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.

This document is part of a collection

6. Stakeholder Engagement


The Scottish Government has worked, and is continuing to work, with a wide range of partners and stakeholders to understand the impact of COVID-19 on different communities and to help shape future actions. Some of these discussions have directly influenced the development and implementation of the Route Map and associated measures. This has been undertaken in a number of ways:

  • Stakeholders have shared research conducted by their own organisations into the impact of the pandemic, allowing further insight into the experiences of a range of communities. For example, many women's organisations have published useful reports, such as Engender's briefing on Women and COVID[44]. Disability Equality Scotland is regularly polling its membership, for example, undertaking a snap poll to provide responses to inform the consideration of mandatory face coverings on transport. The Institute of Fiscal Studies has published reports on the impact on young people and Edinburgh University's Usher Network for COVID-19 has published an evidence review on the association between COVID and ethnicity. These are only a few examples of a body of helpful research.
  • Stakeholders have undertaken and published reviews of lived experience which have been important inputs into deliberations. These include, amongst others: Children's Parliament; The Scottish Youth Parliament; YouthLink Scotland; Young Scot; Carers UK; Edinburgh Poverty Commission; Inclusion Scotland; Glasgow Disability Alliance; and the Poverty Alliance.
  • Working with SOLACE, the Scottish Government has established a weekly data collection from the 32 Chief Officer Groups and national agencies and delivery partners including the third sector, Police Scotland, and the Health Service to provide intelligence on what is happening across children's services partnerships to support children and young people on the child protection register, those looked after and on the edge of care, those affected by poverty and disabled children and young people. A second data set covering a range of aspects of adult protection has also been established.
  • We are in regular contact with stakeholders in Race Equality. In light of recent events, both COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter protests, this engagement has increased. Race Equality officials regularly attend the Ethnic Minority Resilience Network meetings. This is a network established by BEMIS, with funding support from the Scottish Government, which is a collective of over 40 grassroots organisation that share expertise and resource to support minority ethnic communities in Scotland through the COVID-19 pandemic. We've also established the Expert Reference Group on COVID-19 and Ethnicity – this group is made up of experts in race equality and health from across government, academia and third sector.
  • We have produced reports or documents asking for stakeholders to share views such as the strategic framework for the reopening of schools[45] and Shielding - A Way Forward for Scotland[46]. These documents have provided clarity on our emerging policy position throughout as well as plans for the future, so that our decisions and the evidence-base that underpins them is available for public scrutiny and comment.
  • We have continued, or in some cases expanded, our normal stakeholder engagement meetings to concentrate on COVID-19. For example, regular engagement with the faith community has continued throughout the lockdown period to discuss impacts on places of worship, including weekly meetings with faith leaders and representatives from a broad range of faith groups. We have continued regular engagement with a range of asylum and refugee stakeholders to ensure we are listening to the challenges that they face.
  • Research from over 40 organisations involved in supporting people experiencing or perpetrating domestic abuse or other forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG) was gathered to provide qualitative evidence on the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on people experiencing domestic abuse and other forms of VAWG in Scotland during COVID-19 lockdown for the first 8 weeks; this has now been published[47]. A weekly conference call was established with stakeholders across the justice sector and organisations supporting victims of crime, including women experiencing domestic abuse, to understand the impact of COVID-19, monitor trends, share best practice and assess where additional support was required.


Included here are some examples of how this engagement has made an impact on the Route Map and broader mitigating measures to offset the impacts of lockdown.

Equality stakeholders

The Scottish Government is committed to promoting equality and values the input of a range of stakeholders to the development of policy responses. We recognise that there is huge value to hearing both from individuals with lived experience and organisations who are experts in their respective fields – those who can represent and share that lived experience of people from a range of backgrounds and characteristics, including people with intersecting protected characteristics.

Throughout the period of this crisis, the Scottish Government has been in regular contact with a wide range of organisations across the range of protected characteristics and also with statutory bodies. This engagement, and the results of equality and rights focused organisations' own research, has been used to support a better understanding of how the current crisis is affecting a range of people. It is also used to inform decision making around our response to COVID-19 going forward, including aspects of the Route Map through and out of the crisis.

We are maintaining this ongoing dialogue with equality stakeholder organisations and this will continue to inform thinking as Scotland plans its route out of lockdown. The newly established Advisory Board on Social Renewal will be particularly keen to learn from lived experience and to have dialogue with equality stakeholders.

Poverty and food insecurity stakeholders

Scottish Government has engaged very closely with local authorities on their delivery of the Food Fund, as well as with national and local food insecurity organisations, throughout the pandemic. Through these relationships our food insecurity team has been able to provide support and advice on any challenges as they have arisen since March as well as sharing good practice.

We communicate regularly with our mailing list of over 600 community food organisations, providing information on the Scottish Government's coronavirus response, updates on funding, and health and safety guidance. We will continue to do so as Scotland transitions out of the pandemic, looking to share good practice learning and ensure clear messaging on when it is safe to resume activities such as community meals.

We have close partnership working in place with national food aid organisations, holding weekly calls with FareShare, Trussell Trust, and Independent Food Aid Network.

The Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Communities has held a series of stakeholder group calls with food insecurity partners since the start of the pandemic to understand the situation on the ground, to help resolve any difficulties, and ensure support was in place where needed.

The Cabinet Secretary also held roundtable calls with poverty stakeholders and met separately with the Poverty Alliance and the five poverty truth organisations in Scotland to discuss the impacts of the pandemic, where she heard first-hand from those with lived experience about the challenges they face and their concerns for the future.

Boards and Expert Groups

Specific stakeholder Boards are established at a national level to lead the renewal programme. The Social Renewal Advisory Board, the Expert Reference Group on COVID-19 and Ethnicity and the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery all provide a helpful challenge function to the Scottish Government, as does the National Advisory Council for Women and Girls. They also provide creativity, which is essential in an unprecedented time in which Scottish Government is reliant on the collaboration, ingenuity and enthusiasm of a wide range of partners to move safely through the pandemic and into a Scotland that can fulfil its purpose of a greener, fairer country based on social and economic wellbeing for all.


The following detailed example from the transport sector gives a flavour of stakeholder engagement related specifically to protected characteristics and socio-economic disadvantage within one sector, with some other summaries further below.

Transport plays an important part in delivering the fully inclusive society we want. There has been significant engagement across the transport sector and close working with local authorities since the start of the crisis and we continue to work with a range of stakeholders.

Transport Scotland published the Transport Transition Plan[48] on 26 May 2020, which set out how the transport system was being prepared for the transition through and out of the COVID-19 crisis. Contained within the Transport Transition Plan is Guidance for operators and Guidance to assist the public to travel safely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic[49], which was produced following engagement and remains under regular review with engagement on any significant changes.

A Transport Transition Plan National Advisory Group has been established to align approaches and share knowledge across national, regional and local transport planning activity as we transition out of lockdown. National stakeholder representatives include COSLA, RTPs, Poverty Group(s), Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland (MACS), business umbrella groups and academia.

We have further established the Transport Scotland Transport Transition Plan Equality Network to engage and seek evidence to inform the iterative Transport Transition Plan and Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA). Membership of this group includes Poverty and Inequality Commission, Poverty Alliance, Equality and Human Rights Commission, Mobility Access Committee for Scotland (MACS), Disability Equality Scotland, Young Scot, Engender, Age Scotland, and we have also reached out to BEMIS.

To ensure that the guidance is relevant to the needs of operators, their staff and the users of their services, this engagement has been undertaken with transport operators, trade unions, transport associations, local authorities and passenger interest groups. MACS were fully engaged when compiling the keeping public transport safe guidance. Additionally, they produced their own guidance to operators when assisting disabled passengers[50].

Transport Scotland and Sustrans Scotland have also been engaging closely with MACS on the 'Spaces for People' fund. This is a new, temporary, infrastructure programme in Scotland that offers funding and support to make it safer for people who choose to walk, cycle or wheel for essential trips and exercise during COVID-19. MACS have produced guidance[51] that is available to Local Authorities bidding for the fund, to assist with consideration of the impacts on disabled people during the development of proposals.

In addition, the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity invited MACS' engagement on the Transport Transition Plan to ensure the plan could be informed by needs of disabled people. The Cabinet Secretary has also had a virtual meeting with the Poverty Alliance to hear from them on the lived experience of the transport challenges exacerbated by COVID-19.

We are also convening the Transport Accessibility Steering Group in mid-July to keep our key stakeholders and accessibility groups engaged during the period of the phased transition out of lockdown. Memberships of this group includes Transport Scotland, Regional Transport Partnerships (RTPs) operators and also includes membership from MACS, PAMIS, People First, Disability Equality Scotland, Scottish Consortium for Learning Disabilities, Spinal Injuries Scotland, National Deaf Children's Society, Whizz Kid, Scottish Youth Parliament, RNIB Scotland, Disability Shetland, and Guide Dogs Scotland.

We are also undertaking a public attitudes survey on transport, which has run for three waves since early May, with key findings that are published routinely, are shared with stakeholders, and that inform policy. The survey covers a range of topics to ask respondents about the current impact COVID-19 is having on travel behaviour and attitudes. It provides the opportunity to ask questions on emerging issues as we progress through the Route Map and Transport Scotland's Transition Plan. The survey is carried out with a sample of 1000 people across Scotland and is designed to ensure that the sample is representative of the Scottish population in terms of age, sex, region, and socioeconomic classification. Other demographic data is collected and analysis is undertaken on race and disability.

Transport Scotland is also contributing to a number of key partners' survey work and keeping abreast of other public attitudes surveys on transport that are carried out Scotland. This includes Transport Focus, who specialise in carrying out transport attitudinal and behaviour surveys and the Disability Equality Scotland polls.

Border health measures

As part of the development of the Equality Impact Assessment in relation to the new border health measures that have been introduced, the Scottish Government has sought the views of external organisations where possible. These include Disabled People's Organisations such as Inclusion Scotland, Disability Equality Scotland, British Deaf Association Scotland, the Chair of the Scottish Independent Living Coalition, VOX Scotland, Scottish Commission for Learning Disability, and Deaf Scotland. In addition, they have sought the views of organisations concerned with women's equality in the workplace and society, such as Engender and Close the Gap.

Connecting Scotland

The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport announced the Connecting Scotland programme on 7 May 2020, which will support 9,000 low income individuals across Scotland that are clinically at risk to COVID-19. The £5 million programme will offer an internet connection, training and support, and a laptop or tablet to people who are clinically at risk, on a low income and are not already online during the response to COVID-19. The Connecting Scotland programme ran pilots prior to the announcement:

  • Glasgow Disability Alliance (GDA) and Govan Housing Association (GHA) -The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) has procured tablets and pay as you go SIM cards for 40 disabled adults supported by the GDA and 15 tenants within the GHA. Digital Buddy training will be tested with a half-day training session with GDA using a test and learn approach with 40 users. GHA tested the model that will be rolled out in future phases. All users have no digital literacy and are in the 'offline' group.
  • Children 1st and Aberlour took part in the Connecting Scotland test pilot. It provided laptops suitable for education purposes and six months data via a sim card to families highlighted by Children 1st and Aberlour as being particularly in need. Children 1st and Aberlour identified 199 families in Glasgow who were to be part of the pilot. The pilot will provide important intelligence on the needs of families for the programme going forward.
  • Connecting Scotland also carried out a small scale pilot with young parents through the support of the Family Nurse Partnership. This will help families become digitally included and provide important intelligence on the needs of young parents, one of the Priority Families, in relation to digital access.

The lessons learned from the first and second pilots, initial distribution to local authorities, and the emerging user insights, highlighted where things are working well and where they can improve for the full roll out. User research interviews will be included in future reports.

The feedback received so far is positive. One user in pilot 2 (with children and families through Children 1st and Aberlour) got in touch with their digital champion to say that the device was making a huge difference to their child, who was now able to take part in school lessons.

To date, Connecting Scotland has undertaken user research with service users and providers (digital champions) to understand people's experiences of Digital Exclusion in COVID-19, gather feedback on the current service pilots, and make sure that support meets evolving user needs.

Scottish Government have undertaken in-depth interviews with some service users and digital champions, with additional sessions planned. Through SCVO we have also undertaken a survey with service users and service providers. All research sessions have been undertaken remotely, by telephone or online, and we provide additional support e.g. interpreter to ensure all those that want to participate can.

We are also utilising existing policy research and COVID-19 user centred design response work, which includes user research work on the shielding programme. This work involved interviewing 32 people by telephone who are shielding, or are caring for someone who is shielding, and draws on six proxy users from third sector and support organisations to help understand the common issues for the shielding people that they support.

Work to provide digital devices and connectivity solutions to disadvantaged children and young people for the purposes of home learning is now also being taken forward as part of the Connecting Scotland programme.

Children and Families

A COVID-19 Children and Families Collective Leadership Group has been established to regularly review quantitative and qualitative data on children, young people and families with vulnerabilities, identify issues requiring action and to provide local and national leadership in delivering a response. The focus is on addressing the range of concerns about how children and young people (CYP) and families are being affected by the pandemic and the associated mitigation measures, in particular CYP who are experiencing the greatest adversity and challenges. The Leadership Group includes members from SOLACE, COSLA, Police Scotland, Health, Education, Social Work, Scottish Children's Reporter Administration (SCRA), Children's Hearings Scotland, the third sector, Scottish Government and other key organisations. The Leadership Group will also work with a range of organisations to ensure the experiences of children, young people, and families inform the work.

The Scottish Government has published two evidence reports on the impact of COVID-19 on children and families - in particular those in the most vulnerable circumstances. These reports were published in April and May, and a further report is in production for publication in July.

Schools and Early Learning and Childcare

The COVID-19 Education Recovery group[52] (CERG) was established in April 2020 to provide insight and expertise from professionals working across the education and childcare sectors. It aims to bring decision makers and key influencers together to ensure that the delivery of childcare, early learning, and education maintains a strong focus on excellence and equity for all, within the necessary constraints of the COVID-19 response. The group has been meeting regularly since April to support the Scottish Government with the development of the Strategic Framework for Reopening Schools and Early Learning and Childcare Provision in Scotland[53] and will continue to advise on supporting guidance.

The Scottish Government has engaged closely with representatives from universities, colleges, community learning, staff and students, as well as the Scottish Funding Council and other agencies throughout the Covid-19 crisis, in particular through the COVID-19 Response: Further and Higher Education Ministerial Leadership Group[54]. The group was initially established to deal with the immediate crisis and now meets to consider issues, agree actions and communicate the approach for recovery. We will continue to work with stakeholders in partnership as we progress through the Route Map.

On student accommodation and travel, the Scottish Government has met regularly throughout the lockdown with key stakeholders, including Universities Scotland, Colleges Scotland, the Association for Student Residential Accommodation, College and University Business Officers, NUS Scotland, Emilytest, the Scottish Funding Council and AMOSSHE, the Student Services Organisation. This group of interested parties continue to meet on a fortnightly basis and have worked alongside the Scottish Government to inform guidance on travel and wider student accommodation matters.


On the issue of shielding, which affects many people with protected characteristics, we have engaged closely with stakeholders across Scotland, particularly local authorities and third sector organisations, to understand the concerns of the people they represent, to ensure they can feed into decision-making, and that they are kept informed of changes so that they can best support people who have been asked to shield.

We have conducted qualitative research to understand the experiences and concerns of those people who have been asked to shield, as well as carrying out an online survey designed to capture the views of larger numbers of people asked to shield; both have helped and will continue to shape our advice on shielding.

Health and Social Care

Health and Social Care stakeholder engagement has involved regularly updating a wide range of stakeholders since the beginning of lockdown:

  • Engagement with Local Authority Chief Executives through SOLACE (and NHS Chief Executives) on a range of matters, including provisions in emergency legislation for care homes.
  • Continuous contact with social care provider representatives through Scottish Care and Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland (CCPS) in formal forums and informal engagement.
  • Weekly call with social care stakeholders, including the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), Fair Work representatives, Scottish Care, COSLA, and CCPS.
  • Engagement with Glasgow Disability Alliance and Inclusion Scotland on insights gathered of impacts on disabled people during the pandemic.
  • Regular contact, and co-production of guidance, with national carer organisations, including MECOPP (Minority Ethnic Carers of People Project) and Shared Care Scotland, with a specific focus on respite/short breaks.
  • Engagement with Social Work Scotland Adult Social Care Committee and Chief Social Work Officers.
  • Regular contact with independent support organisations, many of them user-led Disabled People Organisations, who work directly with people using social care. This includes organisations funded through Support in the Right Direction funding, Self-Directed Support Scotland and Scottish Personal Assistant Employers Network.
  • Engagement with provider representatives, COSLA and trade unions on sick pay for social care workers and Living Wage agreement.
  • Engagement with Hospice providers on a range of issues, including guidance and funding support during the pandemic.
  • Engagement with National Advisory Committees for some long-term health conditions, extensive range of third sector organisations and clinical networks to take account of the impact and support needs for these populations.
  • There has been significant engagement with the care homes sector on visiting arrangements. This includes a clinical and professional advisory group with membership drawn from Scottish Government, Public Health Scotland, care home provider representatives including Scottish Care, care home providers, Alzheimer Scotland, health and social care partnerships for example. The group has considered the scientific advice on the reintroduction of visiting.

Active Scotland

There has been ongoing stakeholder engagement between the Scottish Government and the sector throughout the lockdown, which is welcomed by all parties. sportscotland has been working closely with Sports Governing Bodies (SGBs) to understand and mitigate negative impacts. A phased approach to discussions between the Scottish Government, sportscotland and Sports Governing Bodies has been taken since early May and a great deal of work continues to support the engagement.

This has included facilitating scenario planning based on the Scottish Government decision making framework and Route Map and developing detailed guidance where appropriate. In facilitating this, sportscotland have provided sports with a template with a number of prompts for them to plan against for each phase of the Route Map.

The partners we have worked with include Scottish Disability Sport (SDS), which has been involved in planning sessions with all sports. For this purpose, SDS has developed a document of Principles for Participants with Disabilities Returning to Physical Activity and Sport in Scotland which it is discussing with sports in these planning sessions. We have also supported SDS to publish guidance[55] for phase one, and will do so for future phases.

We have also worked with the Children 1st Safeguarding in Sport service to produce guidance[56] on 'Child wellbeing and protection considerations in the return of children and young people to sport'.


We have engaged with a broad range of stakeholders to develop sectoral guidance for the measures in the 'Working or running a business' and 'Shopping, eating and drinking out' categories and will continue to do so throughout the phases.

Specifically, we established a small sub-group with representatives from COSLA, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Zero Waste Scotland and individual local authorities, including island authorities, to support national planning for the re-opening of Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) and engaged with trade unions via STUC. As local authorities are responsible for the operation of individual HWRCs, site management arrangements were developed locally in partnership with relevant stakeholders.

Food Standards Scotland has issued guidance and a supporting risk assessment tool for Food Business Operators and their employees which aims to support those involved in food manufacturing, processing and service in implementing physical distancing measures, as well as other mitigation measures that will help them to adhere to government advice for preventing the spread of COVID-19.

This guidance had been shared with Scottish food and drink industry bodies, and Trades Union representatives. The guidance was reviewed by Health Protection Scotland officials who are content that it is consistent with public health messaging issued in Scotland and UK wide. Local authorities, trade unions and the Health and Safety Executive have also responded positively to the risk assessment tool.

We also consulted with members of the Manufacturing Working Group, who are representative of manufacturers, trade unions and regulators, and worked with industry, trade unions and regulators on sectoral guidance.



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