Coronavirus (Extension and Expiry) (Scotland) Bill: child rights and wellbeing impact assessment
Child Rights and Wellbeing impact assessment (CRWIA) to assess the impact of the provisions contained in the Coronavirus (Extension and Expiry) (Scotland) Bill on children and young people.
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Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment
A general description of the policy/measure
COVID-19 is first and foremost a public health crisis, and the measures to combat it have been necessary to save lives. The restrictions put in place using powers under the Coronavirus Act 2020 that have been in place since March 2020 have been extensive but necessary in order to limit transmission of the virus as far as possible. Public health measures needed to control and limit the spread of the virus continue to require a significant adjustment to the lives of those living in Scotland, to business in Scotland, and to the way public services are delivered and regulated.
After taking firm action to stop the spread of the virus by implementing a nationwide lockdown, the Scottish Government published Coronavirus (COVID-19): Framework for Decision Making in April 2020, setting out the principles and approach for responding to the epidemic based around managing four key harms: direct health impacts of COVID-19; non-COVID-19 health harms; societal impacts; and economic impacts. These harms are deeply inter-related: health harms impact on society and the economy, just as the societal and economic effects impact on physical and mental health and wellbeing.
The Scottish Government published COVID-19: Scotland's Strategic Framework in October 2020.A strategic approach to outbreak management based on graduated levels of protection was introduced in Scotland on 2 November 2020, with five packages of measures to apply different degrees of downward pressure on the Reproduction Rate (R) of the virus, according to different epidemiological conditions in the areas in which they are applied. The levels were designed to be applied locally, regionally or nationally, depending on the course of the pandemic.
An update to COVID-19: Scotland's Strategic Framework was published in February 2021, in which the Scottish Government re-confirmed its strategic intent to "suppress the virus to the lowest possible level and keep it there, while we strive to return to a more normal life for as many people as possible." It described six key tools for achieving this:
- The quickest practical roll-out of vaccinations, in line with advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI);
- The most effective use of testing and contact tracing;
- Applying proportionate protective measures (rules and guidance) to suppress transmission of the virus;
- Effective measures to manage the risk of importation of the virus;
- Supporting individuals, businesses and organisations to adhere to protective measures; and
- Providing care and support to mitigate the harms of the crisis.
The emergence of the Variants of Concern B.1.1.7 and B.1.617.2 have increased the transmissibility of the virus, making it more challenging to effectively suppress. This is one reason why public health measures continue to be required.
Current public health guidance continues to mean that businesses and public authorities operate very differently to the way they have done previously. In addition, revised Protection Levels were published in April 2021 which set out updated packages of measures in the levels-based approach, taking into account the higher transmissibility of the B.1617.2 variant and the impact of the progress made in the vaccination roll-out. The Health Protection (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Amendment (No. 21) Regulations 2021 implement the approach. All restrictions will be kept under review in the event of new developments, such as the emergence of a new variant of concern, to ensure that they remain proportionate and necessary to support the ongoing public health response.
The Scottish Government continues to place great importance in responding to the coronavirus epidemic, and protecting the health of people living in Scotland, including children and young people.
The purpose of the Bill, therefore, is to update a range of existing legislative measures which support various aspects of the ongoing response to the public health emergency caused by COVID-19. The Bill amends the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020, passed by the Scottish Parliament on 1 April 2020 and the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act passed by the Scottish Parliament on 20 May 2020 ("the Scottish Acts").
The Scottish Acts contain provisions which make temporary adjustments to respond to the pandemic, and protect the health of people living in Scotland. Those provisions were subject to an expiry date, which was extended by regulations , but which cannot be extended beyond 30 September 2021. This Bill amends the expiry dates in Parts 1 of the Scottish Acts. At the same time the Bill also expires a number of provisions which are no longer considered necessary. The effect of this is to extend only those provisions which the Scottish Government considers remain essential in order for public services to be able to continue to discharge their functions in the way they were intended to. Many of the provisions contained in the two Scottish Acts have already been expired in line with the Government's commitment to remove provisions that are no longer required to respond to the public health emergency.
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The responsible team or division. If this is a cross-cutting policy, name the team that has overall responsibility
Constitution and External Affairs – Constitution and Cabinet Directorate
What the policy or measure is trying to achieve; what are the expected outcomes
As noted above, a number of provisions in the Scottish Acts are expired in this Bill which, following engagement with stakeholders, are no longer deemed necessary to have in place beyond 30 September 2021. The Bill also has the effect of ensuring provisions in the Scottish Acts deemed necessary beyond 30 September 2021 continue to be available.
Specifically in relation to child rights and wellbeing the Bill will make provision to expire provision which:
- Provides for a Coronavirus Carer's Supplement Allowance
- Remove the prohibition against benefitting from more than one moratorium on diligence in any 12 month period;
- Relate to children's hearings, child protection and looked after children;
- Relate to cases of adults with incapacity;
- Make provision in relation to community orders in connection with drug treatment and testing orders;
- Relax the timescales which apply for Social Security Scotland making re-determinations.
Specifically in relation to child rights and wellbeing the Bill will make provision which will result in the extension of provision which:
- Gives students (as there are young people under 18 at college and university) in purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA), and university and college accommodation a 28 day notice to leave period in relation to the forthcoming academic term, during the time the provisions are in force and for Covid-19 related reasons only;
- Makes bankruptcy more accessible to debtors and less accessible to creditors;
- Temporarily removes the requirement for a prescribed person to witness a named person agree to the role under mental health legislation;
- Extends the specified period for payment of a confiscation order where payment cannot be made for reasons relating to coronavirus within 12 months of the date that the order was made and disapplication of interest where an extension is granted;
- Extends the notice to leave period for private rented sector landlords and the notice for recovery of possession for social landlords and make all grounds for repossession discretionary in the private rented sector;
- Enables Scottish Ministers to release specific groups of prisoners early, where this is necessary and proportionate, to support the safe operation of prisons, and protect the health of prison staff and prisoners.
What is the time frame for a policy announcement/ consultation/ implementation
Given the need to continue to respond to the public health emergency, there is no alternative to a Bill which the Government proposes to progress under the emergency procedure. Where appropriate, consideration has been given to alternative approaches to primary legislation. Details of this are set out in the Policy Memorandum which accompanies the Bill. The Bill will be introduced to Parliament on 17 June. It is expected to complete Stage 3 on 24 June 2021.
As a result of the continuing need to respond to the epidemic, in light of the ongoing public health measures which remain in place, in order to protect all in society, including children and young people, it is important that some of the provisions in the Scottish Acts remain in force after 30 September 2021. Due to the pre-election period and the need to have this legislation in force by 30 September 2021, it has not been possible to consult formally with stakeholders. However, as noted above, the Scottish Government has informally consulted with public bodies and other key stakeholders affected by the measures to be extended or expired by the Bill.
Coronavirus continues to pose a significant threat to public health in Scotland. The Scottish Government is committed to taking all steps necessary to address that threat. The Scottish Acts contain provisions which make temporary adjustments to respond to the pandemic, and protect the health of people living in Scotland, including children and young people. This Bill makes necessary updates to those Acts.
The Scottish Acts contained measures which were required to respond to an emergency situation. The Acts contained a number of safeguards. These included: the relevant provisions in the Acts automatically expired less than six months after they came into force, although this could be extended by the Scottish Parliament for two further periods of six months; where a provision was no longer considered necessary, Scottish Ministers may bring it to an end earlier; Scottish Ministers are required to report on the continued need for the measures, and on the use of powers in the Scottish Acts, every two months.
These safeguards will continue to be in place for the duration of the extension period, with the expiry dates of Parts 1 of the Scottish Acts being extended by this Bill for a six month period to 31 March 2022, with the Scottish Parliament given the power to extend the Acts for a further period of six months to 30 September 2022. Any such regulations would be made only if deemed necessary at that time. The Bill contains no provision to extend the Acts beyond 30 September 2022.
A number of provisions are expired in this Bill which, following engagement with stakeholders, are no longer deemed necessary to have in place beyond 30 September 2021. The Scottish Government remains committed to keeping the provisions of the Scottish Acts, as extended by this Bill, under review at all times, under the now established review scheme.
The Scottish Government is satisfied that all of the measures contained in the Bill are appropriate and proportionate.
4 June 2021
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