The public sector has a central role to play in tackling poverty and inequality and many of our key partners are already well ahead of the game. This is visible in the wider context of public service reform, in the everyday operation of Scottish local authorities as they provide critical services in their communities, in the pioneering work of Fairness Commissions, and in the innovative work of NHS Boards to support low income households on maximising incomes.
These efforts are very welcome, but we need to do more. Over a million people are living in poverty in Scotland, including one in four children; and inequalities of income and wealth are far too wide. This unfairness simply isn't acceptable in a country as rich as Scotland - so I want to make sure that, wherever we can, we are taking action across the country to reduce poverty and inequality in a systematic way.
That's why the Scottish Government is bringing forward a new socio-economic duty for the public sector. This duty means that key public bodies - like local councils and the NHS - will have to think carefully about how they can reduce poverty and inequality whenever they make the big decisions that are important to all of us. These decisions include, for example, an economic development plan; or an annual budget setting out spending priorities.
Public bodies will need to be able to show that they understand the key socio-economic inequality gaps that exist and that they've taken account of them in the decisions they make.
I know that many in the public sector support the introduction of the duty as a way to work more systematically on these issues. My view is that looking through the lens of poverty and inequality will lead to better decisions for the future.
In October last year, the Scottish Government published the Fairer Scotland Action Plan ( FSAP), which set out 50 concrete actions to tackle poverty and inequality. The introduction of the duty was Action 1 within that plan and we committed then to consult on the duty because we want to make sure we get implementation right. Thanks in advance for your help, through this consultation, in making sure this duty works in practice.
When the duty is introduced later this year, Scotland will be the first and only part of the UK to have this, the 'missing' part of the Equality Act 2010 in place. This is a great opportunity to shift up a gear and do even more to make Scotland a more equal and a fairer country.
Cabinet Secretary For Communities, Social Security And Equalities
Email: Karen Armstrong, firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House