How should we gather equalities information?

There is lots of advice about how best to gather equalities information – from organisations like the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Stonewall Scotland.  All of the advice about equalities monitoring has a number of consistent messages:

  • Don’t monitor unless you plan to act on it – there is no point gathering lots of statistics, and never doing anything with them.  Your organisation needs to be committed to analysing monitoring information regularly, and doing something about any inequalities you identify.  Otherwise, gathering equalities information is simply a waste of time.

Only collect information your organisation will use."

Former Disability Rights Commission

The temptation is to collect the information then put it away in a cupboard."

CLD provider, Glasgow

  • Clearly explain why you are gathering personal information – people need to know why you need this information, and how it will be used.  If this is not clear, they are less likely to provide it.

There should be a clear reason for asking every question."

CLD provider, Glasgow

  • Guarantee anonymity – gathering information anonymously results in higher response rates.  In most cases, anonymity should be guaranteed.  If information is linked to individuals, it is very important to treat this in a confidential and sensitive way.  And most importantly, to let service users know this is the case.

We need to improve our understanding of how to use the information effectively."

CLD provider, Glasgow

  • Think about the words and categories you use – it is important to word questions about people’s personal characteristics in a non-offensive way.  No-one likes being categorised, and finding the right words to ask about people’s characteristics is very important.  It is also important that the questions asked can, where possible, be compared to national figures and a local baseline (if available). 
  • Build trust – you will have statutory obligations to gather some data.  But not all information needs to be gathered straight away.  It is important to discuss equalities monitoring (and gather the information you need) with service users in a way that does not offend them.  Some information might be sensitive for some people.  It is important to start by gathering basic equality information, see what this tells you, act on it, and then start to gather more detailed information if needed.  This means that both staff and service users can build confidence in the role of the equalities monitoring system.

It needs to lead to an improvement in service delivery."

CLD provider, Glasgow