Annex A: Public engagement and stakeholder events
The Covid Recovery Strategy is informed by public engagement research on the kind of Scotland that people want to live in. The pandemic has reinforced the value and importance of people being actively involved in decision making that affects our lives, but our commitment to listening to the people of Scotland was well-established before the pandemic; The Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland, a group of 100 citizens from across Scotland that are broadly representative of the country, was established in 2019 to consider the question “What kind of Scotland are we seeking to build?”. The Assembly continued its work on-line during the pandemic, and published its report in January 2021. In February 2021 the outgoing Scottish Parliament voted to commend the report to its successor. The report sets out a challenging and ambitious agenda for Scotland’s future: the recovery should be green; it should include tackling poverty and creating fair work; and it should support young people in terms of mental health support, affordable housing and education and employment opportunities.
Throughout the pandemic, we have listened to a diverse range of people across Scotland. In particular, we have listened to the views of those most impacted by Covid. Their views have helped to inform the development of this strategy and our wider recovery and renewal work.
The people of Scotland want an ambitious and transformational recovery that is supported by investment in social, economic and green renewal. It should achieve financial security for all citizens and should strengthen existing rights for those with protected characteristics while supporting health and wellbeing to a greater extent.
The challenges of an uncertain future was felt particularly acutely by young people during the pandemic, with people not feeling sure about what their future will hold.
“I am due to graduate in June. All the jobs I had applied for have been put on hold and the sectors I am interested in have suspended the vast majority of recruitment. I have moved back in with my parents for the foreseeable future until places start recruiting again.”
Feedback from Poverty Commissions in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and North Ayrshire to the Social Renewal Advisory Board highlighted concerns that Covid was increasing the number of people living in poverty and making things worse for those already experiencing poverty.
“My hope is that some of the people now having a tough time will think to themselves: is this how much people have to live on normally? When this is over, we need to say: a large proportion of the city’s people won’t be getting back on their feet because we live in a really unequal city and now it’s time to fix it.”
The Deputy First Minister held a series of four open dialogue events with stakeholders over the summer of 2021 to gain further insight from a broad range of organisations working directly with people adversely impacted by the pandemic as well as from local authorities, business organisations and third sector organisations including Child Poverty Action Group, Scottish Women’s Aid, Scottish Refugee Council and Glasgow Disability Alliance. The collective national focus on recovery was welcomed by participants. People recognised that we have an opportunity to do things differently, to reshape and improve public services in Scotland.
Reflections from participants included:
“Lack of financial security has been a key factor in conferring more risk from Covid infection for families who live in poverty.”
“Homeworking and the move to digital delivery of work has benefited some disabled people while making life harder for others – one size fits all responses should be avoided as we rebuild public services.”
Throughout the sessions chaired by the Deputy First Minister, there was recognition of the quickly adapted good practices and structures that emerged in response to changing priorities during the pandemic. Although recovery priorities will vary by locality and sector, we should build upon these successes. Further themes recognised in these sessions include:
- The need to address structural inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic.
- The disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women, sole parents, children with complex needs, disabled people, refugees and those from ethnic minority communities.
- The need to talk about people and families, not systems and the inclusion of those who use the services in the redesign, was echoed throughout the research to ensure it meets people’s needs.
- Recovery presents an opportunity to do things differently, to reshape and improve public services.
The small-scale Covid Conversations research project conducted in December 2020 and January 2021 invited people to share their experiences of the pandemic and what could be improved further. Some of their suggestions include: involving people and households on low incomes as early as possible in policy development; enhancing out-of-school activities and community youth work; tackling the digital divide fairly; and developing mental health services and widening employment opportunities for young people.
The importance of community empowerment was highlighted in the dialogue sessions and work conducted by the Social Renewal Advisory Board.
“I noticed a lot of people changed their attitude towards helping others in the community. People came together to help other people, the virus made people work more together and look after each other.”
A further key observation from the dialogue sessions was that the pandemic has required us all to work and think differently, and to act with ‘laser like’ focus for a common purpose. As we move further into recovery and renewal we must maintain the energy, flexibility and innovation exemplified throughout the pandemic to help everyone who was affected to come out stronger.