Joint foreword from Cabinet Secretary and COSLA Spokesperson
We are delighted to present this first year report, outlining the implementation and delivery of initial actions of the Ending Destitution Together strategy. The joint strategy, published in March 2021, builds on the inquiry by the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee which highlighted the increased risk of destitution facing those with no recourse to public funds. This group were found to be increasingly vulnerable to human trafficking, violence, and coercion as a result of insecure immigration status and restricted access to support services.
Scottish Government and Local Government remain committed to supporting the human rights of those fleeing violence and persecution, as illustrated most recently by the work undertaken to support Ukrainians across Scotland throughout 2022. Ending Destitution Together clearly sets out our inclusive approach, whilst recognising that there are limits on action that can be taken because immigration and nationality, including NRPF policy, are reserved to the UK Parliament.
This pioneering strategy is the first of its kind and is being delivered in partnership with the third sector, local authorities and other key public services until 2024. Through this framework of closer partnership working across public services and the third sector, and the pooling of skills, expertise and resources, partners are working to forge new solutions to tackle some of the toughest challenges and are doing so alongside people who are experiencing or have experienced destitution first hand.
The strategy provides the route map for stakeholders and partners to come together to deliver support to those most at risk of destitution. This work builds on precedents set during the COVID-19 crisis, to ensure essential support is made available to those as risk of destitution. Going forward, this work will integrate learning on support made available to those at risk of destitution throughout the pandemic to safeguard communities from the impacts of current and future challenges such as the cost-of-living crisis.
This first year of progress has included joint work at a national level with key partners to deliver: a Hardship Fund in partnership with the British Red Cross to support those facing destitution including those with no recourse to public funds; work to ensure dignity in the provision of culturally appropriate food for those facing destitution in partnership with the Govan Community Project; the establishment of the Everyone Home Collective which seeks to end destitution and homelessness through aligning the Ending Destitution Together and Ending Homelessness Together strategies; guidance and training for councils on migrant rights and entitlements; increased access to advice and casework support for migrants via a COSLA partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM); and work piloted by Safe in Scotland and Simon Community Scotland to increase access to mental health support for those facing destitution.
During the first year of delivery, there have been challenges to navigate, and these continue to have an impact. We have seen the ongoing and gradual recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. We are now living through a cost of living crisis. We have seen changes for EEA nationals post-Brexit, as well as the commencement and implementation of the UK Government’s Nationality and Borders Act.
Alongside the work of the EDT partnership, there continues to be a need for the UK Government to recognise the implications of legislation such as the UK Borders and Nationality Act which will increase the likelihood of those with NRPF experiencing destitution and risks driving those at risk of destitution further from the support they need. COSLA and Scottish Government continue to press the UK Government to recognise the implications such policies have on those at risk of destitution and our wider communities. These risks are particularly acute amongst women and children who are vulnerable to trafficking, exploitation and abuse.
The Scottish Government and COSLA will continue to raise issues impacting people living in Scotland with UK Government in order that policy and legislation prevent, rather than create, destitution. We believe it is morally right that everyone in our communities has their human rights respected and can access support in times of need. We remain bold in our actions and ambitions, as we strive to create a fairer Scotland for everyone.
Despite the challenging context we face, we have made progress in delivering the strategy, and work is continuing in order that we maintain momentum as we move through the next year of delivery. Over the coming year we will look to learn from our experience of supporting those at risk of destitution throughout the pandemic and integrate the voices of those with lived experience of destitution through establishing an expert advisory group which will bring together those with lived experience, policy area experts and practitioners to inform future work. We will also develop joint political oversight arrangements to reflect the shared role Local Government and Scottish Government play in supporting those at risk of destitution.
The second year of delivery of the Ending Destitution Together strategy will bring its own challenges, alongside changes and developments in the wider policy and legislative landscape. Now, more than ever, it is important to work together to ensure Scotland is a warm and welcoming country and to deliver change for people who need our support. We must be bold in utilising the powers that are devolved to us, to ensure that people living in Scotland are able to seek support when they need it without fear, and regardless of their immigration status.
Now that we are in year two of delivery, we look to focus our attention on the remaining actions contained within the strategy. We will continue to raise issues impacting people living in Scotland and urge the UK government to prevent, not create, destitution. With the commencement of the Nationality and Borders Act, we will engage with Home Office to ensure that Scotland is represented in any planning and delivery on differentiation in the devolved context. We will also advocate for the removal of the Scottish Welfare Fund from the restricted list of public funds in paragraph 6 of the Immigration Rules. We will endeavour to continue supporting the good work the British Red Cross are doing in delivering the Scottish Crisis Fund project as well as supporting the Scottish Refugee Council and Fair Way Scotland delivery of the national helpline providing advice and advocacy support. We will work with Public Health Scotland to improve access to primary health services and access to mental health services for adults and children with NRPF. We will also work on embedding the lived experience of those with experience of destitution due to NRPF conditions through establishing an expert advisory group which will inform and shape the implementation of the strategy and meaningfully participate in policy development and service design at a national and local level.
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