4. WHAT WE HAVE DONE ALREADY
There is much that this Government and its partners have already done to tackle poverty in Scotland.
Key actions by Scottish Government
We have created the Fairer Scotland Fund for community planning partnerships. The fund is worth £435 million over three years to target investment at the root causes of poverty in Scotland.
Over 2008-11 we are investing £87 million in the network of six Scottish Urban Regeneration Companies ( URCs) to provide the momentum necessary to bring local assets into use and stimulate economic growth.
We have allocated £36 million over three years for the Wider Role Fund which supports work by Registered Social Landlords to reduce poverty and financial exclusion in the communities they serve.
We are supporting young people through our More Choices, More Chances strategy, by ensuring Curriculum for Excellence provides flexible opportunities tailored to individual need and clear pathways from school to learning post-16, with appropriate support throughout. Encouraging all young people to stay in learning post-16 is the best way of ensuring their long-term employability and contribution to society.
Under Workforce Plus, we have developed and supported local employability partnerships within Community Planning Partnerships across Scotland to align services for those furthest from the labour market to increase employment rates in their areas.
The role of Community Planning Partnerships in meeting their corporate parent responsibilities for young people in care and leaving care was set out in These Are Our Bairns - a guide for Community Planning Partnerships, published in September 2008. We also published a summary of good practice by local authorities in their use of discretionary powers to provide financial and other support to young people leaving care.
We have also widened access and participation in Further and Higher Education by addressing student hardship through a £38 million package of grants for part-time learners in higher education and abolishing the graduate endowment tax.
We have taken steps to remove taxes on ill-health by progressively abolishing prescription charges and some hospital car parking fees. The Ministerial Taskforce on Health Inequalities has produced its Equally Well report, and we are preparing our implementation plan.
Our drugs strategy The Road to Recovery requires services to place service users' needs and aspirations at the centre of their care to help them move on from their problem drug use, towards a drug-free life as an active and contributing member of society.
This Framework outlines our response to the recent report of the National Fuel Poverty Forum. However much work was already underway, including the delivery of a benefits health check through our Central Heating Programme by the Pension Service, which secured £1 million in extra benefits for older people in Scotland in 2007-08. Now, as a result of a contract awarded in September 2008 every caller to our fuel poverty programmes is offered a free benefits check.
These examples illustrate that tackling poverty and income inequality is already at the heart of our activity. Perhaps the most important change we have made is establishing the new relationship between the Scottish Government and our local authorities. The move away from micro-management from the centre and "one-size-fits-all" national solutions, coupled with an outcomes based approach, provides local authorities with the freedom they need to take effective and decisive local action.
Key actions by local government
As the tables below illustrate, our local partners' initial Single Outcome Agreements ( SOA) are already addressing some of the key issues:
Addressing income inequalities
Angus Council has prioritised its SOA around providing more and better employment opportunities for the people in its area. The Council is taking forward specific programmes to get people off incapacity benefit and back into work and is providing a mentoring service for people entering or returning to employment. It is also taking forward initiatives to provide school leavers with more training and benefits options.
City of Edinburgh Council is taking an approach which improves family support and employability. It is working with schools and employers to ensure that potential jobseekers are better matched to employers' needs. It is also measuring the impact of this approach on local employment rates; on youth unemployment; and on the opportunity gaps within the city.
Addressing the major, long-term drivers of poverty
Dundee City Council is clear in its SOA that its highest priority is increasing the educational attainment rate of young people through a range of integrated services that support young people in their early years. This will be achieved by developing more integrated approaches to children's services including improving schools and the services they offer to the local community, raising pupil attainment and increasing achievement through more vocational opportunities.
Dundee is taking a multi-agency approach to assisting those children and families most disadvantaged across the city. This includes those young people not in education, employment or training who are more likely to be at risk of living within households on benefits/low incomes.
Glasgow City Council'sSOA also focuses on action to tackle the root causes of poverty. For example, the Council has allocated £4.5 million from the Fairer Scotland Fund in 2008-09 to improve childcare services, including the particular needs of vulnerable children and young people.
Glasgow City Council recognises that if its young people are to be successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors and it is to reduce the poverty gap, then the right environment must be in place at birth. The Council is therefore committed to high quality education and to improving participation rates as a route out of poverty. For example, by 2010-11, the Council aims to increase primary and secondary school attendance across the city by 2% and reduce exclusions by 2%. A range of challenging targets have also been developed to improve educational attainment by 2010-11. These include increasing S2 attainment in reading by 7% and mathematics/writing by 6%.
Supporting those experiencing poverty
South Lanarkshire'sSOA demonstrates how people who are experiencing poverty will be assisted. For example, partners will target financially excluded people through a range of activities including money advice and a welfare to work programme. The number and range of vocational training opportunities for school pupils will also be increased to help improve leaver destinations. South Lanarkshire's health improvement agenda has moved from a lifestyle focus to a broader definition to tackle the underlying inequalities that restrict people's range of healthier choices. The focus of activities is on implementing actions to address the problems of poverty and deprivation by reducing smoking and heavy alcohol consumption, improving diet, encouraging breastfeeding and increasing levels of physical activity.
In the 15% most deprived areas, by 2011, the Council and Community Planning Partners aim to:
By 2011 the Council and Community Planning Partners aim to cut the number of claimants in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance in the 15% most deprived areas. The Council also aims to increase the percentage of residents in these areas with access to a bank account to 90%, and maintain credit union membership above the South Lanarkshire percentage average.
Dumfries and Galloway Council'sSOA is clear that if people, and particularly those most vulnerable, have access to employment, health, education, and housing and have the opportunity to maximise their individual potential this will collectively help tackle inequalities.
The Council is tackling child poverty through the key worker model. The aim is to increase the number of vulnerable young people progressing to positive destinations by 2010. The Council will carry out an additional 500 independent benefit checks/50 outreach clinics with the aim of enhancing benefits uptake by more than £850,000 by 2010.