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Coronavirus (COVID-19): evidence gathered for Scotland's route map - equality and Fairer Scotland impact assessment

This is the first publication of an overview of the range of poverty and equality impacts evidenced in relation to the complex range of measures that will be taken as we follow the route map out of the crisis and focus on the mission of making Scotland a greener, fairer and more prosperous country.

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5. Public Engagement

A public engagement exercise was launched by the Scottish Government following the publication of the Coronavirus (COVID-19): Framework for Decision Making – Further Information on 5 May 2020. This dedicated digital platform[42] was designed for immediate engagement with the public on the decision-making process concerning the lockdown restrictions and provided an initial route to hear about people's views and experiences. Outputs from the dialogue directly fed into the development of the Route Map and have influenced the consideration of this document.

The platform was available from 5 May until 11 May and during that period 4122 ideas were published and 17,966 comments posted. These came from 11,692 registered users. Members of the public also engaged with the Scottish Government through email. An analysis report from the engagement[43] was published on 21 May.

There were a number of wider health impacts of the lockdown highlighted by respondents, with mental health strains being consistently described across topic areas. This included difficulties of isolation and not being able to see friends and family and how social restrictions had negatively affected health behaviours.

Of particular regard for this document was a focus on protecting and supporting those who are most at risk. Evidence gathered has highlighted the concerns for individuals and families that the lockdown exacerbated existing inequality; this included shielded groups and others who are more vulnerable to the virus.

There were also a number of specific comments in relation to how movement was being restricted for over-70s. It was highlighted that there are a variety of health situations for older people, with many healthy people well able to look after themselves as well as the more frail requiring support.

A common theme across the discussions was the mental and physical health benefit of outdoor exercise. For example, some respondents highlighted that golf courses were now being used by the public during lockdown for exercising - there was a mix of opinion on the re-opening of golf courses.

Some respondents highlighted that a higher priority should be given to those people living in flats and from lower income backgrounds. Some felt that these groups were being disproportionately disadvantaged by restrictions on outdoor activity.

The use of face masks/coverings was also highlighted, including a concern about the impact on some people, for example those who use the face and lip patterns for communication and interactions, or those with existing conditions affecting their ability to breathe.

Some respondents commented on re-opening places of worship, highlighting the mental and emotional health value of such religious settings to them and to others, including some elderly and at risk people. Some views were expressed that it would be discriminatory to re-open leisure activities but for places of worship to remain closed. Other views were expressed that faith could be practised safely at home.

Concerns were also expressed about the impact of lockdown measures on pregnant women and new parents. This included not being able to get support from wider friends and family but also concerns that pregnant women would not get access to the routine support usually available such as midwifery services and health visitors. There were also views expressed that partners should be able to attend routine scans, appointments, and labour wards with PPE in place.

A variety of views were expressed about the impact of school closures on children, including around social contact with friends and how to re-open schools for the benefit of children. Concerns were raised about the impact of restrictions on the future education of children and life chances, as well as on the mental health of children, young people and parents. Some also suggested that mental health support should be in place for children returning to school, including training for teachers and school staff on how to spot early warning signs.

This phase of public engagement has now ended but Scottish Ministers have made a commitment to involve people in Scotland in an open and transparent conversation about the way Scottish Government acts to respond to the crisis and sets out a recovery plan which will lead to a renewal programme. A range of public engagement work will be required, deploying a range of techniques, skills and expertise. Our work here will build on significant experience in engaging with the public through the Social Security Experience Panels, Scotland's Citizens Assembly, the Fairer Scotland conversation, our work with Transport Focus, and the COVID dialogue platform.

Contact

Email: nicola.mcdonagh@gov.scot

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