For full gender impact assessment, public authorities are likely to need more detailed baseline data. It will also be useful to have a process for consulting on the policy or practice. The EOC has produced guidance on the full process of impact assessment.
When making decisions on whether to amend a policy or practice to prevent unlawful discrimination or promote equality of opportunity, it is important to remember that a policy or practice may have a differential impact on women and men but that in itself is not enough to require amendment. The test of whether action needs to be taken is whether there is an adverse impact on one sex, and how serious that adverse impact may be. For example, a public authority might expect women to access its childcare services more than men do – a differential impact – but would need to consider whether this was having an adverse effect on men. It might do this by obtaining information on the extent of demand or need for those services from men.
Public authorities should expect to find evidence of differential impact on women and men, given the extent of differences in how women and men work and access services. In their analysis of action which needs to be taken, however, public authorities may need to question and challenge stereotypes, to ensure that they have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity between women and men.
The One Parent Families Support and Information Network (now known as the Centre for Separated Families), based in York, is a leading organisation working on behalf of separated families, with a focus on gender and poverty. They reviewed their services to identify gaps in service provision and realised that, although 9% of their registered lone parents were male, only 2% of those using their services were male. The organisation reviewed their structures and outputs and, as a result, reserved a place for a male lone parent on the board of trustees, and actively recruited male members of staff and volunteers. They also changed their recruitment and interview procedures to screen out assumptions about men. The work stemmed from their commitment to equal opportunities and was supported by strong leadership. Everyone from trustees to service users took part in training and was supported throughout it.
The project set up a men's project with the support of Oxfam. At the beginning, the men wanted to meet other men bringing up children on their own, but they also did not want to impose upon the women's space. The men's project was able to provide them with space and reassurance when some of the men were uncomfortable or nervous about asking for help, about the risk of being seen to fail, or about social services involvement.
(This example is taken from the voluntary sector and is intended to illustrate possible approaches, not to imply that all voluntary sector organisations are subject to the duty.)
Impact assessment is a requirement for the race and disability duties also, and public authorities may wish to bring the three processes together. To meet the requirements of the gender duty, however, public authorities will need to pay specific attention to developing the evidence base on gender, and to ensuring effective analysis of the implications for gender equality.
Public authorities will need to ensure the effectiveness of their impact assessment process for providing due regard to gender equality. They will need to review the effectiveness of this process when revising their scheme every three years, and should consider doing this on a more regular basis, particularly in the early stages. It will be