Section 12 Guidance: Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessments / Scrutiny

February 16, 2016

One of my priorities as Commissioner, as set out in my Framework for Action 2013-17, is to protect and improve community services – non-statutory services such as day centres, public toilets, libraries and transport that are often described as ‘lifelines’ by older people.

Despite the fact that they are as important to older people’s health, independence and wellbeing as statutory health and social care services, community services across Wales are at risk due to reductions in public spending, something of great concern for many older people.

Furthermore, older people often feel that they have few opportunities to voice their concerns over changes to community services, or that their needs are not fully considered when decisions are made.

Within a challenging financial climate, I understand the difficult decisions facing Local Authorities. However, I expect Local Authorities and other key service providers to fully consider and review the implications upon older people of closing a key community service and that every effort has been made to mitigate any impact.

That is why I have published this Guidance, which is issued under Section 12 of the Commissioner for Older People (Wales) Act 2006. It is designed to ensure that robust scrutiny is undertaken when changes to community services are proposed, essential to ensure that there is not a disproportionate impact upon older people and that alternative approaches are considered.

This Guidance is delivered in two parts:

  • Part 1 examines the importance of current Equality Impact Assessments and promotes the need to use Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessments (EHRIAs) when changes to community services are being considered. Part 1 applies to all public service bodies responsible for delivering community services for older people.
  • Part 2 examines the crucial role of scrutiny around changes to community services and is targeted towards elected members and officers in local government. The aim is to improve the quality of scrutiny and ensure that the impact of closing down or reducing the provision of a community service on older people is thoroughly and rigorously analysed and considered.

This Guidance was produced in collaboration with the Welsh Government and the Welsh Local Government Association, whose advice and expertise has been invaluable and I am very grateful for their contribution. I would also like to thank colleagues in the Wales Audit Office, Scottish Human Rights Commission and Welsh Local Authorities, in particular Pembrokeshire County Council and Cardiff Council, for their support in developing this Guidance.

At a time of real change for local government, this Guidance is designed to be a useful, practical document that will lead to better, high quality impact assessments. It should be embedded within working practices to ensure that high quality and thorough EHRIAs & scrutiny underpin future proposals on community services.

As I have consistently emphasised, protecting and improving community services will lead to cost savings for Local Authorities and other public services providers in the medium to longer term by supporting people to maintain their independence, reducing the need for costly formal support delivered through statutory health and social care services. An innovative approach to service delivery, underpinned by effective EHRIAs can make a huge difference to our communities and, ultimately, to older people’s lives.

Sarah Rochira
Older People's Commissioner for Wales

Download Equality & Human Rights Impact Assessments: Guidance for Local Authorities

Download Scrutinising Changes to Community Services: Guidance for Local Authorities