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Fairer scotland action plan: first annual progress report

Published: 23 Nov 2017

The first annual progress report on the Fairer Scotland Action Plan.

41 page PDF

494.7kB

41 page PDF

494.7kB

Contents
Fairer scotland action plan: first annual progress report
1. A Fairer Scotland for All

41 page PDF

494.7kB

1. A Fairer Scotland for All

Poverty & Low Income

Action 1 – Introduce the Socio-Economic Duty. We committed to introducing a new socio-economic duty on public bodies by the end of 2017. The new duty asks key public bodies to consider carefully the impacts on tackling poverty and reducing inequality whenever they are taking major, strategic decisions. We have made good progress, issuing a consultation document in June and a report analysing responses in November. Respondents have provided us with detailed and concrete suggestions, particularly around definitions of terms and the process public bodies need to go through to deliver on the duty. These will be very useful as we finalise our plans and produce guidance for the new duty, helping us make sure the duty is as effective as it can be. We are also looking to extend the duty so it covers additional public bodies, including special health boards.

We are on course to commence the duty and will be laying the regulations that are required in the Scottish Parliament before the end of 2017. At this point, Scotland will become the only part of the UK to have made this important change.

Action 2 – Fund three new 'poverty truth' organisations. We said we would provide £100,000 start-up funding for three areas who want to make sure the voices of people with direct experience of poverty are heard locally, based on the successful Poverty Truth Commission model. This action is now well under way and Dundee and North Ayrshire have already received funding. And we are making a commitment here to increase funding to £180,000 over the period - £60,000 for each of the three new bodies.

New: We will extend this Poverty Truth Programme to a number of other interested areas later in the parliament.

Action 3 – Set up a Poverty and Inequality Commission in 2017. The First Minister launched this new Commission on the 3 rd July, with Douglas Hamilton appointed as Chair, and Naomi Eisenstadt and Kaliani Lyle as Deputy Chairs. The Chair has since made a number of further Commissioner appointments. These appointments bring together a broad range of expertise from lived experience, community work, policy development and academic research. The Commission held its first meeting in September.

The Commission's first task will be to provide independent advice to Ministers on the first child poverty Delivery Plan, due in April 2018. The Commission will be considering its longer term work plan over the coming months.

The Commission will be in place for an initial two year period until end June 2019. Ministers have now laid an Order in the Scottish Parliament which, if passed, will ensure that when the Commission moves onto a statutory footing from July 2019, while also making sure it can continue to pursue the wide remit set out in the original position paper. This paper and further details of the Commission's work can be found on the Scottish Government website.

Action 4 – Invest £29 million in new programmes to tackle poverty. This funding, supported by the European Social Fund, has enabled us to set up two new programmes for communities and the third sector. The Aspiring Communities Fund supports communities to develop their own solutions to address poverty and inequality. Growing the Social Economy invests in third sector organisations, and promotes the development and testing of social innovation approaches to tackling poverty.

To date, 140 community-led projects have secured almost £13 million from the Aspiring Communities Fund to tackle poverty and promote social inclusion at localities across Scotland. Almost £1 million has been awarded to support 19 Social Innovation partnership projects between the social economy and research institutions. And almost £2 million has been approved to enable 15 social economy organisations to develop and deliver more and better services to disadvantaged groups and families. It is our intention to commit the rest of the funding in future spending rounds.

New: We will establish a new fund to support local areas develop meaningful pilots to test aspects of Universal Basic Income.

Action 5 – Tackle the poverty premium - The 'poverty premium' is shorthand for the fact that lower income households often have to pay higher prices for basic necessities like gas, electricity and banking than better-off families. The poverty premium was a major concern in the Fairer Scotland conversations.

Following our summit with energy companies last December, we wrote to them on 17 February 2017 challenging them to identify further action they could take to help low income consumers get a better deal on their fuel bills. A further summit will take place later this year. Energy companies are among our key partners in delivering a fairer Scotland, making sure this aspect of the poverty premium is properly tackled. This important summit is one of a range of actions we are taking to help tackle fuel poverty - we are already delivering on our commitment to make half a billion pounds available over the next 4 years and, by the end of 2021, we will have allocated over £1 billion pounds since 2009 on tackling fuel poverty and improving energy efficiency.

Another important element of Action 5 is the introduction of a Financial Health Check for those on low incomes.

This service will advise on establishing eligibility for and claiming financial entitlements; securing the best deal on financial products, services, utilities including energy, and managing money, all of which will support income maximisation. It will be rolled out in 2018.

New: We will introduce a scheme to fund access to free sanitary products in schools, colleges and universities. We will also consider action to support those on low incomes, but not in education, in light of the findings of the current pilot scheme in Aberdeen.

Action 6 – Ensure 100% superfast broadband access by 2021. Digital connectivity for all is vital to a strong, inclusive society. The Scottish Government, alongside our partners are investing over £400 million through the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband ( DSSB) programme to extend fibre broadband access to at least 95% of premises across Scotland. Without our investment, only 66% of premises would have been reached, with as little as 21% coverage across the Highlands and no coverage at all in Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles. However, despite telecoms being a reserved matter, the central importance of good quality digital connectivity to Scotland, particularly in rural areas, has meant that it is an area where the Scottish Government has had to step up and has made a commitment to deliver 100% superfast broadband access across Scotland by 2021. No premises will be excluded from the Reaching 100% (R100) programme. Any home or business that won't have superfast broadband delivered commercially - or through programmes such as DSSB or Community Broadband Scotland ( CBS) - will be eligible for investment. This Scottish Government commitment is the only one of its kind within the UK.

Participation, Dignity and Respect

Action 7 – Help people have more say locally. Our Community Choices programme is helping people have their say in financial decisions shaping their local communities. Before 2014, there were just a handful of so-called 'participatory budgeting' events across Scotland. Since then, we have invested £2.7 million through the Fund and will invest a further £2 million this year. This has already enabled over 25,000 members of the community to allocate millions of pounds to over 1,000 community projects.

We are now ready to take Community Choices to the next and are working with local government to make sure that at least 1% of council budgets across Scotland are decided upon through Community Choices. That means that tens of thousands of people will have a say in how tens of millions of pounds are spent by their councils. The 1% target is also one of five commitments included in the Scottish Government's Open Government Partnership national action plan.

We have introduced Participation Requests as part of new Community Empowerment legislation. They are focused on extending and improving community participation in improving outcomes for their communities. Designed to help groups highlight community needs and issues, and become involved in change or improvement, they help people start a dialogue about the things that matters to their community; to have their voice heard in policy and service development, through contributing to decision-making processes, and to challenge decisions and seek support for alternatives which improve outcomes.

Action 8 – Make democratic institutions more representative of the communities they serve. We will work with disability groups to remove the barriers to participation which prevent some people from standing for selection/election. This will include an Access to Elected Office Fund, which will meet the additional costs of disabled people standing for selection/election in the 2017 local government elections.

We launched a £200,000 Access to Elected Office Fund, which supported 30 disabled candidates to stand for election in the 2017 local government elections. And we will continue the fund for the Scottish Parliament elections in 2021.

We have also funded a coalition of equality organisations to develop practical tools to help political parties to become more inclusive, and to increase representation of people with protected characteristics, including women, disabled people, LGBTI people, and those from minority ethnic communities.

And in our delivery plan ' A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People' (published in December 2016) we committed to setting up a new programme of 120 disability internships which will be delivered within the current parliamentary term. This will include placements in the Scottish Parliament.

Action 9 – Build high quality public services with dignity and respect at their core. High quality public services are critical to the lives of people across Scotland. The quality of the relationships people have with their doctor, their teacher, their care worker or one of the many other dedicated people who work in public service makes a real difference in their lives. The principles set out by the Christie Commission, to build person centred services with the care and respect at their core, continues to underpin our approach to public service delivery.

We want a Scotland where people have the power and ability to take control, participate and engage in the planning and delivery of the services that matter to them. We will take a range of action to achieve this. For example, we have committed to setting dignity and respect at the heart of the new Scottish Social Security system and employability programmes, further information on progress with these are outlined at action 17 and 44 respectively.

From October 2017, NHS Health Scotland will have begun to deliver training in partnership with the Poverty Alliance and others to raise awareness of poverty and its impact on health and wellbeing amongst public services staff. And through Self - Directed Support, we are embedding a new approach to social care which gives adults, children and carers more choice and control over how their support is delivered. Our work to expand entitlement to early learning and childcare to 1140 hours by 2020 will ensure a high quality experience for every child; improving outcomes for all and making a key contribution to closing the poverty-related attainment gap (see Action 29). And on education reform, our new Regional Improvement Collaboratives will drive and support improvement in our schools in ways that respond to local education support needs. (see Action 33).

We are listening to people with lived experience and responding to what they say. One key action has been the recruitment of over 2,400 people across Scotland, who have signed up to be part of the Experience Panels that will help shape the new Social Security system. Scottish Government researchers are now working with our panel members to make sure we understand their views of what works well in the current system and where there is room for improvement. We'll then use this information to develop a programme of work with the Experience Panels that reflects our panel members' priorities.

We have also recently strengthened how public services respond to people's needs locally. Since last December, Community Planning Partnerships ( CPPs) have been subject to new statutory duties, introduced by the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015. These give community planning a statutory purpose, focused on local public services working together and with communities to improve outcomes and tackle inequalities on priorities that matter most locally. CPPs are now finalising and implementing their Local Outcome Improvement Plans and locality plans, which set out their ambitions for making a difference on local priorities.

Equality and Human Rights

Action 10 – Set up an advisory council on women and girls. Louise Macdonald OBE, Chief Executive of Young Scot has been appointed as independent Chair of the Advisory Council. The Advisory Council will play a key leadership role in raising awareness of gender inequality, act as a champion for the rights of women and girls, and a catalyst for change.

Action 11 – Improve access to crisis grants for refugee families. This Grant will support the integration of refugee families arriving in Scotland under family reunion rules, who would otherwise be destitute. It will provide them with the financial support they need to meet their basic needs during their first days in Scotland, before they are able to access welfare benefits.

The Scottish Welfare Fund will be the delivery mechanism for the Family Reunion Crisis Grant Fund. Sponsors will be able to make an application for a crisis grant before family members arrive in Scotland for family reunion, with the same eligibility rules as currently apply to the Scottish Welfare Fund and awards being payable when the family arrive. Implementation is planned for late 2017.

In response to the Committee Inquiry on Destitution, and its report "Hidden Lives - New Beginnings", we will commission preparatory research to develop a better evidence base on how its recommendations might be taken forward.

Action 12 – Implement the Race Equality Framework. As part of our implementation approach we have appointed an independent Race Equality Framework Adviser. We commissioned Young Scot to co-design the Fairer Future project that brings together young ethnic minority people to gather their insights, experiences and views of the six themes of the Race Equality Framework. An Ideas Gathering Conference was held in June feeding into a final "Creating a Fairer Future" report to be published by the end of 2017.

We also supported the establishment of a minority ethnic Women's network and held three themed roundtable events; on Housing, Participation & Representation and Community Cohesion & Safety.

By the end of 2017 we will publish a Race Equality Action Plan and Highlight Report.

Action 13 – Review the Gender Recognition Law. We committed to reviewing and reforming gender recognition law to ensure it is in line with international best practice. The Scottish Government intends to issue two consultations shortly in relation to the review of the Gender Recognition Act 2004. One of these consultations will cover transgender people and was issued on 9 November. The other will cover intersex people and will issue later in November or early in December.

Housing

Action 14 – Deliver 50,000 warm and affordable homes. We are investing over £3 billion over the current parliamentary term to deliver at least 50,000 affordable homes, of which 35,000 will be for social rent. For the first time, we have committed to year-on-year increases in funding for affordable homes, to be shared by local authorities for affordable housing over the next three years. More than £1.75 billion has been allocated to councils across Scotland, providing the certainty councils and housing associations need to deliver our ambitious 50,000 affordable homes target by end March 2021.

We are delivering the 2016 Programme for Government commitment to make half a billion pounds available over the next 4 years through Scotland's Energy Efficiency Programme ( SEEP). This funding will be used to build on the one million measures delivered through a range of programmes to over one million households since 2008.

In response to the Scottish Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group and Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force reports published last year, we launched a public consultation on a new fuel poverty strategy on 2 November 2017. The strategy includes a revised definition of fuel poverty, informed by an independent expert Panel's review of the existing definition that was commissioned last year in response to a recommendation by the Strategic Working Group. The new definition will ensure we are setting the correct policy objectives and have the correct basis for targeting resources to the most vulnerable groups and measuring progress. The strategy also sets a new fuel poverty target that we will take forward in a new Warm Homes Bill in 2018.

New: Everyone should be able to access affordable energy and we are currently exploring a range of delivery options to facilitate that. These options include a publicly-owned energy company, which will align with our efforts to tackle fuel poverty and help to achieve our ambitious climate change targets. Our new Energy Strategy is scheduled for publication by the end of the year and this will include further details on this initiative.

Action 15 – Provide more help for private renters in 2018. We have already made progress in providing help for private renters through the new discretionary powers for local authorities to report breaches of the repairing standard directly to the Housing and Property Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal, enabling them to support vulnerable tenants. From 1 December 2017, all new tenancies will be the new Private Residential Tenancy. This will give tenants greater security and stability with a route of redress, at no cost to them, to the Housing & Property Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal. And from 1 January 2018, the new regulation regime for letting agents, with a robust, statutory Code of Practice, will become effective.

Action 16 – Build on Scotland's world-leading homelessness rights. We are taking action on a range of fronts. Our focus on prevention had already contributed toward a significant fall in homelessness applications. In 2010-11 there were 55,642 homelessness applications, compared to 34,100 in 2016-17 - a reduction of 39%. With Local Government and other partners, we are now looking to strengthen homelessness prevention further by launching a Housing Options training toolkit.

To end rough sleeping and transform the use of temporary accommodation, we have established a short-life Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group to provide recommendations on the actions, services and legislative changes needed. This work will be supported by a £50 million Ending Homelessness Together fund, available over 5 years and an additional £20 million for addiction services. We have also introduced a cap of 7 days (from 14 days) for families with children and pregnant women in unsuitable temporary accommodation.

To make sure people dealing with multiple exclusion and facing homelessness get joined-up support, we will also strengthen links between homelessness services and health services.

Social Security and Crisis Support

Action 17 – Make social security fairer. The devolution of benefits to the Scottish Government means that we can build a system that is based on dignity and respect. The introduction of the Social Security (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Parliament on 20 June 2017 represented a significant milestone in delivering this new system.

The Bill establishes the first social security system in the UK which reflects the United Nations principle that social security systems should "be established under national law and ensure the right of individuals and organisations to seek, receive and impart information on all social security entitlements in a clear and transparent manner."

The new Scottish social security agency will have a strong local presence, providing face-to-face advice across Scotland. This will be supported by central administrative functions that will be headquartered in Dundee, with a second major site in Glasgow offering equal service capacity and capability. We will work to align the agency's local services with existing support, locating staff in places that people already visit where possible.

We have announced plans for the new social security agency to start delivering devolved benefits by summer 2018 - the first of which will be a Carer's Allowance Supplement (see Action 18 for more detail). This will be followed by Best Start Grant and Funeral Expense Assistance by summer 2019. Benefits such as the Best Start Grant will provide cash payments to low income families with children, offering financial support at key points in early years and will help support families who are feeling the impact of UK Government austerity and welfare cuts.

We have also made a number of announcements on how we will make social security fairer in Scotland. On disability benefits, we will introduce longer-term awards for those people with a long-term condition. A clear commitment was made to Parliament on 27 April 2017 stating that profit-making companies will not be involved in delivering assessments for disability benefits once devolved to Scotland.

We are committed to abolishing the bedroom tax for those on Universal Credit as soon as practicable. We are also looking to make Universal Credit ( UC) fairer by ensuring that all eligible claimants can have the rent element of their UC paid direct to their landlord or can choose twice monthly UC payments, rather than monthly ones. Of particular importance is the commitment to the principle that 'social security is a human right, essential to the realisation of other human rights' - this is the cornerstone of the Scottish approach to social security. Other improvements are also set out in the rest of this progress report.

Action 18 – Help carers as soon as we have the ability. Support for carers was a key theme in the Fairer Scotland discussions. We are increasing Carer's Allowance (currently £62.70 per week) so that it is paid at the same level as Jobseeker's Allowance (currently £73.10 per week). The Carer's Allowance Supplement will be implemented in summer 2018, backdated to April 2018. We have also made a commitment to increase Carer's Allowance for people who care for more than one disabled child.

On 20 September 2017, the First Minister announced that we will introduce the following package of support for young carers: a new 'Young Carer Grant'; a £300 annual payment for young adults with significant caring responsibilities who do not currently qualify for Carer's Allowance, free concessionary bus travel to all recipients of the Young Carer Grant and a bespoke carers element to the Young Scot Entitlement Card, providing non-cash benefits for young carers. The Young Carer Grant will give young carers aged 16 to 18 an annual payment of £300 to help them access the life opportunities which are the norm for other young people. It will be paid from autumn 2019. Recipients of the grant will also be provided with free bus travel from 2020/2021. The young carers element of the Young Scot National Entitlement Card will be rolled out from April 2019, offering entitlements and rewards such as leisure activities for young carers aged 11-18.

Action 19 – Help people access the assistance that they are entitled to. If people claimed all the assistance that they were entitled to, they would be better off and poverty rates would be lower. The Scottish Government has asked people with direct experience of the current benefit system to give us their insights and feedback (through what we've called 'Experience Panels') to make it easier for others to take up the help they are entitled to.

We are also working with a wide range of stakeholders to make sure that benefit take-up campaigns deliver clear and consistent messages.

The Scottish Government has delivered a number of national campaigns to encourage benefit take up. Including;

In March and September 2017, working with Citizen's Advice Scotland ( CAS), we carried out activity to raise awareness of benefit entitlement. This included content across 14 radio stations and 100 local press titles, and a national telephone helpline. As a result of the March activity, CAS reported they received 437 calls and that visits to their benefits advice webpage increased by 378% compared with the previous week.

From June to August 2017, working with Young Scot, Carers Trust and Carers Scotland, we carried out activity to promote the uptake of Carer's Allowance amongst people aged 16-24. Tying in with Carers Week, 12-18 June, we launched a dedicated webpage on Young Scot's website, with interactive guidance, info graphics and informative films for young carers. These were shared widely on social media. We built on this for the Young Carers Festival, 29 July - 4 August, where we added to the interactive pages information about the Carer's Act and what it means for young carers. We also ran a Facebook Live session at the Festival, where young carers discussed issues affecting young carers with Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell MSP.

Working in partnership with CAS - we carried out nationwide activity throughout October aimed specifically at over-65s. More information on the older people's work is set out in Action 48.

Action 20 – Make Scotland a good food nation. We are tackling food poverty as an integrated part of our wider Good Food Nation ( GFN) approach and are on track with meeting our annual targets. In the Fairer Scotland Action Plan, we committed to help more people get access to affordable, healthy, nutritious food, in a dignified way. Building on the dignified food principles identified in ' Dignity: Ending Hunger Together In Scotland', our Fair Food Transformation Fund is providing over £1 million throughout 2016-18 to 35 projects to deliver a range of activity aimed at shifting from food charity to food justice, building a community food movement where food insecurity is addressed in a more dignified way in a community setting. We also continue to support FareShare (£450,000 in 2016-17/17-18) to redistribute high quality surplus food from the food industry to people affected by food poverty. Through this activity we will develop our understanding of what practical delivery of dignified food provision looks like in practice to inform future developments.

In September 2017, the Scottish Food Commission hosted a summit which gathered information from key stakeholders on the potential content of a GFN Bill. The Food Commission Summit Report will be published in the coming weeks with a Bill consultation planned for the end of this year. In 2016/17 the £250,000 Good Food Nation fund enabled 13 projects deliver a range of initiatives to deliver GFN objectives, including Social Justice. In 2016/17 we committed £165,000 to a number of Grow Your Own ( GYO) related projects. GYO is a key component to becoming a GFN, it can increase access to affordable, healthy, sustainable food and brings wider benefits to our communities such as social inclusion.

Asset transfer legislation (Part 5 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015) came into force on 23 January 2017. This gives community organisations a right to ask to take over control of land or buildings owned by local councils, Scottish Government, and other public authorities. The legislation is designed to encourage and support the ownership and control of assets by communities and should be considered by community organisations and relevant authorities in situations that recognise the public benefits that the community use will bring. Asset transfer is empowering our communities, giving people more control over the decisions that affect them, making it easier for local people to develop their own economies, wellbeing and environments.

Health

Action 21 – Recruit 250 community links workers to work with GP surgeries by 2021/22, with at least 40 by 2018. We have already met our 2018 target with over 40 Community Links Workers working in practices in some of our most deprived communities, connecting people with local services and support. This is in addition to the 10 existing link workers who are part of the original pilot programme. We are engaging with Chief Officers, Health and Social Care Partnerships, third sector organisations and NHS Boards to make sure that all link worker schemes are shaped and driven by local population need as numbers increase.

New: We will begin the implementation of 'Frank's Law' by April 2019, extending free personal care to everyone who is assessed as needing it.

Action 22 – Extend home visiting services within the next two years. Through an unprecedented commitment to increase in the number of Health Visitors by 50%, a core programme of visits and child health reviews will be available to all families along with the expansion of the Family Nurse Partnership programme to all eligible young mothers. By reaching more families, more of the time, we can further reduce health and social inequalities. Improved child health and wellbeing is a key outcome for this investment. Our work will help us better respond to needs of children and families, support development of parenting capacity and improve access to other services and support. Since 2014, there are at least an additional 224 Health Visitors. We are also on target to expand the Family Nurse Partnership programme to all eligible young women and create 500 additional Health Visitor posts by end 2018.

Action 23 – Extend 'ChildSmile', the National Oral Health Improvement programme. We committed to extending ChildSmile so it could reach even more comparatively deprived communities. Preventive treatment is available under the programme to the 20 per cent most deprived communities within each NHS Board area. In September 2017, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport attended an event to formally announce the extension of the programme at a school in Glasgow which will benefit from this expansion.

The extension will offer supervised tooth brushing and fluoride varnish application for nursery and primary 1 and 2 children in communities who fall within the most 20 per cent deprived measured on a Scotland-wide basis. This will involve targeting additional areas in NHS Ayrshire & Arran; NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde; NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Tayside. We are on track to deliver the extension of the programme and will continue to make good progress over the coming years, ready to meet our deadline in 2019.

Justice

Action 24 – Make better use of community sentences. Our aim in making better use of community services is to reduce re-offending and to help people move on from offending. In September's Programme for Government we announced our intention to extend the presumption against sentences from 3 months to 12 months or less. Evidence shows that community sentences are more effective than short-term imprisonment at reducing re-offending and can enable people to maintain housing, employment and family contacts, which all support desistance from offending. On 1 st April 2017 Community Justice Scotland was established and is working with local partners to help improve access to community interventions and implement a national strategy for community justice.

We are continuing to develop a progressive new model for the female custodial estate, with a smaller national women's prison and local community-based custody units, with access to intensive support to help overcome issues such as alcohol, drugs, mental health and domestic abuse trauma which evidence shows can often be a driver of offending behaviour. The Scottish Prison Service is currently working towards timescales to achieve the opening of the first two community custody units and the new national prison by the end of 2020.

New: We will introduce the Management of Offenders Bill, which will expand the use of electronic monitoring as part of our commitment to reducing offending and making our communities safer.

Action 25 – Introduce a domestic abuse Bill. This Bill, seeking to establish domestic abuse as a specific offence, is currently going through the Scottish Parliament. The new offence, and a range of associated safeguards, will help make sure that perpetrators of domestic abuse can be held to account more effectively by the justice system. It will also ensure that the criminal law reflects the experience of domestic abuse as the offence explicitly criminalises psychological, as well as physical, abuse. The new offence is likely to be in force towards the end of 2018 or early 2019.


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