Centre for Research in Education Inclusion and Diversity (CREID)

Reporting on progress towards equality of opportunity between disabled persons and other persons made by public authorities in Scotland

Specific duties on certain public bodies are prescribed in Scottish regulations first published in 2005 and amended in 2007. These comprise the publication of a Disability Equality Scheme (DES) demonstrating how the body intends to fulfil the general and specific duties: involving disabled people in the development of the Department of Education; carrying out impact assessments; making arrangements to gather relevant information; developing an action plan; taking steps set out in the action plan, within three years; and publishing an annual report. Scottish Ministers are required to publish reports providing an overview of progress made by public authorities and proposals for the co-ordination of action by public authorities to bring about further progress towards equality of opportunity between disabled and non-disabled people.


Our research will investigate the progress made by public authorities in order to inform Ministers’ reports. The study will focus on the extent to which monitoring by public authorities has been undertaken, the barriers they have identified and the specific actions they are proposing to take over the next period of time. Recommendations will be made with regard to further action required to achieve greater equality for disabled people, and the data which needs to be gathered and analysed in order to chart progress over time.

The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 placed a general duty on all public authorities to have due regard to the need to:

  • eliminate discrimination which is unlawful under the Act
  • eliminate harassment of disabled persons that is related to their disability
  • take steps to take account of disabled persons’ disabilities, even where that involves treating disabled people more favourably than others
  • promote positive attitudes towards disabled persons
  • encourage participation by disabled persons in public life

Approach and methodology

After an initial scoping exercise, a review of published schemes, action plans and annual reports for the 273 public authorities, and a related literature search, the team will analyse the data, evidence and information arising in relation to public authorities with responsibilities relating to each of the six ministerial portfolio areas. We shall also identify evidence relating to cross-cutting issues.

Our approach will enable an overview of the extent to which in each portfolio area there has been progress by public authorities in taking forward the general duty. This should allow comparisons to be made between sectors, and progress both between and within portfolio areas, and may highlight gaps in evidence. This will enable recommendations to be made, and will identify any cross-cutting issues that may arise across more than one portfolio. We shall also undertake an analysis in relation to the following factors mapping on to the six ministerial portfolio areas:

  • the extent to which disabled people were involved in the development of Schemes
  • the extent to which policies have been subject to disability equality impact assessments
  • the extent to which arrangements for gathering relevant information and data have been undertaken or planned
  • the extent to which key steps in Action Plans have been undertaken (where annual reports give sufficient data)
  • the nature of activities and objectives identified by Action Plans as priority areas for the next two years

Data gathered by audit and inspection bodies will also be analysed, and we shall investigate the extent to which information on disability equality is routinely included within their reports. Triangulation will thus occur between the information in audit and inspection reports and that contained in Schemes and Annual Reports. Additional triangulation will take place with data gathered by researchers, disability organisations and disabled people, contributing to a more rounded picture of progress.

The proposed analysis of progress in relation to both the general and specific duties will illuminate cross-cutting issues, for example, the extent to which plans and actions on promotion of disability equality have common or divergent targets and approaches. We will also obtain information on the extent to which:

  • access issues are considered
  • common approaches to impact assessment are developed
  • disabled people are involved in developing the DES
  • gaps in data gathering and monitoring are apparent

Ethical issues

This research involves desk-based analysis, rather than interviews or surveys. All data, apart from some unpublished work, will be available in the public domain. Normal restrictions on reporting quantitative data (for example, not reporting very small numbers because of the dangers of identifying individuals) will be respected. Contacts with organisations will be limited to requests for documents which are not found on their websites, and, importantly, organisations will not be identified in our reports, except if used as examples of commendable practice. Our work is to identify trends, not to evaluate the schemes and reports of individual organisations.


Start date 14th April 2008
End date 31st October 2008

Project team


Six reports, corresponding to the Ministerial portfolios of First Minister; Finance and Sustainable Growth; Education and Lifelong Learning; Health and Wellbeing; Justice; and Rural Affairs and the Environment, will be prepared. Each Portfolio Report will set out evidence and analysis on general and specific duties, reports on progress, and includes a summary of key learning points and recommendations as to how future reporting on the Disability Equality Duty by portfolio area could be undertaken. A seventh report on cross-cutting issues will include overall conclusions and recommendations across portfolio areas.

Professor Sheila Riddell

  • Centre for Research in Education, Inclusion and Diversity
  • Moray House School of Education
  • University of Edinburgh

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