Coronavirus (COVID-19): Strategic Framework update - February 2021
Sets out how we plan to restore, in a phased way, greater normality to our everyday lives.
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Providing support to adhere to protective measures
Adherence to the protective measures plays an important role in supporting our strategic approach. Polling data throughout the pandemic have indicated high levels of knowledge and support for these measures, and high levels of self-reported adherence. However, a substantial minority of the population still report that they have difficulty following the measures. The changed context of vaccination roll-out and increased testing also presents challenges in terms of adherence which we must address.
We recognise that following these measures can be difficult, requiring people to make very significant sacrifices. In addition to only keeping restrictions in place insofar as strictly necessary and proportionate to tackling the crisis, we will support and encourage adherence in the period ahead by:
- taking a partnership approach, understanding the concerns of people, businesses and stakeholders through regular, honest, and open dialogue
- building on this approach by providing targeted support to those who need it
- supporting enforcement of regulatory measures
- providing clear and tailored communications to help everyone in Scotland understand how to keep themselves, their loved ones and their communities safe
Regular dialogue and feedback continues to help us develop and deepen our understanding of the effects of the pandemic on the public and across a variety of sectors. The Compliance/Adherence Advisory Group which includes representatives from across the public sector, the private sector, the third sector and academia, is providing advice and practical suggestions on how to incentivise adherence, including support measures, and its insights have been used to inform communications and our approach to sectoral interventions. Examples of our engagement include:
- in response to feedback from sectors that guidance can be hard to find and, in some circumstances, hard to understand, we carried out a survey with input from a range of businesses and sector bodies. Taking the results of this into account, we published refreshed sectoral guidance. Alongside this, we will launch a cross-sectoral evaluation tool which will help businesses monitor their own adherence and evidence the steps they have taken to mitigate risks
- we continue to work closely with business organisations and unions through regular, at least weekly, meetings to discuss worker protection, public safety, and support to help organisations keep people in work. In December we updated the statement of fair work practices to include supporting workers to take up the invitation of vaccination when offered
- through our Safer Workplaces Group, we bring together business organisations, unions and regulators to discuss the ongoing developments on measures to protect against coronavirus. This includes topics such as face coverings, ventilation and testing
- since the introduction of the Strategic Framework, we have met weekly with local authorities to monitor how protective measures are working in practice. We also bring together a wide range of regulators including local authorities, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), Care Inspectorate, Food Standards Scotland and Police Scotland on a fortnightly basis to discuss adherence and enforcement data, issues, actions to take and best practice. These conversations considered activities such as car washes, showrooms, travel agents and tanning salons, which have led to clearer guidance and in some cases strengthened regulations. This has also allowed a more consistent approach across local authorities as all local authority regulators are working on consistent information
- we have taken on board feedback received through correspondence and considered ideas provided to our online public engagement Dialogue Platforms. We are grateful to those involved in the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland report, and comments from those taking part in the Citizens’ Panel reporting to the Scottish Parliament’s COVID-19 Committee
Providing targeted support to those who need it
We know that adherence to the rules in place can be challenging and we continue to support people to do that. Through our engagement we know that there are certain measures that people find particularly difficult. We are taking action in relation to a number of areas.
Supporting people to self-isolate
We will continue to promote the self-isolation message to encourage people to ‘do the right thing’ and we will ensure that there is greater awareness of the package of enhanced support available for those in self‑isolation for example through a national campaign on TV, radio, digital and press. We are widening the eligibility for payment of the Self-Isolation Support Grant by increasing the threshold up to the Real Living Wage and broadening the range of benefits that enable people to receive the grant. We will empower local authorities to pay the grant to others in work who are facing hardship.
The latest version of the Protect Scotland app includes additional functionality that will allow someone who has been asked to isolate by the app to create a unique certificate as evidence of the isolation request; this can be used as part of the application process for the grant via their local authority.
The vast majority of businesses have been very supportive of the need for employees to self-isolate and have recognised the risks to their employees, customers and ultimately their business from not following self‑isolation rules. However we recognise a small minority of businesses are not supporting employees to self-isolate and we will consider further ways to help improve adherence on this critical issue.
We will also work with Public Health Scotland so that people who have been contact-traced can have a letter sent to their employers making it clear that they have been asked to self-isolate and should not attend the workplace.
In Higher Education, there will be appropriate support for students self-isolating and in quarantine. Universities Scotland has announced a Consistent Core of Care package which commits every institution to providing regular check-ins for self-isolating students, help with food and other groceries, cleaning supplies and internet access. Institutions will continue to provide support for students who choose or need to remain in their term-time accommodation.
Supporting businesses to adhere to guidance and legislative requirements
Check in Scotland (QR code check-in/out) has launched. It is a voluntary digital service that supports hospitality venues in complying with legislative requirements. A pilot has been taken forward to test the functionality within the transport sector, with trials due to commence with sheltered housing and public sector organisations that are open to staff and visitors such as community centres and job centres. As the economy starts to reopen, we will work with relevant businesses to highlight this product.
We have also developed a standard checklist which can be used by a range of sectors to ensure that they are adhering effectively to regulations and guidance. This tool is to help businesses evidence the mitigations they have taken to prevent outbreaks and also to help learn lessons where outbreaks have occurred.
Ensuring clear and understandable guidance is in place is key to adherence from businesses. Sector teams continue to engage closely with sector bodies and unions to regularly update guidance to ensure that it is as effective as possible. Regular meetings with business organisations and unions also allow us to ensure that this guidance is well-understood and is practical to implement.
Support for enforcement of regulatory measures
We are grateful to all organisations involved in enforcing regulatory measures in response to COVID-19, including Police Scotland and local authorities. The use of the 4 E's approach - Engage, Explain, Encourage and, only where necessary, Enforce – has worked well and has helped to build public trust and understanding.
We have legislated to provide additional powers to Environmental Health Officers and Trading Standards Officers to assist enforcement and will continue to work with them to promote adherence to regulations and guidance.
We have also provided £2.9 million to Local Authorities for 2021/22 to support enforcement activity. This will ultimately help to create safer workplaces for everyone.
As part of our ongoing review of the regulations we aim to ensure that the powers given to Police Scotland are proportionate, reasonable and fair. We have completed a review of the levels of Fixed Penalty Notices that can be issued in respect of breaches of the regulations and concluded that the level of fines for fixed penalty notices remain appropriate and fit for purpose.
Providing clear and tailored communications
Our communications will continue to be evidence-based, drawing on polling data, desk research and our own insight gathering research to ensure maximum effect as we respond to the latest developments. While we provide our strategy and information in a range of alternative formats and languages we are also working directly with community and minority groups to understand the specific issues they are facing and what support will help them to follow the guidelines. For example we are looking at ways to make it easier and more equitable for people to access the information they need online, through advertising in newspapers, mail drops, First Minister televised briefings and radio.
To complement our framework we will deploy a narrative to demonstrate the interplay between the protection measures, vaccination roll-out, Test and Protect and border controls and support of individuals and businesses. This will be supported by bespoke marketing campaigns such as FACTS.
Given the priority we have assigned to early learning and childcare and schools within our framework we will continue to support campaigns for parental audiences, as part of Parent Club, to support the staggered return of early learning and childcare and schools. We will also work in partnership with the sector to communicate clear messages to reassure staff and highlight what they need to do to adhere to guidance, thereby making settings as safe as possible for staff, parents and children.
We are continuing our activity in support of mental health. Our Clear Your Head campaign provides basic practical advice to support wellbeing to encourage people to take exercise and moderate their alcohol consumption.
A new campaign will drive awareness of financial support available through benefits, grants and advice to help people maximise their income and prevent them falling into financial hardship.
Key actions: best possible adherence to guidance and regulations
Improved support for those who need to self-isolate
- widening the eligibility for payment of the Self-Isolation Support Grant
- working with Public Health Scotland so that letters may be sent out to employers of those required to self-isolate, asking for their co-operation and support
Listening to and giving clear messages to the public
- encouraging appropriate ways of thinking, both short-term and long-term: to avoid complacency as the vaccines roll out; continued adherence to NPIs (non-pharmaceutical interventions); a culture change of hazard awareness and new behaviours
- continuing to use polling and focus group research to understand current public attitudes and behaviours (e.g. restrictions, FACTS, Test & Protect) to inform communications and marketing campaigns
Engaging with the business community
- reviewing our sectoral guidance to ensure its continued relevance in changing circumstances
- developing a cross-sectoral tool to help workplaces ensure they are compliant with guidance and regulations
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