Publication - Strategy/plan

A Fairer, Greener Scotland: Programme for Government 2021-22

Published: 7 Sep 2021

The Programme for Government sets out the actions we will take in the coming year and beyond. It includes the legislative programme for this parliamentary year.

A Fairer, Greener Scotland: Programme for Government 2021-22
Chapter 2: Scotland as a Land of Opportunity

Chapter 2: Scotland as a Land of Opportunity

Supporting young people and promoting a fairer and more equal society, within the next 12 months we will:

  • Provide a £520 payment for every child in receipt of free school meals, ahead of roll‑out of the Scottish Child Payment to under 16s.
  • Provide a double payment – £460 – of the Carers Allowance Supplement, provided Parliament passes the necessary legislation.
  • Roll out two significant new devolved benefits for disabled people – Child Disability Payment and Adult Disability Payment.
  • Provide recurring funding of £145.5 million to additional teachers and support assistants recruited this year and through the pandemic permanent.
  • Provide free school lunches for all primary school children, including provision in the school holidays for those who need it most.
  • Take steps towards the introductions of a Bairns' Hoose.
  • Consult on a draft Human Rights Bill which will incorporate the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, alongside three international treaties for the empowerment of women, disabled people and minority ethnic people.
  • Bring forward the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.

Although they've been protected from the worst health impacts of the virus, young people have missed out on time at school and university, been separated from their peers, and lost opportunities to celebrate the rites of passage and make the memories that many of us took for granted. More than that, however, they are faced with uncertainties for the future. Meanwhile the pandemic has hit low‑income and disadvantaged families particularly hard, and risked the progress we have made to tackle child poverty and create a fairer Scotland. While it's been a difficult 18 months for young people, their families, and teachers, we are determined that they don't bear a long term burden.

We will drive forward recovery of our education sector, and renew our offer of help and support to children and families, with a focus on those who need it most. To succeed in being the country we want to be – fairer, greener, and more prosperous – we've established a national mission to tackle child poverty, and will work to make Scotland a land of opportunity for everyone. As we recover from the pandemic, we'll deliver on our commitment to make Scotland a more equal and inclusive society that respects, protects, and fulfils human rights – taking new and ambitious action to tackle inequality and discrimination in all its forms.

A national mission to eradicate child poverty

We cannot ever accept the inevitability of poverty, or that any child will be born into and grow up in it, with the devastating lifelong consequences that can bring. Tackling child poverty is a national mission – it is not something the Scottish Government can do alone, and it takes all of us to deliver the change needed. In March next year we will publish our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2022‑26, laying out a route map to meet an interim target to reduce relative child poverty to 18% by 2023‑24. Backed by a further £50 million Tackling Child Poverty Fund, the plan will set out a series of policies to get us on course towards our ultimate aim of eradicating child poverty. This will be a significant cross‑government and society‑wide effort, and sits alongside our work to drive up good, fair, and inclusive employment opportunities.

Last year we successfully launched our new Scottish Child Payment, providing low‑income families with £10 per week for each child under 6. We will roll out Scottish Child Payment to children under 16 by the end of 2022, helping lift around 20,000 children out of poverty, based on updated estimates, and dependent on the DWP providing data for 6‑16s.

Until then, we will make "bridging payments" of £520 in 2021 and 2022 to low-income families with children in receipt of free school meals. Within the Scottish Government's first 100 days, we have worked with local authorities to provide a further £100 for each eligible child and young person, in addition to the £100 payment at Easter, with a further £160 to follow at both the October and Winter breaks. In 2022 families will receive four payments of £130.

We will significantly increase the level of the Scottish Child Payment, doubling it to £20 per child, per week following the planned roll‑out to 6 to 15 year olds and as quickly as possible within the lifetime of the Parliament. This will provide families with £1,040 in annual support for every child under 16, lifting 40,000 children out of poverty. We will actively seek ways to accelerate the implementation of that commitment, including looking at options for staged increases, with final decisions about timing and increases factoring in to the spending review, and taken in the relevant budget.

We will also deliver an additional £130 Pandemic Support Payment by the end of October for every household who received Council Tax Reduction in April – an investment of up to £65 million benefitting over 500,000 households.

In recognition of the need to support people who experience food insecurity, in a dignified way, we will bring forward a plan that outlines the steps that we will take to end the need for food banks as a primary response. As a first step, we will support local partnerships to prioritise access to emergency income and money advice alongside holistic support services, to make food banks the last port of call.

We will also support families in poverty to improve their income in other ways, investing £10 million over the Parliament to increase access to advice services to maximise incomes, tackle the poverty penalty and improve wellbeing. This will be in accessible settings with a focus on families. It will include expanding Welfare Advice and Health Partnerships, placing money advisors in up to 150 GP practices in some of Scotland's most deprived areas, alongside expanding on pilot work providing advice in education settings.

We will provide frontline and second‑tier advice and debt services with more than £12 million of funding this year, enabling them to help households and individuals who are struggling with problem debt to get their budgets back on an even keel. And we will spearhead a national campaign, working across government and with stakeholders, to make families aware of the support they're entitled to and encourage them to take it up.

In the longer‑term, we are committed to delivering a Minimum Income Guarantee , following the recommendation of the Social Renewal Advisory Board. This could be revolutionary in our fight against poverty; an assurance that no one will fall below a set income level which allows them to live a dignified life, delivered through targeted payments and other types of support or services provided or subsidised by the state. Within our first 100 days, we have convened a steering group, with cross‑Party and expert representation, to design a future Minimum Income Guarantee, and a discussion platform to solicit views and ideas from stakeholders and members of the public. Linked to this work, we will explore how the concept of Universal Basic Services can contribute towards a minimum standard of living, via services such as transport, digital and childcare.

Delivering our ambitions to eradicate child poverty is at risk from the actions of the UK Government, not least the threat of scrapping the £20 a week uplift to universal credit and working tax credit – actively harming more than 450,000 families in Scotland. It must be retained. We will explore ways to improve support given to people impacted by the benefit cap, within the scope of devolved powers, as part of our new deal for tenants.

To level the playing field for all children, and their families, we will tackle the costs of the school day – ensuring that children from less well‑off families have as much chance to participate, learn and thrive as their peers. As of this July, we've funded the removal of core curriculum charges, for the costs of resources and materials for practical and arts lessons, and fees for music tuition, so that income isn't a barrier to taking up a subject or instrument. To create a professionally‑recognised national music teaching force, we will ensure Scotland's school‑based instrumental music teachers receive General Teaching Council for Scotland registration and regulation.

We will make sure that pupils from lower‑income families can take part in school trips, providing support for children to go on curriculum‑related trips and activities, and Primary 6/7 residentials, and giving secondary school pupils the right to go on at least one "optional" trip during their time at school.

In our first 100 days, we have also increased the School Clothing Grant for pupils from low‑income households, to £120 for primary school pupils and £150 for secondary school pupils. We will increase the grant every year by inflation, and will support automation of payments, so families can get it without applying. During this Parliament, we will introduce statutory guidance for schools, increasing the use of generic items of uniform and reducing costs for families.

We will also work with The Hunter Foundation over the next five years on the Supporting Young People through Mentoring and Leadership programme, supporting up to 15,000 care experienced and disadvantaged young people across 300 schools to reach their full potential. This builds on the work of our Social Innovation Partnership with The Hunter Foundation and a range of social entrepreneurs, which designs, tests, and scales different approaches to tackling poverty, with a focus on supporting people's wellbeing and capabilities.

To support young people after they leave school, and throughout their transition into the adult world, we'll develop a School Leavers' Toolkit. The toolkit will bring together practical information about budgeting and finances, as well as guidance for school leavers on how to exercise their full democratic rights as citizens. We will also treble funding for STUC Unions into Schools 'Better way to work' project.

A strong social security system that treats people with dignity, fairness and respect

We have always been clear that we see social security as an investment in people and the social security system Scotland continues to build has dignity, fairness and respect at its heart. The economic impact of this new social security system goes beyond the benefits that it will pay – it is also a major employer. In line with the introduction of further devolved benefits, Social Security Scotland expect to recruit more than 2,000 permanent employees over the next year. This will provide new opportunities for secure, long‑term employment, while boosting our investment on the waterfront in Dundee and in the centre of Glasgow. As a result of this recruitment, by autumn 2022, our new social security agency will directly employ more than 3,500 people around Scotland.

In the government's first 100 days we introduced legislation to make an extra payment of Carer's Allowance Supplement. If passed by Parliament, we will provide a double payment of £460 in December to an estimated 91,000 unpaid carers, in recognition of the additional caring responsibilities and associated strains and costs they have had to meet through the pandemic. We will also develop and launch our remaining devolved benefits, which had to be paused during the pandemic, including our new Scottish Carer's Assistance, replacing Carer's Allowance. Following discussions with carers and organisations that support them we have developed a series of aims for Scottish Carer's Assistance and a range of options for improvement. We are currently engaging with stakeholders on a detailed options appraisal process and will consult on proposed changes in Winter 2021/22.

In July we launched Child Disability Payment in 3 pilot areas, the first of Scotland's new disability benefits, supporting 38,000 children and their families in the next financial year alone with the costs of illness or disability. It will be available throughout all of Scotland from November 2021. The rollout of Child Disability Payment also marks the start of our multi‑year programme of case transfer, during which we'll move the entitlements of nearly 700,000 existing disability and carer benefit clients safely and securely from the UK Government's systems to Social Security Scotland. And next spring we will pilot Adult Disability Payment – replacing the UK Government's controversial Personal Independence Payment – the biggest and most complex of our new Scottish disability assistance, rolling out nationally next summer.

In winter 2021, we'll make payments of Child Winter Heating Assistance, with an extension of the eligibility criteria to include young people aged 16 to 18 with a terminal illness or severe disability. This will help the families of a further 3,900 young people with managing pressures caused by winter heating costs. We'll also introduce a further two new benefits to support households with their heating costs during the winter: investing £180 million in Pension Age Winter Heating Assistance, which can be put towards fuel bills, and a new Low Income Winter Heating Assistance, providing around 400,000 households on low incomes with a guaranteed annual payment of £50.

We'll also guarantee the budget of the Scottish Welfare Fund at £41 million per year, an important social safety net administered through local authorities, and start an independent review this year to understand how it's working and whether there are measures that we could put in place to improve it.

We will explore systems of automatic payment for devolved social security benefits, to maximise uptake. This includes linking Scottish Child Payment with Best Start Grant, and linking data to trigger automation of local authority entitlements, and "passported" entitlements based on receipt of devolved disability benefits.

The best place in the world to grow up

We want to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up; levelling the playing field so that inequality and circumstance don't prevent children from fulfilling their potential. That starts from birth, and we will continue to fund Scotland's Baby Box – which had 98% uptake by expectant parents last year – providing essential items, useful resources for parents and a place for a baby to sleep from Day 1.

As of this August, we've delivered on our commitment to expand entitlement to funded early learning and childcare, from 600 hours a year to 1140, for all three‑ and four‑year‑olds, and some two‑year‑olds (those with experience of care, children of care‑experienced parents, and those from lower income families). The new entitlement will save families in Scotland an estimated £4,900 per child, and benefit around 130,000 children a year. We have now set out our ambition to provide funded early learning to all one‑ and two‑year‑olds, starting in the course of this Parliament with children from low‑income households. This year we will begin engagement with families, the early learning sector and academic experts to design how the new offer will work in practice.

We will also build a system of wraparound childcare by the end of this Parliament, providing care before and after school, all year round, and supporting parents – particularly on low‑incomes – to have secure and stable employment. Those on the lowest incomes will pay nothing, and others will make fair and affordable contributions. This offer will also reduce inequalities in access to a range of activities round about the school day, particularly for those children who may benefit most. To inform policy development, we are supporting 18 pilot projects, testing innovative models of school age childcare for families most at risk of poverty, and will undertake an evaluation of these by September 2022. Over this year, we will establish a diverse and inclusive public panel made up of parents and carers and children and young people, and run a series of workshops to ensure user experience is front and centre in our system design. And, we will publish a 5 year delivery plan within the next year, setting out the phasing and timescales for delivery to the end of the Parliament, engaging stakeholders in its development.

No child should be hungry when in school or early years provision. We will ensure that children have access to high‑quality, nutritious food, in both early learning settings and schools. Within the government's first 100 days, we have reached agreement with local authorities to introduce universal free school lunches for primary 4 and 5 children, building on existing provision for P1‑P3 pupils. We will now roll this out even further – from August 2022 we will fund free lunches for all primary school pupils. In the next year, we will develop plans to deliver free breakfasts to all primary and special school children, and start to pilot provision. We will also commence the phased roll‑out of a food offer during the school holidays, starting with those who will benefit the most. As we design a system of wraparound childcare, we will integrate food and childcare provision wherever possible.

This summer, we introduced the Scottish Milk and Healthy Snack Scheme, providing funding for pre‑school children to be offered free milk and a fruit or vegetable snack every day at their nursery or childminder's. From next August we'll also make milk available for primary age pupils and develop a pilot programme for secondary age pupils.

We'll boost low‑income families' access to good‑quality food for their children through Best Start Foods, a payment parents can use to buy nutritious items during pregnancy and for children under three. Within our first 100 days we've increased the value of Best Start Foods to £4.50 per week per child (or £9 per week for babies under one), and will increase eligibility later in the parliamentary term, supporting up to 60,000 additional people each year.

We are also continuing to support the roll out of the Food for Life programme, increasing the amount of healthy and locally sourced food served by local authorities in early years settings and primary schools, with the aim of having all local authorities gaining accreditation in the coming years.

Away from school, we are ensuring that children all over Scotland have access to fun, safe environments to play and socialise in. In our first 100 days, the Scottish Government has already delivered our £20 million Summer Offer for Children and Young People. £15 million has been specifically targeted at those who have been hardest hit, with those aged up to 25 from low‑income households being provided with opportunities they may otherwise struggle to access. £5 million was provided to a coalition of 18 national partners to strengthen and build on existing summer provision. Over the course of this Parliament, we will invest £60 million to renew play parks in Scotland, so children have access to high‑quality outdoor play in their own communities, with the first funding allocation of £5 million agreed with local authorities in our first 100 days.

A world‑class learning experience for every young person

The pandemic has been a major test of our education system. Staff have had to adjust to teaching online and social distancing in the classroom, while learners have had to cope with missed lessons, time away from their friends and worries about how their work will be assessed. The response of staff through that experience, and how young people adapted, has been awe inspiring. Recovering from the pandemic will require a concerted investment in our learners, teachers and facilities, but it also presents an opportunity to do things differently, so we emerge with an education system that offers a world‑class experience for everyone.

Over the course of this Parliament the Scottish Government will implement the 12 recommendations of the OECD review of the curriculum, published in June. This year, we will take forward a number of initiatives to ensure we maintain momentum, including consideration of the OECD's work on qualifications and assessment, engaging with teachers, learners and parents to consider the changes needed to the curriculum, and ensuring that learners are at the heart of our reforms through a newly established council of young people, chaired by the Education Secretary.

We will also move the role of inspection out of Education Scotland, and replace the Scottish Qualifications Authority, considering a new, specialist agency that would take responsibility for both the curriculum and assessment, so that the two are fully aligned. Professor Ken Muir will lead this work during the course of the year, before making recommendations designed to ensure that schools and learners are provided with the best possible support, with consultation and engagement during the autumn of 2021 before a final report is produced in early 2022.

As part of wider reforms, we will review the current role of measures and indicators associated with Curriculum for Excellence to ensure an appropriate balance between quality assurance and improvement within learning, with sustainable workloads for teachers. We will establish a regular cycle of collaborative reviews for Curriculum for Excellence, and the measures and indicators that underpin our understanding of progress, to deliver continuous improvement, and ensure that schools and teachers are resourced to deliver it.

Across our reforms, closing the poverty‑related attainment gap and giving every young person the chance to fulfil their potential remains one of this government's defining missions – and speaks to our wider mission to eradicate child poverty. While that is a long‑term ambition, we made good progress over the last Parliament – but still have significant work ahead which the pandemic has made harder. We will provide £1 billion across this Parliament for the Scottish Attainment Challenge, including a refresh of the programme from 2022/23 to further empower Headteachers, support education recovery plans and improve outcomes for children and young people impacted by poverty. In our first 100 days, the Scottish Government confirmed the first £215 million of that £1 billion, including:

  • £43 million for the Challenge Authority Programme, providing funding to the nine local authorities with the highest concentrations of deprivation
  • £7 million for the Schools Programme, providing support to an additional 73 primary and secondary schools outwith the nine Challenge Authorities which have the highest concentrations of low‑income pupils
  • £147 million Pupil Equity Funding, providing direct funding to 97% of schools based on the number of P1‑S3 pupils registered for free school meals – including a one‑year uplift of £20 million with a focus on recovery
  • £11.6 million Care Experienced Children and Young People Funding, available to be invested to support all care experienced children and young people aged up to 26
  • £6.6 million for a number of National Programmes, including support for a number of third sector organisations providing targeted work to raise attainment and improve equity.

Delivering these ambitions will only be possible with the continued world‑class efforts of teachers who have borne much of the strain of the past 18 months. As we recover from the crisis, our teachers need more resources, and crucially, more time away from the classroom. Over the course of the Parliament, we will provide funding to support the recruitment of at least 3,500 teachers and 500 classrooms - over and above the 1,400 recruited during the pandemic - with further funding to enable councils to make these posts permanent. This will give teachers the capacity to reduce contact time by an hour and a half a week which they can use to prepare for lessons, raise standards and undertake professional development.

In our first 100 days, we provided councils with £50 million to recruit an additional 1000 teachers and 500 classroom assistants this year – nearly half of the total. From 2022‑23, £65.5 million will be allocated annually to councils to help make these staff permanent. Funding of £80 million that helped to recruit 1,400 teachers and 250 support staff has also been made permanent and will be allocated annually to councils.

Remote learning during the pandemic has underlined the importance for children and young people having access to a digital device and connectivity to use it. Over the course of this Parliament the Scottish Government will provide a digital device for every school‑aged child – helping an estimated 700,000 children by 2026. In our first 100 days, we have begun the planning for that commitment. We will also develop a National Digital Academy, bringing provision of Highers to a wide variety of learners irrespective of location, school, or age, with scoping work in the coming year to support its design.

Enhancing children's digital learning and capability will set them up for the jobs of the future; but we also want to encourage them to care about and for their natural environment. We will continue to promote and support outdoor learning, including trialling Scotland's first outdoor primary learning facilities. And we are working with GTCS to ensure the climate emergency is properly reflected through initial teacher education, growing our strong existing suite of professional development resources to ensure our teaching workforce has all the up to date knowledge and skills they require to be able to offer young people the in depth education they need on the global climate crisis.

We will act to close the gap for children and young people with additional support needs, developing a new approach for how their achievements and successes are recognised, and fully implementing the findings of the Additional Support for Learning (ASL) Review. We will ensure there is appropriate career progression and pathways for teachers looking to specialise in Additional Support for Learning – with the intention that this results in an increase to the number of teachers who specialise in ASL – and explore options for the development of an accredited qualification and registration programme for Additional Support Needs assistants with final proposals to be brought forward by autumn 2023.

We recognise that children and young people's mental health and wellbeing has been negatively impacted by the pandemic. In partnership with local authorities, we have delivered counselling services in schools across Scotland, delivered training for staff and provided guidance on whole‑school approaches to mental health and wellbeing. We will implement and embed these approaches, and establish a guarantee of access in school to the mental health and wellbeing support that young people need, including counselling services.

We will take action to combat racism in our schools with the launch this year of our Race Equality and Anti‑Racism in Education Programme, developing new educational resources in collaboration with stakeholders and practitioners to embed anti‑racism across the curriculum; invest in the diversity of the education workforce; and strengthen staff confidence in understanding, teaching about and addressing racism. Where racist incidents do occur, we will strengthen monitoring and reporting, to support actions to address, and prevent future, incidents.

We also know that too many children still experience homophobic and transphobic bullying, putting them in danger and damaging their confidence. Starting this year, the Scottish Government will provide funding to support delivery of the recommendations of the LGBT Inclusive Education Working Group, moving to eradicate prejudice through providing education, training and resources for school staff.

Navigating sex and relationships is difficult for young people at the best of times – the impact of the pandemic, separating young people from their peers and changing behaviour online, has made it even more difficult. We will develop engaging and relevant guidance and materials to teach young people about consent and healthy relationships, supporting the prevention of sexual harassment and gender‑based violence.

The Scottish Government is committed to increasing the numbers using and learning Gaelic, and we will maintain our support for Gaelic education, arts and broadcasting. We will bring forward a Scottish Languages Bill over the course of the Parliament to take further steps to support the use of Gaelic and the Scots language. We will also explore the creation of a recognised Gàidhealtachd, review the functions and structures of Bòrd na Gàidhlig to ensure Scotland has an effective leadership body, and develop a new national strategic approach to Gaelic medium education (GME) which will encourage the creation of new GME primary and secondary schools.

Strengthening our world‑class further and higher education

Our colleges and universities are a significant driver of our economic success – we will support them to remain at the forefront of our economic recovery: undertaking research and development in the new and emerging low carbon technologies our net zero transition will rely on, training and educating the skilled workforce of the future, and contributing to the success of their communities.

We will maintain our policy of no tuition fees for Scottish students and build on the strong progress already made in helping students from poorer backgrounds into university, implementing the recommendations of the Commissioner for Fair Access – and that must include better financial support, so students can thrive once they are in education. We will start work now to introduce a range of substantial reforms to student support, including a commitment that the total student support package reaches the equivalent of the Living Wage over the next three years, including for estranged students. We will also introduce a special support payment so that students on benefits do not lose out because they are in receipt of, or entitled to, student support. We will undertake a review of postgraduate funding, take measures to halt student loan interest during maternity leave, and explore the possibility of introducing guarantorship for estranged students to protect them from exploitation in the housing market.

Within the government's first 100 days we have established a new stakeholder group to review the support provided to students during summer. As an initial step, we will undertake a 2 year programme, giving students in receipt of the Care Experienced Bursary the option to receive their current funding in 12‑monthly payments. We will use the findings of this to determine whether it should be extended to the undergraduate package from 2024‑25.

We will respond to the SFC's review of university and college provision shortly, and start work on implementation to ensure that colleges and universities are enabled to support future learners and the economy. We will work with the SFC to develop an estates strategy for Scotland's colleges, establishing priorities for investment. The SFC will publish its estates strategy later this year. We will also undertake a review of purpose‑built student accommodation in the next twelve months, making recommendations on regulation, affordability and the role of local authorities.

To tackle any digital divide in further and higher education, starting this year we will invest £5 million a year over the course of this Parliament for universities, colleges, and community learning providers to purchase digital equipment and provide access to Wi‑Fi to enable students who, owing to low incomes, can't otherwise access online learning.

We will also safeguard students' mental health and wellbeing, developing a student mental health action plan, and deliver our commitment for an additional 80 counsellors in universities and colleges in the next two years, backed by £4.2 million this year.

The UK's exit from the EU risks damage to Scotland's international standing, and reduces opportunities for Scottish students to travel and study in Europe. We will develop a new strategy for international education, to promote Scotland's education offer globally, increase the number of international students, and maintain our links with the EU. We will also develop a Scottish Education Exchange Programme to support the international mobility of staff and learners, and work to re‑secure Scotland's access to the Erasmus + Programme.

Community learning and development provides vital support to some of the most vulnerable learners to increase their skills for learning, life, and work, and can be the first step for many into further education and learning. Over the course of this Parliament, we will review the regulations for community learning and development, to ensure that they are fit for purpose, increase investment to support the sector and provide additional grant funding to increase opportunities for vulnerable learners.

Delivering a revolution in children's rights: Keeping The Promise

In March this year, the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed the UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill, a landmark piece of legislation which aims to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law to the maximum extent possible and signals a revolution in children's rights. While a judgement is awaited on the UK Government's challenge on the legislative competence of certain provisions of the bill, between now and March 2024, we will invest £4 million to support public services to consistently uphold children's rights.

In 2020, the Scottish Government made a promise to the care community. With a recovery focused on the wellbeing of people, and aligning services to the needs of individuals, now, more than ever, is the time for bold, decisive, and collective action. Although we cannot legislate for love, we can help create a supportive and nurturing environment in which love is possible for everyone.

We will join up and work with partners in the public and third sectors to #KeepThePromise – bringing transformational change to the lives of care experienced children and young people and their families, and placing love and relationships at the centre for every child with experience of Scotland's 'care system'. We are already working across over 40 areas of policy, towards the priorities identified in The Promise Scotland Plan 21‑24 and Change Programme ONE, in the initial phases of implementing the conclusions of the Independent Care Review in their entirety by 2030. We will take forward significant and sustained investment, alongside new ways of working, and ensure that children, young people and families benefit from wide‑ranging support to recover from the pandemic – helping them to flourish, and play their full part in building a wellbeing economy.

We'll introduce our new Care Experience Grant, a £200 annual payment over 10 years to young people with care experience between the age of 16 and 26. This will provide an additional layer of financial security for those with care experience who may not have the same family support network which many of their peers can draw on. Initial work to design the new grant and explore the most appropriate delivery option is underway.

This year, we will work with local authorities to introduce a minimum national allowance for foster and kinship care, to improve consistency and transparency for children, their families and their carers. We will also continue our work with the Kinship Care Collaborative to deliver national and local improvements to better support children living in kinship care.

Our promise included, 'where children are safe in their families and feel loved they must stay – and families must be given support together to nurture that love and overcome the difficulties which get in the way'. This requires a shift in investment to prevent families reaching crisis point. We are committed to investing at least £500m over the life of this Parliament to create a Whole Family Wellbeing Fund. This will enable the building of universal, holistic support services, available in communities across Scotland, giving families access to the help they need, where and when they need it. This will help reduce the need for crisis intervention and contribute to improving people's lives across a wide range of different areas, including but not limited to, child and adolescent mental health, child poverty, alcohol and drugs misuse and educational attainment. Fundamentally, this is about significantly reducing the number of children and young people who are living away from their families by 2030.

Alongside this, we will help children in the 'care system' can protect, maintain and mend the relationships that are important to them, ensuring they can live with their siblings where it is appropriate, putting in place mechanisms by 2023 to measure progress in reducing sibling separations.

These measures alone will not #KeepThePromise – but radical change like this will ensure we shift the balance of investment in families towards prevention. Our ambition is that, from 2030, we will be investing at least 5% of all community‑based health and social care spend in preventative whole family support measures that will enable us to create a Scotland where more children will only know care, compassion and love, and not a 'care system'.

The human cost of the failure of Scotland's 'care system' is borne by the person who grew up in it – and is lifelong: by the child who moved so many times they did not settle or thrive at school, leaving with few or no qualifications and little prospect of further education or employment; by the child who was not supported to develop social connections, or with their mental health, and grew up lonely; by the child who was not supported to heal from their trauma, turned to drugs and alcohol to help them cope and developed an addiction; by the child who left the 'care system' before being ready for adulthood and became homeless; by the child who got involved in the criminal justice system then went to prison; by the child who died much younger than Scotland's average life expectancy.

Alongside our commitment to #KeepThePromise, actions set out right across this Programme for Government, will help provide children and families with the strong foundations every child needs to thrive. All children, regardless of their circumstances, will be supported to stay with their family where it's safe to do so, have intensive educational and health support if required and flourish as they live their healthy and happy life. By working cohesively across Government and together with partners in local government, health boards, the third sector and the care community we will bridge the gap of progressive intent with our policy ambitions ensuring improvements are felt day to day in the lives of the children and families they are intended for.

As the next significant step in furthering and strengthening children's rights, all children in Scotland who have been victims or witnesses of abuse or violence, as well as children under the minimum age of criminal responsibility whose behaviour has caused significant harm, will have access to a "Bairns' Hoose" by 2025: a child‑friendly environment providing them with trauma informed recovery, improving their experience of the criminal justice system, and aiming to prevent them being re‑traumatised. An evidence summary report for the development of Bairns' Hooses will be published in September 2021, with recommendations for the development of Barnahus Standards. The Barnahus Standards Development Group will then draft standards to go out to consultation by September 2022.

The Bairns' Hoose approach sits at the heart of our wider work to take a rights‑based, trauma informed approach for vulnerable children. From this year, we will scale up trauma‑training for staff in children's services, so they're better able to support young people who have been through psychological trauma. We'll also safeguard young people within the youth justice system, supporting a presumption against under 18s in the Criminal Justice System, keeping them out of young offenders' institutes where possible and appropriate, while ensuring that victims receive the support they need. We will bring forward a Children's Care and Justice Bill to support this transformation. Over the course of the Parliament, we will work with The Promise Scotland to undertake a redesign of the Children's Hearings System, to rethink the structures, processes and legislation that underpin it, and ensure that courts can facilitate child‑friendly justice that upholds children's rights. Sheriff David Mackie has been appointed to chair this work.

An inclusive, empowered, more equal Scotland

We are determined that the Scotland that emerges from the COVID‑19 pandemic is more progressive, more inclusive and more equal, and that people and communities feel valued, included and empowered to claim their human rights. This will be central to our forthcoming COVID Recovery Strategy.

In the coming year, we will begin consulting on a strategy to embed equality, inclusion and human rights across the public sector, improving how we centre equality, inclusion and human rights in all government policies, decisions and spending. We will begin to implement the strategy by the end of 2024. Later this year, we will consult on the operation of the Public Sector Equality Duty in Scotland and potential regulatory changes, including a new duty on relevant public bodies to develop accessible and inclusive communications, and expanding existing duties to include reporting on disability and ethnicity pay gaps. We will further embed equality and human rights within all stages of the Scottish Government's Budget process, taking account of the Equality Budget Advisory Group's recommendations, to ensure our spend advances equality and human rights for all of Scotland's people. And we will also strengthen the focus on child poverty within new guidance on the Fairer Scotland Duty which provides a statutory basis for consideration of socio‑economic disadvantage in public body decision making.

In the coming year, we will consult on a new Human Rights Bill. This will be part of taking forward the 30 recommendations from the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership, and will incorporate, as far as possible within devolved competence, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, alongside three other international human rights treaties for the empowerment of women, disabled people and Minority Ethnic people. The Bill will also include a right to a healthy environment, a right for older people to ensure equal access to their human rights so that they can live a life of dignity and independence, and provision to ensure equal access to everyone to the rights contained in the Bill. A Bill Advisory Board has been established, chaired by the Minister for Equalities and Older People, comprising a stakeholder group representing different aspects of the Bill.

We will work in partnership with disabled people to draw up a new Disability Equality Plan, which we will publish in 2022. Alongside this work, we will invest £10 million to increase the number of Changing Places toilets across the country, and support mobile Changing Places toilets to allow disabled people easier access to events and outdoor venues. We will also begin work on a new National Transitions to Adulthood Strategy to support disabled young people as they make the transition to adult life, and provide them and those who look after them with joined‑up guidance and support to unlock better educational and employment opportunities and health outcomes.

To uphold and protect the rights of people with autism or learning/intellectual disabilities, we will take forward a Learning Disability, Autism and Neurodiversity Bill, with scoping work carried out in 2021‑22. We will also provide an independent advocate for people to secure the protections of such a law, through a Learning Disabilities, Autism and Neurodiversity Commissioner.

To advance race equality and tackle all forms of racism, we will shortly launch an Immediate Priorities Plan up to 2023. This will set out actions to tackle structural disadvantages faced by Minority Ethnic communities, who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID‑19, including fulfilling the recommendations of the Expert Reference Group on COVID‑19 and Ethnicity. It will also act as a foundation for development of a long‑term anti‑racist programme of systemic change, to ensure that by 2030 our Minority Ethnic communities experience greater equality. Alongside this, we will also continue to implement the Gypsy/Travellers Action Plan, working with COSLA to deliver this important commitment to improving the lives of Scotland's Gypsy/Traveller community.

The knock‑on effects of the pandemic have exacerbated social isolation and loneliness in our communities. Within our first 100 days the Government has announced £1 million funding to projects tackling social isolation and loneliness, and started development of a new five‑year plan, backed by investment of £10 million. Over the course of the Parliament, we'll implement that plan – putting forward £5 million in its first two years, with immediate actions, longer‑term capacity building and tackling the barriers that prevent people from connecting with each other.

Faith and belief groups have been active partners with Scottish Government in supporting vulnerable communities to deal with some of the hardest impacts of COVID‑19, including social isolation and loneliness, vaccination hesitancy, bereavement, counselling, and support for refugees. We will set up a working group involving faith and belief partners which will, by the end of December 2021, develop and agree an enhanced and refocused approach to Scottish Government engagement with faith and belief communities, as Scotland seeks to recover from the pandemic and strengthen its resilience.

In 2017 the First Minister established the National Advisory Council on Women and Girls (NACWG) to raise awareness of gender inequality, champion positive progress, and act as a catalyst for change. We will work with the Chairs of NACWG to take forward the proposals in its Next Steps report to ensure that we continue to build on the ambitious recommendations of the Council to advance gender equality.

We will publish a Hate Crime Strategy in 2022, which will contribute towards building more inclusive and resilient communities – making it clear hatred and prejudice will not be tolerated. This will include ensuring more people in Scotland are aware of what hate crime is and how to report it. It is also important that we continue to work with partners to ensure effective safeguarding of those individuals who may become vulnerable to divisive and radicalising narratives, in a way that aligns with the needs of communities and the Scottish context.

While the COVID‑19 pandemic delayed our work to establish a more straightforward system for obtaining legal gender recognition, trans people should not have to go through a degrading, traumatic and intrusive process to be legally recognised in their gender. Within the next year we will bring forward the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, removing the current medical requirements and reducing the time that applicants for gender recognition need to have lived in their acquired gender from two years to three months. The changes will improve the lives of trans people, while ensuring the legislation doesn't affect the rights and protections that women currently have under the Equality Act.

We will protect LGBT people from harm by banning the damaging promotion and practice of conversion therapy, bringing forward legislation that is as comprehensive as possible within devolved powers by the end of 2023, if UK Government proposals do not go far enough. Following receipt of the recommendations of the Working Group on Non‑Binary Equality, we will develop an action plan by spring 2023 to improve non‑binary equality and wellbeing.


Contact

Email: PfG@gov.scot