A Fairer Scotland For All
The Fairer Scotland conversations told us that a socially just country would have very low levels of poverty. As our economy prospered, the proceeds of growth would be shared widely and fairly. Decent affordable housing would be in place for everyone who wanted it. All our communities would feel empowered to take action on the priorities that matter most to them. The welfare system would be available to anyone who needed it and that safety net would be valued by all of us. Our public services would be of the highest quality, always treating people with dignity and respect. We would have narrowed health, justice and educational inequalities significantly. Digital technologies would be being used actively by everyone, with scarce resources being focused where they were most needed. And we would, through our collective action, have progressed equality for all and protected and enhanced human rights.
Here is a set of key actions that the Scottish Government will take to help achieve this vision.
Poverty And Low Income
Poverty was central to the Fairer Scotland discussion, with a strong sense that society should be doing everything it can to reduce and ultimately end poverty in all its forms, whether that's child poverty; food poverty; or fuel poverty. Poverty is an issue that is addressed across the whole of this Action Plan.
In 2017, we will introduce a new socio-economic duty on public bodies. The public sector is key to delivering a fairer Scotland and this new duty will help make sure that the sector takes full account of poverty and disadvantage when key decisions are being made. We will also look to make the most of the connection between this duty and those on equality and human rights, and a similar duty on education authorities.
We will provide £100,000 new funding so that, across Scotland, people with experience of living in poverty can speak out, tackle stigma and push for change to public services. People with experience of poverty are increasingly influential in the public debate on tackling the causes and consequences of poverty. We currently part-fund The Poverty Truth Commission, based in Glasgow, which has been very successful in getting the voices of people who have experienced poverty into the national debate. We will provide start-up funding for three different communities who want to work in a similar way across Scotland. The Poverty Truth Commission has agreed to advise us on how to make this a success. And we have already agreed to provide the Dundee Partnership with funding to help this happen in Dundee.
Building on the work of local Fairness and Poverty Commissions, we will establish a national Poverty and Inequality Commission in 2017/18. Right at the heart of the commission will be the voices and experiences of people with experience of poverty. The full details of what the commission
will do are still being firmed up, with tackling child poverty expected to be a major task. The commission will also be asked to look at how government can help advance the prospects of those communities who feel left behind because of changing economic circumstances, low pay, and deprivation.
We will launch a new £29 million programme, including £12.5 million from the European Social Fund, to tackle poverty in Scotland. Across the country, communities and the third sector play a vital role in helping people to overcome poverty, disadvantage and discrimination. Over the next two years, the programme will enable communities and third sector organisations to design, test and deliver innovative approaches to combat poverty and improve people's lives. For example, the programme will help to provide additional childcare, create new jobs, and support local community-led priorities including community food initiatives, and making best use of buildings and other assets.
"The Poverty Truth Commission (PTC) pledges to work to ensure that people experiencing poverty are at the heart of work to overcome it. From experience we know that when people living in poverty are included, change happens - and we want to continue and grow this work. So we will launch a 4th round of The PTC in January 2017, bringing together people experiencing poverty and key decision makers in Scottish society for an 18 month period. We will aim in this process to listen to the voices of some of the poorest in our society, not just the easiest to reach.
As a specific commitment for this plan, we pledge to offer advice to the Scottish Government on how new community groups, which follow the PTC model, can be best set up in three local areas of Scotland."
Poverty Truth Commission
We will take action to 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.
- This autumn, the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities will convene a summit with energy companies to help low income consumers get a better deal on their fuel bills. 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, allocating over £500 million in this area since 2009 and more than £113 million this year.
- Making affordable credit more easily available will be one part of cross-government action on financial inclusion in 2017. This will follow up on proposals from the Carnegie Foundation on affordable credit and responds to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which has said that 'a stronger focus on financial inclusion is needed in Scotland'.5 Our approach will make sure that low-income consumers have access to the goods and services that enable them to avoid the poverty premium, such as affordable internet access and the digital skills and confidence to transact online to facilitate switching. To do this, we will need to work with the banking and finance sector, as well as the third sector and other local organisations such as Housing Associations to make the most of the leverage we have.
- We will also develop a Financial Health Check service for people on low incomes to help them make the most of their money and to secure the best energy tariffs and access to bank accounts. And we will work with our partners to ensure that Scotland's advice sector provides high quality, accessible advice that helps make people's lives better.
We will deliver 100% superfast broadband access by 2021, helping low income households reduce costs. Digital connectivity for all is vital to a strong, inclusive society. The Scottish Government and our partners are already investing £410 million through the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme to extend fibre broadband access to at least 95% of premises across Scotland. But we now intend to go beyond this and ensure 100% superfast broadband access by 2021. This commitment will benefit the whole of Scotland, particularly those in rural and remote areas with limited or no access to broadband. This commitment could also mean major savings for people on low incomes: we know that households can save between £500 and £750 a year by being online and we have already funded a number of affordable broadband pilots in social housing settings. We will continue to work with the sector to develop affordable, sustainable internet access and to ensure tenants get training and support to develop basic digital skills.
"On behalf of Virgin Money, I pledge to do my best to make banking fairer and more accessible for the people of Scotland. We are building a bank that aims to treat our customers fairly. That's why we recently launched our basic bank account, the Essential Current Account, a fair and simple product that can help those who are finding it difficult to get a bank account. We are currently working with Scotcash to make basic bank accounts more readily available to people in the Glasgow area."
CEO Virgin Money Plc
"The Carnegie UK Trust pledges to help improve access to affordable credit in Scotland. Thousands of people borrow money from high cost lenders to meet everyday needs. Offering attractive and affordable alternatives could save people in our poorest communities thousands of pounds every year. We want to help Scotland's not-for-profit affordable credit providers to grow and to reach many more people. And we will commit resources and work in partnership with the Scottish Government, local authorities, affordable credit providers, housing associations, banks and charities to achieve this goal."
Chair Of The Carnegie UK Trust
Participation, Dignity And Respect
Participation, dignity and respect were key to the Fairer Scotland conversations. On public services, there was a strong argument that people should be involved and listened to at the service design stage so that they better fit the needs of local people; and that dignity, politeness and respect should be at the heart of every public service. Many people also wanted to be helped to have their say - and play their part - in what was happening in their local communities.
We will do more to help people to have a say in their local areas.
- We will set a target for Councils to have at least 1% of their budget subject to participatory budgeting which will be supported by the £2 million Community Choices Fund. The fund gives communities the chance to vote on how public money is spent in their area. Targeted particularly at deprived areas for the first time, community groups as well as public authorities are able to apply for funding to organise their own Community Choices events. With over a hundred applications received, this will lead to new participatory budgeting events across the country and will give more communities the chance to make decisions on how and where money is spent in their area.
- Where they need it, we will help communities to start talking to public bodies about local issues and local services - on their terms. 'Participation requests' are a new process set out in the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015. Where a community organisation believes it could help in any specific area, it will be able to ask a public body to take part in a process to improve that outcome. Community bodies can use the Act to discuss with service providers how they could better meet the needs of users, to offer volunteers to support a service or even propose to take over the delivery of the service themselves. We are currently working on the necessary secondary legislation and statutory guidance and expect this part of the Act to come into force before the end of 2016. This promises to be important in helping communities get things done locally on their own terms.
- We will empower our communities to tackle poverty and inequality on their own terms through the Empowering Communities Fund. The fund supports community-led
activity that allows local people to deliver the priorities that matter most to them. Community organisations are well placed to bring about change and we will continue to support them to deliver a range of activities including tackling environmental issues, promoting local economies, supporting vulnerable people, promoting good health, helping young people and delivering arts and cultural activity. People in communities know themselves what will make a difference and we will support them in delivering their priorities.
We will take action to 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 will reform public services to deliver the highest quality service to users, with dignity and respect at their core. The Fairer Scotland conversation and the community engagement led by the Star Project for the Renfrewshire Tackling Poverty Commission heard that dignity, politeness and respect for users were crucial to successful public services.
We recognise how important public services are in the lives of people across Scotland. For many people, the quality of the relationships they 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 services with the care of people at their core - continue to guide our approach to public service delivery.
We've already committed to setting dignity and respect at the heart of the new Scottish Social Security system and employability programmes. We want to see 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, by September 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.
Equality And Human Rights
A wide range of equality issues were raised in the Fairer Scotland conversation. We will continue do whatever we can to advance equality and progress economic and social rights. We also want to emphasise that, following the outcome of the European referendum, we will make sure that the human rights of people in Scotland, as enshrined in European law, are protected.
We will establish an Advisory Council on Women and Girls. This will inform our action to tackle workplace inequality, occupational segregation and other issues relating to gender equality. This is an exciting opportunity to bring new, strong and challenging voices to the range of issues impacting on women and girls, throughout the course of their lives. The Advisory Council will highlight advances that have been made, such as the positive progress around women's representation in public life.
We will make sure that refugee families who settle here under Family Reunion rules can access crisis grants quickly and efficiently. Organisations supporting refugees report that there can be significant delays in receiving benefit payments when refugees arrive in Scotland to join family members already settled here. Grants are required to make sure that the new arrivals have everything they need to begin their new lives, for example so that everyone has a bed. We will invest to make sure whatever is needed can be available from the day refugees arrive, so they are able to settle in and integrate into Scottish society with the minimum of disruption to their lives.
Research Action - A Gender Index For Scotland
In spring 2017, we will publish a Gender Index for Scotland. Following a 2015 review on 'the role and contribution of women in the Scottish economy', Professor Lesley Sawers recommended the development of 'a Gender Equalities Index' to track progress of indicators relevant to economic growth and across national and local areas. We will take action to produce such an Index. This is likely to be similar to the Norwegian 'indicators for gender equality in municipalities', published annually. The purpose of the Norwegian indicators is to highlight differences in gender equality between regions. The Scottish Index should enable us to draw out differences in gender equality and barriers to women's economic progress across local areas in Scotland. This will provide insight on where specific problems or barriers may need to be addressed in order to accelerate progress on gender equality and the reduction of the gender pay gap.
We will take forward the implementation of the Race Equality Framework. An early priority will be to focus on employment, not least because while minority ethnic groups do well in schools and higher education, they tend to do less well in the labour market. We will also focus on increasing the opportunities for minority ethnic communities to participate, as people from ethnic minorities are politically under-represented both at national and local levels across Scotland. Our Race Equality Framework Advisor will bring focussed expertise and experience to add rigour and challenge to our approach.
A New Disability Action Plan
By the end of 2016, we will publish a comprehensive Disability Action Plan. This will set out how we will work across the Scottish Government to remove the barriers which prevent disabled people from maximising their potential. And it will explain how we will ensure disabled people can make their full contribution to daily and public life in Scotland. The plan will make clear the support which disabled people and their families can expect at every stage of their lives. We will be clear about the specific steps we will take to ensure they are not disadvantaged at home, school, work or in their local community.
Before the end of 2016, we will publish Scotland's first Accessible Travel Framework to help disabled people enjoy the same travel rights as everyone else.
A First BSL National Plan
We will improve opportunities and outcomes for people whose first or preferred language is British Sign Language (BSL). Our first BSL National Plan, which we will publish in October 2017, will make firm commitments to improve access to key information and services in BSL, to ensure that our Deaf and deafblind citizens who use BSL have access to the same opportunities as their hearing peers.
Research Action - Equality Evidence Strategy
In early 2017, we will publish an Equality Evidence Strategy for the period of this parliament.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission's review 'Is Scotland Fairer?' recommended that a more comprehensive evidence base be developed to enable Scotland to assess how fair we are as a society and take action to improve fairness where needed.6 This will also include intersectional analysis where possible - i.e. where two or more equality characteristics combine, presenting particular issues and challenges.
To achieve this, we will publish an Equality Evidence Strategy, based on consultation with equality groups and other stakeholders, setting out how we are going to improve equality evidence and analysis in Scotland. We have already produced the most far-reaching equality analysis of any Census ever, in the UK. But we still need to do more and this strategy will help us do better.
We will review and reform gender recognition law so it is in line with international best practice for people who are Transgender or Intersex. This is a complex area of policy, so we will first undertake a full and wide ranging consultation on reforming the Gender Recognition Act. This consultation will be launched by summer 2017. It will cover establishing new arrangements for dealing with applications for legal gender recognition and the minimum age at which applications for gender recognition could be made. We aim to take action in response to the consultation shortly afterwards, with arrangements in place by 2020.
Housing access and affordability and homelessness were key issues in the Fairer Scotland discussion. Housing costs are, for most of us, a major part of household spending. The Scottish Government wants to do everything it can to make sure housing is affordable and warm. That means delivering more high quality homes and supporting sectors under pressure - including helping those in private rent.
We will deliver more warm and affordable homes in this parliament. During the last parliament, we surpassed our 30,000 target, delivering 33,490 affordable homes, of which 22,523 were for social rent. We will now invest over
£3 billion over the next five years for at least 50,000 affordable homes, of which 35,000 will be for social rent. Housing for social rent already has to meet our accessibility standards, but funding is also available for specialist housing - for example, helping disabled people with more complex needs live independently in their own homes; and older people to stay in their own homes for longer. There will be other improvements too. Wherever possible, homes delivered under this programme will include ducting to help future-proof people's access to internet and broadband services.
Support For Rural Areas
We will invite Scottish Rural Action to participate in the delivery of the Fairer Scotland Action Plan to help align the fairer outputs identified at the 2016 Scottish Rural Parliament event.
We will deliver improved services for tenants in the private rented sector (PRS) in 2018. The PRS has doubled in size over recent years and more families with children are moving into PRS homes. We have addressed some of these pressures through legislation to increase the repairing standard in PRS homes, provide new discretionary powers to local authorities to enforce landlord registration, and enable local authorities to support vulnerable tenants, by giving them the power to report breaches of the repairs standard directly to the Private Rented Housing Panel. We will now give households living in the sector a better deal through:
- A new no-fee Housing Tribunal to resolve disputes between tenants and landlords.
- The Private Residential Tenancy - this new tenancy will continue indefinitely unless the tenant wants to leave or the landlord has specific grounds for eviction (as set out in legislation). This will make people feel more secure in their rented homes. These tenants will also have a guarantee that rents can rise only once every twelve months and the landlord will need to give three months' notice of any increase. This should make budgeting over time easier.
- Letting agent regulation - this will improve the quality of service that letting agents provide.
These new arrangements will be in place at the beginning of 2018. We will launch a publicity and education campaign to ensure that tenants and landlords understand their rights and responsibilities, and we will explore options for funding partner organisations to support individuals to enforce their rights.
We will build on Scotland's world-leading homelessness rights.
We will improve the provision of temporary accommodation, including for young people, by:
- working with local government to develop a new approach in the face of UK welfare reforms;
- developing minimum standards, based on the equivalent standards for permanent social housing;
- introducing a cap of one week for families with children and pregnant women living in B&B accommodation, unless there are exceptional circumstances.
With local government, we will improve the prevention of homelessness by launching a Housing Options toolkit.
And we will strengthen links between homelessness services and health services, including mental health and primary care services, so that the effects of homelessness on health are better understood and addressed and so that those facing homelessness combined with multiple exclusion get joined up support.
Social Security And Crisis Support
Scotland's new social security responsibilities are a major shift in how disabled people and those on low incomes are supported. The Fairer Scotland conversations were clear that social security in Scotland and the wider UK should be significantly improved.
We will make social security fairer where we can. For example, we have already spent £125 million of Scottish Government funding to mitigate the bedroom tax in full and we are now committed to abolishing it: around 72,000 households are affected by the bedroom tax in Scotland and an estimated 80% of households affected by the bedroom tax contain a disabled adult.7 On disability benefits, we will introduce longer-term awards where people have a long-term condition. And we will make Universal Credit (UC) fairer by ensuring that all eligible claimants can have the rent element of their UC paid direct to their landlord if they wish; claimants will also have a choice of receiving their UC payments twice monthly. We are also considering whether split payments could be offered as a choice and will continue to explore with stakeholders how we might use this power.
We will do more to help carers as soon as we have the ability. Support for carers was a key theme in the Fairer Scotland discussions. A survey by Carers UK (2016) shows why. It found that over four in ten carers were struggling to make ends meet; of those, nearly half were cutting back on essentials like food and heating; and 1 in 6 were falling into arrears with housing and utility bills.8
We have already committed to increase Carer's Allowance to the rate of Jobseeker's Allowance - currently £73.10 per week. This will give carers an additional £600 per year. We have also made a commitment to increase Carer's Allowance for people who care for more than one disabled child. In addition, we are considering introducing a Young Carer's Allowance for those with significant caring responsibilities - something we have already begun to explore.
We will work with a range of partners to help people claim the benefits they are entitled to. If people claimed all the benefits they were entitled to, they would be better off and poverty rates would be lower. So we will work with advice and support services and other stakeholders to understand better the barriers that prevent people from claiming benefits. We will then address these by raising awareness, supporting people to take up their full benefit entitlement.
Over the term of this parliament, we will work to make Scotland a Good Food Nation by enabling more people to have access to affordable, healthy, nutritious food, in a dignified way. As a first step we will offer a range of alternatives to emergency food aid through our recently established £1 million a year Fair Food Fund which supports projects that offer a dignified response to food poverty. These projects will provide new opportunities for people on low incomes to access fresh and healthy food, share a meal and develop new skills.
The Fairer Scotland conversation covered a range of health issues including mental health, access to services, and diet and nutrition. Other health-related issues (support for carers and on emergency food aid) are covered elsewhere in this Plan.
Scotland's most deprived communities need additional support on health, so we will recruit at least 250 Community Links Workers to work with GP surgeries to connect people with local services and support. We are currently piloting 10 Links Workers in Glasgow and Dundee and evaluating their impact. By 2018, we will have at least 40 Links Workers working in practices serving some of our most deprived communities.
Within the next two years, we will extend home visiting services for families with young children. Because of an increase in the number of Health Visitors, additional visits and child health reviews will be available shortly and the Family Nurse Partnership programme will be offered to all eligible teenage mothers. By reaching more families, more of the time, we can further reduce health and wider inequalities. Improved child health and wellbeing is a key outcome for this investment. Our work will help health visitors to respond to vulnerable families, support them to develop their parenting capacity and guide them to access the range of services and support available.
From 1st April 2017 coverage of the 'Childsmile' national oral health improvement programme will be extended to reach even more comparatively deprived communities. A key component of the Childsmile Programme - targeted fluoride varnish application in nurseries and schools - has a proven track record in improving oral health amongst children, and helping to mitigate long-standing oral health inequalities. This will particularly benefit children in areas such as Greater Glasgow and Lanarkshire.
New Mental Health Strategy
Mental health problems are more common in deprived communities and were a central part of the Fairer Scotland conversation.
We will provide £150 million over five years for mental health services. This will tip the balance of care towards prevention and early intervention, prioritising the needs of children, young people and families and giving mental health the same importance as physical health. Our new Mental Health Strategy will be published before the end of 2016.
New Alcohol Framework
New Strategy On Diet And Obesity
Maternal And Infant Nutrition Framework
We will tackle health inequalities with a new alcohol framework and a new strategy on poor diet and obesity. We will also continue to make progress towards our target of Scotland being smoke-free9 by 2034. Scotland still has huge inequality between its most and least deprived communities. People in Scotland's most advantaged communities can expect to live more than 20 years longer in good health than people in our most disadvantaged communities. Much of that is preventable and is due to the harms of tobacco, alcohol and poor diet falling hardest in our most disadvantaged communities. That's why we will continue to prioritise public health measures that reduce health inequalities.
We will also make changes to the priorities in the Maternal and Infant Nutrition Framework (2011). This is to help us focus on helping women with nutrition and diet before and during pregnancy and in the first years of life over the next five years. Over the next twelve months, we will concentrate on improving women's health before pregnancy and on promoting, sustaining and protecting breastfeeding and improving toddlers' diets. We will also look at how we can communicate better to reduce the problems of ill-health that begin in the early days of children's development.
"On behalf of NHS Health Scotland, I pledge to help the Scottish Government in its ambition to end child poverty in Scotland. We will take a number of key actions that will help, including:
* By September 2017, develop and deliver training resources and events (in partnership) to raise awareness of child poverty and its impact on health and wellbeing amongst public services staff.
* By March 2018, work in partnership with NHS Boards to develop national referral pathways between NHS services and local advice services to maximise the incomes of patients.
* By March 2018, promote the importance and adoption of routine enquiry about money worries by NHS staff to help patients maximise their incomes and referral to advice services where necessary."
Chief Executive, NHS Health Scotland
A fair justice system is vital to improving life chances rather than worsening inequalities. We will be refreshing our Justice Strategy to deliver a person-centred approach to justice and safer communities, focusing on prevention and protection and delivering better outcomes for people and communities. We have focused here on two key actions.
We will make better use of community-based interventions to reduce re-offending further and to help people move on from offending. Evidence shows that community-based interventions
are more effective than short-term imprisonment at reducing rates of re-offending and helping people to maintain housing, employment and family contacts. From April 2017, a new national body, Community Justice Scotland, will work with local community and justice partners to help improve access to community interventions and implement a national strategy for community justice and reducing re-offending. Alongside continuing investment in mentoring services, new models will be implemented to better support women who offend to overcome issues with alcohol, drugs, mental health and domestic abuse trauma, which are often drivers of offending.
In the first year of the current parliament, we will introduce a Bill to establish domestic abuse as a specific offence. The Bill will be introduced at a time when our commitment to tackling violence against women and girls has never been stronger and is backed by record levels of investment. The Bill will form part of wider delivery plans for Equally Safe (our strategy to prevent and eradicate all forms of violence against women and girls) which will be brought forward by the end of the year. We will focus on tackling hate crime, using the findings of the Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime, Prejudice and Community Cohesion to inform a robust and far reaching programme of action in this area.
"Scotland should be a country where, no matter where you live, everyone has the chance of a decent and secure life. JRF's strategy to solve poverty sets a vision for 2030, in common with the Fairer Scotland Action Plan. To move towards this vision in Scotland, we pledge a range of action including:
- Support for Glasgow Together, a Community Interest Company that creates full-time, Living
Wage jobs for ex-offenders in construction, as well as meaningful work experience for current offenders in prison environment. JRF in alliance with other trusts and foundations raised £2 million to fund
the setup of Glasgow Together.10
- Partnership with Big Society Capital to raise £20 million to invest in organisations which tackle the poverty premium in key goods and services - like Fair For You, a not-for-profit company enabling households to buy white goods and furniture more affordably than costly rent-to-buy providers: https://www.fairforyou.co.uk/
Associate Director Scotland
Joseph Rowntree Foundation