The Coronavirus (Discretionary Compensation for Self-isolation) (Scotland) Bill
The importance of island-proofing was recognised in the "Empowering Scotland's Island Communities prospectus" published in June 2014. The principle of island-proofing is one of building a broad based awareness of islands into the decision making process of all parts of the public sector.
The Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 places a duty on the Scottish Ministers and other relevant authorities, including a number of public authorities, to have regard to island communities in exercising their functions, and for the Scottish Ministers this also includes the development of legislation. This duty is often referred to as 'island-proofing'.
If the Scottish Ministers are of the opinion that any piece of proposed legislation is likely to have an effect on an island community which is significantly different from its effect on other communities, then the duty to island-proof legislation requires the Scottish Ministers to:
- describe the likely significantly different effect of the legislation;
- assess the extent to which the Scottish Ministers consider that the legislation can be developed in such a manner as to improve or mitigate, for island communities, the outcomes resulting from the legislation; and
- set out the financial implications of steps taken under this subsection to mitigate, for island communities, the outcomes resulting from the legislation
Under section 8 of the Islands (Scotland) Act all relevant authorities are required to complete an Island Community Impact Assessment ("ICIA") for any new policy, strategy or service which is likely to have an effect on an island community which is significantly different from its effect on other communities (including other island communities).
It is important to note that the impacts identified below are generally not exclusive to island communities, and accordingly do not fall directly within the scope and spirit of the Islands (Scotland) Act requirement for impact assessment.
However, as COVID-19 has impacted all parts of Scotland, including its numerous inhabited islands, there is merit in impact assessing how the provisions in the bill affects island communities.
For this reason, the Scottish Government has prepared this screening document which sets out how islands issues have been taken into consideration during the development of the Coronavirus (Discretionary Compensation for Self-isolation) (Scotland) Bill ("the Bill").
This ICIA Screening considers the potential effects of the Bill and how they may impact on people living on island communities as compared to those living on the mainland and in other island communities. These are presented in the Key Findings section.
These findings are based on internal research and analysis and officials have supplemented these findings with feedback received from the public consultation. We have concluded that there are no new unique impacts on islands communities anticipated as a result of the provisions in this Bill.
This Bill seeks to continue the effects of the modification to the Public Health etc. (Scotland) Act 2008 ("the 2008 Act") made by the UK Coronavirus Act 2020 ("the UK Act"), in the light of the continuing scale of the pandemic. The 2008 Act was not designed with a global pandemic in mind but rather was drafted with a view to dealing with smaller scale outbreaks.The 2008 Act contains a duty for Health Boards to provide compensation to a person who receives a written request from the Board to be quarantined, be excluded from entering or remaining in a specified place or refrain from carrying on any activity or type of activity as a result of an infectious disease, and to carers of such people. This duty was modified when COVID-19 first emerged as a public health threat so that Health Boards could choose to provide full compensation, but there was no obligation for them to do so.
This modification remains in place today but will come to an end when schedule 21 of the UK Act expires or when the statutory declaration made under that schedule is revoked. The declaration is to the effect that Scottish Ministers are of the view that: (a) the powers in schedule 21 of the UK Act remain a suitable means to reduce transmission of COVID-19; and (b) COVID-19 is a serious and imminent threat to public health.
The declaration must be revoked if the Scottish Ministers consider that one or both of these conditions cease to be met. Due to the uncertainty as to when the UK Act provisions will cease to have effect but the need to maintain this policy, this Bill is being brought forward to maintain the modifications of the 2008 Act for a limited period of time.
The policy proposal is to maintain the modifications made to the 2008 Act, so that a Health Board may pay compensation to a person who receives a written request from the Board to be quarantined, be excluded from entering or remaining in a specified place or refrain from carrying on any activity or type of activity, and the carers of such a person, but the Board is not under an obligation to do so.
The modifications would be put in place for a limited time only. The modification would apply to requests made by Health Boards in respect of COVID-19 only, and not any other infectious diseases. It is proposed that the provisional expiry date of the modification to the power would be 31 October 2022. This date of expiry could then be extended or brought forward, if necessary, through regulation-making powers.
The Scottish Government's view is that the modifications should remain in place where:
- some people were still being asked, under public health guidance, to self-isolate in certain circumstances due to Covid;
- alternative financial support for people self-isolating remained available either through the existing Self-Isolation Support Grant ("SISG") or another mechanism;
- the expiry of the provisions would present a significant resource burden on Health Boards at a scale not envisaged during the development of the 2008 Act.
Ministers will keep these factors under review and if they change, will consider whether the expiry date should be brought forward or extended.
If the Bill does not pass, all territorial Health Boards would return to being under a legal duty to pay full compensation to all people they ask to self-isolate through contact tracing services.
The Scottish Fiscal Commission's forecast for expenditure on the SISG over 2021/22 is £19 million; the Scottish Government estimates that the costs of full compensation (£380 million) would be up to twenty times the costs of self-isolation support.
Providing full compensation to those isolating would be to the detriment of other services and Health Boards operating on the front line of the pandemic. Delivering a targeted support for isolation offer towards lowest income groups ensures that funding is directed to where it is most needed, at an appropriate cost to the public purse.
Scope of the ICIA Screening
The scope of this ICIA Screening is the impact on people living in island communities compared to those living on the mainland and in other island communities as a result of the proposal to extend the existing modification, insofar as it applies to COVID-19.
This section provides an overview of issues for Scottish island communities that are relevant for these regulations.
Rural Scotland accounts for 98% of the land mass of Scotland and 17% of the population are resident there.
At the time of the 2011 Census, Scotland had 93 inhabited islands with a total population of 103,700 (which was 2% of Scotland's population). Of these islands, only 5 are connected to the Scottish mainland by bridge or causeway.
The Islands Act identifies 6 local authorities representing island communities in Part 4 of the Act (Section 20(2)), which are Argyll and Bute Council; Comhairle nan Eilean Siar/Western Isles; Highland Council; North Ayrshire Council; Orkney Islands Council; and Shetland Islands Council. Amongst them, Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles are entirely island authorities, while Highland, Argyll and Bute and Ayrshire local authorities cover island regions, as well as mainland regions.
Self-Isolation Support is currently targeted at those on low incomes and includes the SISG, the Local Self-Isolation Assistance Service, and the National Assistance Helpline.
National Assistance Helpline
Support to self-isolate, including help to access food and other essentials, is available to those who need it through the National Assistance Helpline. This helpline is dedicated to helping those who cannot leave their home and who cannot get help online.
Local Self-Isolation Assistance Service
In partnership with Local Authorities, the Local Self-Isolation Assistance Service proactively gets support to people self-isolating and provides help with access to food, medicine and financial support catering to the requirements of the local population where necessary.
Self-Isolation Support Grant
The SISG is a one-off payment of £500 to people who are notified to self-isolate and who earn the equivalent of the real living wage or less. The proposals discussed concern the modification of compensation duties under the 2008 Act. The current support for self-isolation mitigates the impact of retaining this modification, insofar as it applies to those requested to self-isolate due to COVID-19. It is intended that the SISG scheme will be open until at least the end of the financial year 2021-22.
As such, the current data from the SISG is important for determining what impact this support and the current arrangements have on island communities. Data from the SISG returns has only been collected since March 2021, the data below is up to the end of June 2021.
The proportion of Index and Contact Case participants indicating that they had applied for a SISG was 8%, with no variation by case type.
ScotCen Social Research were commissioned by the Scottish Government to carry out a mixed mode study of adults asked to self-isolate by Test and Protect either because they tested positive for COVID-19, were in contact with someone that tested positive for COVID-19 or recently arrived into Scotland from outside the UK.
When analysed by levels of area deprivation, those living in the two most deprived SIMD quintiles were more likely to indicate that they had/were struggling financially (21%) compared with those living in the other three deprivation quintiles (8%).
Respondents who were index or contact cases living in the two most deprived SIMD quintiles were more than twice as likely to have applied for a self-isolation support grant compared with those living in the other three quintiles (13% and 5% respectively).
Those with household incomes of less than or equal to £16,900 (17% across all three waves) and £16,901 to £30,700 (13% across all waves) were more likely than those with higher household incomes to have applied for a self-isolation support grant.
Full tables, broken down by local authority, are detailed on the next page. For those local authorities which represent both island communities and mainland communities our data represents the local authority as a whole – at this time it has not been possible to break it down so far as to distinguish between the mainland and island areas within those local authorities.
Taking into consideration the comparatively low uptake of the SISG in island communities compared to the rest of Scotland and the high level of self-isolation compliance and self-isolation knowledge nationally, the Scottish Ministers are not aware of any evidence to suggest that the effects of this Bill (as set out above) will be felt any differently by island communities compared to its effect on other communities in Scotland.
|Local Authority||SISG Referrals||SISG Awards to May 2021||Population||SISG Referral rate per 1,000 population||SISG Award rate per 1,000 population||Proportion of DZ that are within 20% most deprived||Proportion of population with low income - SIMD|
|Argyll and Bute||469||36||85,430||5.5||0.4||10.4%||9.9%|
|Dumfries and Galloway||1,234||304||148,290||8.3||2.1||9.5%||14.2%|
|Midlothian||Does not collect data||89||93,150||n/a||1.0||8.7%||10.4%|
|Perth and Kinross||927||295||151,910||6.1||1.9||5.9%||7.9%|
|Na h-Eileanan Siar||47||4||26,500||1.8||0.2||0.0%||10.0%|
|Local Authority||National share of deprived DZs||Proportion of total awards||National share of population with low income|
|Dumfries and Galloway||1.4%||0.3%||2.6%|
|Argyll and Bute||0.9%||2.7%||1.3%|
|Perth and Kinross||0.8%||1.0%||1.8%|
|Na h-Eileanan Siar||0.0%||0.0%||0.4%|
Deprivation and Income
There is a reasonable correlation between awards and deprivation/income, although it is by no means a perfectly established relationship. There may be issues of multiple confounding factors. For example, deprivation may be, on average, higher in more remote and rural areas (and less well accounted for), but remote and rural areas may be less likely to see large numbers of COVID-19 cases and therefore comparatively fewer people will have to self-isolate as an index case or a close contact. SISG Referral and Award rates per 1,000 population in the island communities are amongst the lowest in the country. This would indicate that the impact of this Bill would be felt less in island communities than the rest of the country. The national share of population with low income is also amongst the lowest in the country in the island communities
- The Deputy First Minister wrote to inform the Convenor, COVID-19 Recovery Committee that the Scottish Government would launch a consultation focusing on ensuring that provisions in the UK Coronavirus Act 2020 continue to have effect in Scotland, notably in protecting Health Boards from compensation claims in relation to self-isolation requirements.
- The Scottish Government undertook a targeted consultation to understand the impact of this change on stakeholders and the general public.
- The targeted consultation included Directors of Public Health, and the Chief Executives of Health Boards who were emailed at the start of the consultation. They bear responsibility both for compensation payments under the 2008 power and the wider COVID-19 response on a regional basis.
Summary and Conclusion
- For the reasons set out in this ICIA Screening, the provisions in this Bill are not deemed likely to have effects on island communities that are significantly different from their effects on other island communities or mainland communities in Scotland.
- The Scottish Government is committed to on-going engagement with stakeholders and advisory groups to ensure that the impact of the Bill remains under continuous review.
- The Scottish Government has concluded that no further changes to the policy are necessary as a result of the ICIA Screening.
Name and job title of Policy Lead:
Mike Tighe Team Leader, COVID-19 Legislation and Daily Contact Testing
Name and job title of a Deputy Director or equivalent:
John Nicholson Deputy Director for COVID Testing and Contact Tracing Policy
Date this version authorised: 9 November 2021