Social justice for a heterogeneous population? An investigation into the public sector equality duty in Glasgow

Laughlin, Susan R. (2019) Social justice for a heterogeneous population? An investigation into the public sector equality duty in Glasgow. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Policy-making and service development tends to what has been called the ‘ideal of impartiality’ whereby difference between different population groups is reduced to unity. At the same time, inherent within equality law is an understanding that the population is heterogeneous, experiencing complex forms of injustice which require the opportunity for legal redress. The Equality Act 2010 includes a general duty on public authorities, the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED), to have due regard to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between different groups in relation to nine protected characteristics. Secondary legislation in Scotland has added significant additional requirements with the potential to transform the way that public authorities think and act about equality including duties to report progress on mainstreaming the equality duty, to publish equality outcomes and report progress and to assess and review policies and practices. The way that this secondary legislation has been conceptualised, interpreted and how it has informed planning and practice within public authorities has not previously been the subject of a body of research.

This thesis has sought to contribute to greater understanding about the potential of the PSED in Scotland by applying interpretive policy analysis to the application of the duty in one city, Glasgow. Interpretive approaches to policy focus on meanings that shape actions and institutions and draw on a range of methods to follow the objects, the language, the relevant actors and the acts associated with the policy. Within this context, an assumption has been made that a compound narrative about injustice, equality as constitutive of social justice and institutional change within the city can be derived by investigating meaning and action associated with the PSED from a number of different perspectives. Firstly, the framing and the discourses associated with formal texts required for compliance produced by five key institutions with responsibility for different facets of city life have been investigated critically. These five institutions are the Scottish Government, Glasgow City Council, the Glasgow Health and Social Care Partnership, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the City of Glasgow College, selected for both their relationship to social structures which determine equality and for their responsibilities for its different dimensions. Secondly, the perspectives of three communities of meaning - those directly responsible for compliance, those indirectly responsible for compliance and advocates for social groups - have been gathered through the use of semi-structured interviews in order to compare and contrast their interpretations with the formal texts. Lastly, the meaning and actions associated with the mainstreaming requirement of the secondary duties have been considered in order to ascertain whether and how equality aspirations have shaped the strategic and operational responsibilities of Glasgow City Council, health and social care provision and further education in the city in relation to theories of urban justice.

The PSED was largely viewed as an important and beneficial piece of law, that there was no room for discrimination within the city and that equality across different social groups was an acceptable ideal. The duty was also viewed as a means of exerting pressure on public institutions both from within and from the outside to reflect on the meaning of equality and to consider the way that organisations both perpetuated and resolved inequality. At the same time, the opportunities afforded by the secondary duties to transform social systems and dimensions of equality were not met and as a consequence the potential for Glasgow to be a more just city for its heterogeneous population not realised.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Social justice, heterogeneous population, Equality Act 2010, Glasgow.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
K Law > K Law (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Urban Studies
Supervisor's Name: Mackenzie, Professor Mhairi and Munro, Professor Moira
Date of Award: 2019
Depositing User: Ms Susan Laughlin
Unique ID: glathesis:2019-74319
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Aug 2019 11:13
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2019 10:45
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.74319

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