5. Links between the national strategy and local implementation
Question 4 asked:
How can links between the national strategy and local implementation be improved? What could local partners do to contribute to meeting these national goals? This might include reporting and sharing best practice or developing new strategic approaches. (102 respondents answered this question)
Many respondents noted the importance of taking a strategic approach across stakeholders and of partnership working, and welcomed the Scottish Government's focus on this. The key role of local government was highlighted:
"It will be important that Scottish local government is very much involved in shaping a Scottish approach to child poverty to ensure it reflects local priorities and reflects the pivotal role of local government. In addition, a Scottish approach to child poverty framed in a Child Poverty Bill should reflect COSLA's strategic principles in terms of an integrated approach to services, local accountability and an outcome based approach to tackle child poverty. Presently, there is a considerable amount of immensely valuable work carried out by local authorities to address child poverty... As such, it will be important that this work by local authorities is built upon." (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities ( COSLA))
5.1. Clarifying roles and responsibilities
Several respondents highlighted that, to improve links between national strategy and local implementation, it would be important to clarify roles and responsibilities for all partners:
"We believe there is a need for stronger links between national and local implementation than currently exist under the Child Poverty Strategy for Scotland. This can be achieved, in part, by providing more clarity within the proposed legislation and subsequent delivery plans about the role of local authorities and their community planning partners in reducing child poverty." (Child Poverty Action Group ( CPAG) in Scotland)
A role was also seen for the Scottish Government in providing advice on prioritising different national initiatives and strategies. A need for clarity over expectations around whether local authorities would produce and report on local strategies was also identified.
5.2. Local duties, targets and reporting
In general, those who discussed requiring local targets and reporting felt this would be appropriate, but that reporting ought to be proportionate and streamlined with existing duties, targets and reporting requirements so as not to place too great a burden on local authorities and Community Planning Partnerships. Community Planning Partnerships were identified by many respondents as having a key role in local implementation through Local Outcome Improvement Plans ( LOIPs):
"There is a need to ensure national strategy is linked to the priority areas being progressed locally through the new Locality Outcome Improvement Plans. There is a key role for Community Planning Partnerships in ensuring oversight of the range of services and inputs required to deliver a collaborative approach to eradicating child poverty." (Community Planning West Dunbartonshire)
"The reporting structure for the strategy needs to be linked to the local Single Outcomes Agreements and the activity of Community Planning Partnerships and Integration Joint Boards (regarding their specific delegated responsibilities for health and wellbeing). There must be clear links made to Children's Services Plans to ensure that action to address poverty cuts across wider action to support and protect children's wellbeing." (Social Work Scotland)
Several respondents noted that any reporting requirements should be linked to Local Outcome Improvement Plans and Children's Services Plans:
"In relation to child poverty there requires to be clear links with community planning and children's services planning and in particular to the development and reporting in relation to the new Children's Services Plan and to the Local Outcome Improvement Plans and associated locality/neighbourhood plans. Poverty associated work and the development of a linked 'anti-poverty' strategy is likely to feature in a both these areas and co-ordination across this agenda is crucial." (Local authority council)
Establishing standard reporting requirements across Scotland was also mentioned.
Several respondents, particularly from the third sector, suggested that a duty should be placed on local authorities and Community Planning Partnerships to "take a strategic approach to child poverty" or "to reduce child poverty locally and to produce annual reports which identify what progress they have made in meeting these targets".
"In order to ensure greater consistency and accountability across all local authority areas ECP [End Child Poverty Campaign] members in Scotland believe that the legislation place a duty on local authorities and/or their community planning partners to take a strategic approach to reducing child poverty in their area. Local authorities and their community planning partners have control over aspects of policy that can have a significant impact on levels of poverty including employability, education, childcare and the delivery of certain social security benefits." (Children in Scotland)
Save the Children note that the Welsh Government's Child Poverty Measure and the UK Child Poverty Act 2010 both placed similar duties on local authorities in Wales/Engand. Additionally, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Corporate Inequalities Team noted that "The HEAT target review could lead the way in ensuring that child poverty is a priority for health services". A few respondents suggested requiring child poverty impact assessments for every decision nationally and locally or "poverty-proofing" all national and local policies. Use of a Socio-Economic Duty, requiring public sector bodies to exercise their functions in a way that is designed to reduce the inequalities of outcome that result from socio-economic disadvantage was also mentioned by a few.
Several respondents highlighted the importance of adequate resourcing - "at a time when public services are under considerable pressure", as well as local flexibility to deliver action to tackle child poverty at local level:
"The NASUWT agrees that partnership working is critical to effective child poverty reduction strategies. However, it is important that agencies with responsibility for the wellbeing of children and young people are able to collaborate effectively to address poverty and its causes. Collaborative working has to be supported and facilitated and requires the investment of time and financial resources." ( NASUWT)
Scottish Trades Union Congress ( STUC) and Unite noted the issue of pre-devolution debt and interest payment being made to the UK Treasury's Public Works Loans Board ( PWLB), in relation to local government finance.
5.3. Support for sharing learning and disseminating best practice
Linked to the role for the Ministerial Advisory Group mentioned in Section 4.2 regarding developing and sharing best practice guidance, a key suggestion in improving local implementation was developing mechanisms for local partners to share learning and experience with each other and the Scottish Government, and to disseminate and replicate best practice.
"In terms of sharing best practice, Scottish Government should create and fund opportunities, both real and virtual, for colleagues to come together for this purpose - conferences, webinars, and online hubs, would be useful, for example. (Educational Institute of Scotland" ( EIS))
"[Community Planning Partnerships] already undertake extensive sharing of best practice, across the entirety of their remits, and this will continue to be the case in relation to tackling poverty, however any additional government support for this interaction on a national basis will always be welcomed, whether through the Improvement Service or another forum." (Community Planning Partnership)
A role was seen for the Scottish Government and the Ministerial Advisory Group in supporting local partners in sharing learning, and identifying and sharing effective approaches to tackling poverty:
"There is already effective practice at a local level and councils and their partners are making a considerable contribution. However, there is a key role for the Scottish Government in helping to identify the most effective approaches to tackle the wide range of challenges that poverty presents; and supporting the implementation of these approaches in a range of different local contexts." (Fife Partnership Board)
The Independent Commission model used by some local authorities was mentioned as effective by a few respondents:
"In the last two years a number of local authorities, such as Renfrewshire, Shetland and Fife have established independent Commissions to consider evidence and develop recommendations for addressing poverty and inequality in the area. These models have been well-received and have resulted in local authorities adopting strategic plans for addressing child poverty (or poverty and inequality more widely), with bold and challenging targets." (Citizen's Advice Scotland)
A need for improved analysis and dissemination of local level data and clarity on data collection needs at local level was also highlighted:
"…having up to date information available regularly at a local level could make it easier for local partnerships to monitor and track progress and respond more effectively to local changes. Information relating to the uptake of social welfare payments, indicators of in work poverty, levels of sanctions and other key factors would be useful in demonstrating progress and responding to trends." (Local authority council)