What do we mean by equalities groups?

This toolkit adopts the definition of equalities group set out in the Scottish Government’s Same Difference Guidance for people working in CLD.

Throughout this resource we talk about equalities groups, but we need to begin by discussing what is meant by this.  Equality is a complex issue because people can be discriminated against for all kinds of reasons.  As a result there are different definitions and ways of describing people who experience inequality.  

For example, you might hear people talking about ‘equality of opportunity', 'equality of outcome', 'equal treatment', 'equity', 'fairness', and 'justice'.

Have a look at the definition of equality in the box on the right of the screen.  We will use this definition throughout the toolkit.

People often talk about Equality alongside Diversity.  Diversity is about recognising and valuing the differences between people.

We will use the term equalities groups to describe the key groups of people who experiences discrimination and inequality most often.

Take the challenge on the right hand side of the page to test your knowledge.

Did you take the challenge?

How did you do when asked to list the groups? 

The orange box on the right hand side outlines the main equalities groups covered here. 

The list of groups above on the right does not include all the reasons people might be discriminated against.
So you might have included other groups – like:

  • People on low incomes
  • Carers
  • Gypsy /Travellers
  • Men

This might depend on the situation you are in or the service you provide.  Or your organisation might define some of these people as being in an equalities group.  It is important to take account of all these issues, and take an open approach to equalities. 

Or, you might have missed some groups.  Maybe you don’t think there are many people from some equalities groups in your area. 

Or, maybe you thought some people simply aren’t discriminated against in your work.  Often, people don’t deliberately discriminate against any groups.  People working in Community Learning and Development try to develop services to meet local needs.  But that doesn’t mean all needs are being met.

Changes to the law

The law on equalities is changing.  The new Equalities Act (2010) harmonises and in some cases extends existing discrimination law.  It introduces a new duty in relation to socio-economic disadvantage.  Section 2.5 provides further details on the new legislation.


The approach taken in this guidance

The reason we have focused on the seven groups we identified is because these are commonly recognised as being the main equalities groups you need to consider – these are the groups most commonly discriminated against, and there is a clear legal and policy framework which recognises them.  This doesn’t mean that other people won’t be disadvantaged, and it is important to take an open approach when thinking about equality.  You should look at the section on needs assessment to plan how you will find out about the key equalities issues in your area. 

It is also important to remember that people are individuals, not groups.  Even though we need to define what kinds of people we are talking about when we discuss ‘equalities groups’, remember that people are all different.  No-one fits neatly into a group, and people will often fall within lots of different equalities groups.  People don’t like being categorised or put in a box, and it is vital to remember that there is diversity and difference within equalities groups – not everyone has the same experience and views.