Research Report

'Hard-to-Reach' or ‘Easy-to-Ignore’? A rapid review of place-based policies and equality



Matthews P, Netto G & Besemer K (2012) 'Hard-to-Reach' or ‘Easy-to-Ignore’? A rapid review of place-based policies and equality. University of Stirling.

Executive summary   This review details the findings of a rapid evidence synthesis of academic literature, grey literature - research findings and evaluation - and statistical analysis on place-based policies and dimensions of equality. The main findings of the review with relevance for Scotland are:   The evidence for the ways in which particular equalities groups may benefit, or not, from place-based policies is quite sparse and we can make few definite conclusions.   Overall, in place-based policies, socio-economic inequality is much easier for policy-makers to understand and focus on, compared to the complexities of exclusion and deprivation faced by equalities groups.   The differing spatial distribution of equalities groups in Scotland suggests any future place-based policies should have equalities as a key focus.   17 per cent of those responding to successive waves of the Scottish Health Survey, classifying themselves as not heterosexual, also live in the 15 per cent most deprived neighbourhoods, making this group disproportionately represented in these neighbourhoods.   In the past there has commonly been a wholly unintentional "blindness" to equalities in place-based policies, with a presumption that all will, or can, benefit equally from improvements in socio-economic outcomes.   Place-based policies can explicitly focus on equalities groups, but often in a negative or problematising way - for example disabled people as a group needing to gain employment to reduce welfare benefits expenditure.   Scotland has a long history of place-based policies and continuing small, local projects focused on equalities groups. The lessons from these should be more broadly disseminated.   Engagement with place-based policies by local residents is often quite low; one large programme in England only managed to reach 20 per cent of residents in the targeted deprived neighbourhoods.   Place-based policies are particularly effective at delivering physical renewal and environmental improvements.   The holistic nature of place-based policies means they are often associated with improvements in wellbeing and place attachment outcomes. In the most ethnically diverse neighbourhoods in England there is evidence that some outcomes for certain BME groups were particularly improved by place-based policies.   Place-based policies often fail to make sustained improvements in socio-economic outcomes because the root cause of problems is outwith the neighbourhood, at the scale of the town, city or greater.   We recommend:   An ongoing focus on improving equalities data at a neighbourhood level, particularly using the 2011 Census as a basis for understanding ongoing trends.   Community Planning partners should also ensure they are using whatever equalities data is broadly available - particularly around gender and age.   Equality Impact Assessments based on a broad evidence base, and using techniques such as logic modelling, should be embedded into the implementation of any future place-based policies to assure an equalities focus even if statistical data at the neighbourhood level is not available.   The new statutory duties on equalities outcomes and positive duties may also be effective policy tools for CPPs to deliver an equalities dimension to place-based policies.

Publication date30/09/2012
PublisherUniversity of Stirling

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Professor Peter Matthews

Professor Peter Matthews

Professor, Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology