impact assessment = assessing the impact
Don’t get put off by the formal title - equality impact assessments aren’t that complex. They are simply a tool to help you make sure your policies, and the ways you carry out your functions and activities, work well and work for everybody.
They do two things:
help you identify problems – often called ‘negative’ or ‘adverse’ impacts - that can be removed or ‘mitigated’ (where you can find other things you can do to lessen the negative impact/s
help you identify active steps you can take to promote equality, perhaps finding opportunities to promote equality that have previously been missed or could be better used
Getting the process right
Where impact assessment gets complicated is working out how best to undertake a systematic review of all your policies and functions.
There are many models and processes out there; Arts Council England has developed a specific process that it uses internally to assess its own policies. Many of the processes are very useful for large organisations (as they have been developed for public bodies) but cumbersome for smaller ones.
Working out where to start is the hardest bit – which of your policies or functions is most relevant? Where should you start? Your audit might suggest a few places where your practice could be improved, and anything new you are developing could have an assessment as part of the development process. You might want to ask disabled people what they would like you to assess – or to help you prioritise down from a long list to a short one. Then set a timetable up so you can work through your list.
Five steps to impact assessment
Once you have decided on which policy or function to assess, you need to work through a simple five step process:
collect all the data you have together about the policy or function area and what currently happens – do you know enough to go ahead? (if not, how can you get more information?)
assessing impact – what negative impacts, or potential negative impacts, can you see? How can these be removed or lessened? What opportunities are there to promote equality? How can these be developed or maximized? You may not have the knowledge and experience in house to do this process yourself at first. Ideally (remembering the need for involvement) disabled people need to be engaged in this process too and may be able to spot impacts and opportunities that you can’t
Let others check it out – especially important if you have worked on the two previous stages inhouse. What do others think of what you are suggesting? Will your suggested solutions make a real difference?
Work out how you will monitor it – how will you know if your changes are making a real difference?
Review it – set a time now to review your work. In some cases it might be 12 months, in others 3 years, but set it in place now so you have a framework in place.