Implementing the Socio-Economic Duty in Salford

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by Penny Rimmer, GMPA Policy Officer and and Shairi Bowes at Salford City Council

The Equality Act 2010 contains a valuable tool to ensure poverty is given due consideration by public bodies when making strategic decisions and designing services: the socio-economic duty.   

This duty contained in Section 1 of the Act requires public authorities to actively consider the way in which their decisions increase or decrease inequalities that result from socio-economic disadvantage. Successive governments have chosen not to enact the duty and socio-economic disadvantage is often missing from equality impact assessments that include consideration of other protected characteristics.

One way to overcome this failure to enact the duty is for public bodies to adopt it voluntarily. At GMPA, we are working with local and combined authorities to increase the awareness and voluntary adoption of the duty as a means of creating better outcomes for those with lived experiences of poverty.

We have published a guide developed in partnership with several organisations for local authorities on socio-economic duty implementation. Our work has influenced a number of Greater Manchester councils to adopt the duty or are in the process of adopting it. Salford City Council is the latest council in Greater Manchester to have adopted the duty bolstered by our encouragement that it is a central element of a strategic approach to addressing poverty. Their experience demonstrates how the socio-economic duty can be implemented and what impacts this can have on the wider work of the council.

In March 2021, Salford City Council launched the refreshed Tackling Poverty Strategy, which brought together a range of actions to combat poverty and inequality. Included in this was a commitment to implement the socio-economic duty, to prioritise tackling inequality caused by socio-economic disadvantage.

To put this ambition into practice, the council set about creating a dedicated toolkit for the incorporation of the duty into the equality impact assessment process. A detailed framework was designed for elected members and for services, which highlighted best practice and guidance in using the duty. This was supported by an integrated training programme which included:

  • Utilising specific evidence frameworks to understand how socio-economic inequality directly relates to
    communities within Salford.
  • Incorporating the socio-economic duty into all stages of policy development.
  • Wider awareness raising on the importance of Equality Impact Assessments, including duties under the Equality Act 2010.

To support the adoption process, the council implemented a ‘soft launch’ period, allowing them to explore how the policy could be best utilised, before following this up with a robust evaluation after six months. This evaluation is currently underway, with initial findings suggesting that the duty is having a positive impact on communities across the city.

Debbie Brown, Strategic Director for Service Reform at Salford City Council, described the socio-economic duty as ‘a crucial mechanism in [Salford’s] tackling poverty framework’, highlighting its importance in supporting the council’s proactive approach to addressing inequality’.

Cllr Sharmina August, Lead Member for Inclusive Economy, Anti-Poverty and Equalities, also highlighted the advantages of voluntarily implementing the duty: ‘By recognising socio-economic disadvantage and the issues that arise from this, we can identify key ways of not only mitigating inequality of outcome but also creating opportunities for progression and empowerment for communities across Salford. We want to actively show Salford’s approach to tackling poverty and encourage innovative solutions to these issues. The socio-economic duty is a major part of this process and gives a consistent framework across our council services to do so.’

More information is available on our webpage here


i3oz9sImplementing the Socio-Economic Duty in Salford