, particularly those who are historically less likely to engage in public consultation eg young people, as otherwise we would not know their specific needs.

A second stage one ESHIA would then be carried out after the consultation, to say what the feedback was, to set out changes proposed as a result of the feedback, and to say where responses were low and what the plans are to engage with groupings who did not really respond. This ESHIA would also draw more upon actions to review impacts in order to mitigate the negative and accentuate the positive. Examples of this approach include the Great Outdoors Strategy, and the Economic Growth Strategy.

Meeting our Public Sector Equality Duty through carrying out these ESHIAs is very much about using them as an opportunity to demonstrate ongoing engagement across groupings and to thus visibly show we are taking what is called due regard of the needs of people in protected characteristic groupings

The screening template is kept under review in order to take account of the local factors we have mentioned, and in order to adjust it in the light of feedback from service areas about which bits they are finding tricky and which bits are working well.

In June 2023, we updated the ESHIA for the new cycle of committee reports. This is in order to amplify not only the health and well being element but also the duty that now applies in law to have due regard to the needs of veterans and serving members of the armed forces and their families. We have also made what we hope will serve as useful clarifications to the guidance. This guidance is provided to officers via the council intranet, along with the worked example from July 2023, also reproduced on this page.

Rationale for our approach

Our template for our impact assessment is very much grounded in our Strategic Equality Objectives Action Plan, which is something we are likewise required to do under our Public Sector Equality Duty placed upon us by the Equality Act 2010. In the current plan, for 2020-2024, approved by Cabinet in July 2020, we identified this work as a specific action to address, as follows:

Strategic Equality Objectives Action Plan 2020-2024
Overall Strategic Action B: collect and analyse more proactively

Incorporate health and well-being assessments into equality and social inclusion impact assessments for service areas, in order to equip service areas to have due regard to the three aims when considering and planning service changes, and to link in with climate change appraisals to form a coherent suite of materials.

Our revisions bring health and well being to the fore, and link in with the Shropshire Plan as well as into the work that we do with partners through the Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin Integrated Care System (ICS), to ensure that health is within all our policies. The aim is to visibly demonstrate that we are working together to address health inequalities for people in protected characteristic groupings, and across all communities. These revisions also very much sit alongside our continued efforts to keep the screening template proportionate for our service areas to complete when they are proposing a service change such as a new policy, a revised strategy or the introduction of new national legislation.