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New legislative settings and the application of the participative-democratic model of mainstreaming equality in public policy making: evidence from the UK's devolution programme

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Studies of established parliamentary contexts highlight institutional barriers to mainstreaming equality of opportunity in public policy-making. In contrast, this paper uses an actor-centred institutionalist perspective to explore the case of the new devolved legislatures in the UK purposively designed with mechanisms to broaden engagement in the policy process. It assesses progress in applying the participative-democratic model of mainstreaming to policy-making. The findings – based upon analysis of legislative proceedings and equality and human rights organisations' accounts – reveal that ‘system openness’ has afforded opportunities to engage in – and influence – policy work. Yet, problems and shortcomings are also identified – signifying a ‘disconnect’ between the rhetoric and reality of mainstreaming at the meso-level – and continuity with the pre-existing policy style in UK governance. The wider significance of this is that potential gains afforded by the adoption of mainstreaming in legislative settings purposively designed to foster the engagement of exogenous interests can be negated by leadership issues and government failure to secure the full range of pre-requisites prescribed by mainstreaming theory.
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Keywords: devolution; equality; mainstreaming; neo-institutionalism; participation; policy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Cardiff School of Social Sciences, Glamorgan Building, King Edward VII Avenue, Cathays ParkCardiff,CF10 3WT,Wales, UK

Publication date: September 1, 2012

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