The Fairer Scotland Action Plan contained 50 concrete actions to reduce poverty and tackle inequality. This summary contains a short update on each action, with more detail in the main body of the report.
1. Introduce a new socio-economic duty on public bodies
The Fairer Scotland Duty, a new responsibility for the public sector on tackling inequalities, came into force from April 2018.
2. Provide new funding so that people with experience of living in poverty can speak out, tackle stigma and push for change to public services
Three community bodies have now been set up, modelled on the Poverty Truth Commission, in Dundee, North Ayrshire and Shetland. These will help people with lived experience of poverty have influence in local decision-making.
3. Establish a Poverty and Inequality Commission in 2017/18
The Commission was launched in July 2017. It is moving to become a statutory public body from July 2019.
4. Invest £29 million in new programmes to tackle poverty
We are investing in local communities and third sector organisations to develop and test innovative approaches to tackling poverty. Almost £13 million has been awarded from the European Social Fund to deliver two programmes; Aspiring Communities Fund and Growing the Social Economy.
5. Take action to tackle the 'poverty premium'
A key action here includes the roll out of the Financial Health Check, launched in November 2018, helping low income families maximise their incomes, and a new strand of work to help women access free sanitary products.
6. Deliver 100% superfast broadband access by 2021
The aim of this programme - to extend fibre broadband access to at least 95% of premises across Scotland by the end of 2017 - has been met. We are committed to delivering 100% superfast broadband access across the whole of Scotland.
7. Do more to help people to have a say in their local areas
In October 2017, we agreed with COSLA that by 2020-21, at least 1% of council budgets will be subject to participatory budgeting. This will give more local people a direct say in how almost £100 million of public money will be spent in their area.
8. Make democratic institutions more representative of the communities they serve
The Access to Elected Office Fund will continue to support disabled candidates stand for the Scottish Parliament elections in 2021. We are on track to have helped 120 disabled people into internships by 2021.
9. Reform public services to deliver the highest quality service to users, with dignity and respect at their core
A range of action is taking place to support welfare reform in Scotland. For example, the views of those involved in Experience Panels, which involve people with direct personal experience of the current benefits system, have helped to identify key themes to be considered in the new social security system.
10. Establish an Advisory Council on Women and Girls
The Council held its inaugural meeting on 6 December 2017 and is currently working on its annual report to the First Minister due to be published in January 2019, which will include recommendations for progressing gender equality.
11. Make sure that refugee families can access crisis grants quickly and efficiently
Delivery of Family Reunion Crisis Grants began on 14 May 2018, providing financial support families require to meet their basic needs before they are able to access welfare benefits.
12. Take forward the implementation of the Race Equality Framework
The Programme Board established to oversee the implementation of the Race Equality Action Plan first met in August 2018. A Race Equality conference was held on 11 December in 2018 at which progress was reported.
13. Review and reform gender recognition law so it is in line with international best practice for people who are Transgender or Intersex
Following a consultation on reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004 in Scotland, legislation on gender recognition will be brought forward in this parliamentary session.
14. Deliver more warm and affordable homes
We are investing over £3 billion over the current parliamentary term to deliver at least 50,000 affordable homes, of which 35,000 will be for social rent. Since the start of this Parliamentary term we have approved 25,357 affordable homes, started 23,999 of these and completed 19,400.
15. Deliver improved services for tenants in the private rented sector
The new Private Residential Tenancy, commenced on 1 December 2017, gives tenants greater security, stability and predictability and enables them to exercise their rights without fear of eviction. Local authorities can also apply to Scottish Ministers to cap rents in areas where rents are rising above average. A new framework for regulating letting agents is now in place, and guidance has been provided to practitioners involved in taking forward enforcement and prosecution activity in the private rented sector.
16. Build on Scotland's world-leading homelessness rights
70 recommendations have been proposed by the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group. This is supported by five year investment of £50 million into the Ending Homelessness Together Fund, of which £21 million is allocated to help people with multiple and complex needs, and an additional £20 million for addiction services.
17. Make social security fairer where we can
The Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 requires Ministers to co-design a social security charter with the people of Scotland and to develop a strategy to encourage the take-up of assistance. Over £125 million will be spent in 2018-19 on welfare mitigation and measures to help protect those on low incomes, over £20 million more than in the previous year. People in Scotland have choices over how often their Universal Credit award is made and to whom the housing costs in their Universal Credit award are paid.
18. Do more to help carers as soon as we have the ability
With the first payments made in September 2018, Carer's Allowance Supplement (CAS) is the first social security benefit to be delivered in Scotland. CAS will increase Carer's Allowance by £8.50 (13%) in 2018-19 to £73.10 per week, an investment of over £30 million per year. The Young Carer Grant is a new £300 payment which will be paid from autumn 2019 to young carers aged 16 and 17, and 18 if still at school, caring for 16 or more hours per week and who do not currently qualify for Carer's Allowance.
19. Work with a range of partners to help people claim the benefits they are entitled to
The Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 places statutory requirements on Scottish Ministers to take certain steps to increase the take-up of benefits provided via the Scottish social security system. The Scottish Government is required to publish and periodically revise a strategy for promoting take-up of assistance. Our Financial Health Check was launched on 2 November 2018 and provides personalised advice to help families and older people with benefit uptake to maximise incomes.
20. Work to make Scotland a Good Food Nation by enabling more people to have access to affordable, healthy, nutritious food, in a dignified way
Building on the dignified food principles, our Fair Food Fund budget has been continuously increasing, and is now £1.5 million. In 2019-20, it will be £3.5 million - with £2 million of this funding being targeted to support children and families experiencing food insecurity during school holidays. We provided FareShare with funding of £200,000 in 2018-19 to support the redistribution of high quality surplus food from the food industry to people affected by food poverty.
21. Recruit at least 250 Community Links Workers to work with GP surgeries to connect people with local services and support
In 2017, we reached our aim to establish at least 40 Community Links Workers working in practices in some of our most deprived communities. There are currently 56 Community Link Workers in place across 72 GP practices.
22. Extend home visiting services for families with young children
We remain on target to create 500 additional Health Visitor posts by the end of 2018.
23. Extend the 'Childsmile' programme to reach even more comparatively deprived communities
Funding of £327,000 will support three additional Childsmile teams to deliver the extended Childsmile programme which began at the start of the 2018-19 academic year.
24. Make better use of community-based interventions to reduce re-offending further and to help people move on from offending
The Management of Offenders (Scotland) Bill sets out electronic monitoring arrangements for individuals to remain in the community rather than in custody. Scotland's focus on community sentences has helped reduce reconviction rates over the last decade to an 19-year low, and we will continue to work with partners to prevent re-offending and to ensure community sentences and non-court disposals are available.
25. Introduce a Bill to establish domestic abuse as a specific offence
The Domestic Abuse Bill was introduced to parliament in March 2017 and became the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 in March the following year. The Act will introduce a new criminal offence of domestic abuse that explicitly criminalises psychological, as well as physical, abuse and will bring in a range of new safeguards.
26. Introduce a new Child Poverty Bill
The Child Poverty Bill was introduced to parliament in February 2017 and became the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 in December. The Act requires Scottish Ministers to meet ambitious child poverty targets by 2030 and in March 2018, we published our first delivery plan to help us do that.
27. Introduce a Baby Box to help reduce the costs of providing for a child in the early days and weeks of life that some families may find challenging
We introduced the first baby box of essential items in August 2017. 52,065 baby boxes were gifted in the first year, with an 85% uptake by parents.
28. Create a new Best Start Grant to bring together the system for Healthy Start food vouchers and the UK Sure Start Maternity Grant when powers transfer to Scottish Ministers
The new Best Start Grant provides vital financial help to parents in the early years, with the Pregnancy and Baby Grant already introduced in time for Christmas, more than six months earlier than originally stated.
29. Increase entitlement to free early learning and childcare for all 3 and 4 year olds, as well as those 2 year olds that stand to benefit most, to 1140 hours per year by 2020
Scottish Ministers and COSLA leaders reached a landmark agreement in April 2018 on a multi-year revenue and capital funding package to fully fund the expansion of early learning and childcare. We have published an Early Learning and Childcare Quality Action Plan; we have launched our national workforce recruitment marketing campaign; and are providing £2 million to train staff to support disabled children or children with additional support needs.
30. Reduce the costs of school for low income parents
Starting from the 2018-19 school year, we reached an agreement with local authorities to introduce a national minimum school clothing grant of £100 per child.
31. Make the Council Tax system fairer for low income families
We enhanced the Council Tax Reduction scheme from April 2017 for families with children. Around 46,000 households now benefit from this measure. By the end of this financial year, we will have invested over £1.4 billion in the Council Tax Reduction Scheme since 2013, helping around half a million households every year to pay their council tax bill.
32. Ensure that every nursery in our most deprived areas has an additional qualified teacher or childcare graduate
Working with local authorities, we will ensure that nurseries in Scotland's 20% most deprived areas will benefit from an additional teacher or early years graduate.
33. Make real progress in closing the attainment gap during the lifetime of this Parliament and to eliminate it, as far as we can, over the next decade
In 2018-19, Pupil Equity Funding of £120 million will go to schools to improve attainment; £50 million to the Attainment Challenge Authorities and Schools Programmes to support work in areas of high deprivation; and £8.2 million will support a new fund to help improve educational outcomes and attainment for care-experienced children and young people.
34. Do more to address bullying in schools – including homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying
We have published updated anti-bullying guidance and are committed to working with the Time for Inclusive Education campaign to deal with LGBTI bullying, discrimination and prejudice in schools. We continue to fund respectme and have provided LGBT Youth Scotland with additional funding in 2018-19 to deliver more teacher training on LGBT inclusion.
35. Tackle poverty directly for some of our most vulnerable children by delivering parity of child allowances between kinship and foster carers
We are providing additional funding of £10.1 million a year to enable local authorities to pay kinship care allowance at the same rate as paid to foster carers.
36. Take action to reduce youth unemployment by 40% by 2021
With youth unemployment figures at 28,000 in May 2018, theDeveloping Young Workforce programme has achieved the target to reduce youth unemployment by 40% by 2021.
37. Significantly increase the numbers of young people getting industry experience while still at school to help them kick-start a successful career in their chosen field
We are continuing to increase vocational provision for young people in the senior phase of the Developing Young Workforce programme, including offering 30,000 Modern Apprenticeship opportunities by 2021.
38. Widen access to university
We are making good progress on our commitment that students from the 20% most deprived backgrounds should represent 20% of entrants to higher education by 2030. Following the independently chaired Student Support Review, we have increased the care experience bursary to £8,100 and extended this to students studying in further education from 2018-19.
39. Introduce a Job Grant for young people aged 16-24 who have been out of work for six months or more
We are working to introduce a Job Grant to young people aged 16-24 who have been out of paid employment for six months or more. The grant will be a one off payment of either £100 or £250 for individuals with children, and a travel element to help with travel costs for the first three months of employment.
40. Ensure that support for housing costs is not taken away from young people aged 18-21
From April 2017, the Scottish Government has had a scheme in place to support those affected by removal of automatic entitlement to the housing element of Universal Credit for 18-21 year olds. The scheme allows those affected to receive support from local authorities, either through access to an exemption from the DWP or via the Scottish Welfare Fund.
41. Help Young Scot to make the National Entitlement Card smart ready for 11-25 year olds
Using the Young Scot National Entitlement Card, a pilot offering free transport to Modern Apprentices is being implemented in Scotland.
42. Do more to promote the Living Wage
The Scottish Government is providing £340,000 in 2018-19 to the Poverty Alliance Scotland to deliver the Scottish Living Wage Accreditation Initiative. There are now over 1,300 Accredited Living Wage Employers in Scotland. Scotland remains the best performing of all four UK countries, with the highest proportion of employees paid the Living Wage or more (80.6%).
43. Do more to help people in Scotland work flexibly
We continue to fund Family Friendly Working Scotland, an organisation which offers practical support to employers and shares best practice while raising awareness of the benefits around flexible and family friendly working in Scotland through a range of programmes and campaigns.
44. Improve employment services for disabled people
On 11 December 2018, we launched A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People: Employment Action Plan which sets out our initial actions for delivering our ambitious target to reduce the disability gap by at least half and the timescale for achieving this.
45. Launch a pilot 'Returners' project help bring experienced women back into the workplace after a career break
We have awarded nearly £50,000 to Equate Scotland to provide 40 women with support to re-enter the STEM labour market, and more than £185,000 to a further six projects to address the under-representation of women in the finance, security and manufacturing sectors.
46. Tackle discrimination on pregnancy and maternity leave in the workplace
The Scottish Government has developed a communications strategy around the benefits of employers having positive pregnancy and maternity policies and is helping to ensure websites such as Ready Steady Baby, NHS Inform and The Parent Club include links to relevant pregnancy and maternity guidance.
47. Help those older people who want to keep working after they have reached state pension age
We continue to promote the uptake of the Living Wage which will benefit older workers financially. We are funding the Carer Positive Awards scheme to help workers with caring responsibilities to remain in employment, and Family Friendly Working Scotland to encourage flexible workplace practices. Three projects successful in securing funding in the first round of the Workplace Equality Fund will be targeting support to older workers.
48. Help older people claim the financial support they are entitled to
Our Financial Health Check, supported by £3.3 million over 2018-20, was launched on 2 November 2018, providing older people and low-income families with help to maximise their incomes by claiming the benefits and other support they are entitled to.
49. Protect older people on low incomes through council tax reforms
Our extension of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme will provide many pensioner households living in band E to H properties with additional support so that they do not pay more.
50. Improve the funeral payments system so it helps more people, is more predictable and provides help more quickly
We are introducing a number of changes, backed by around £2 million of additional Scottish Government funding annually, to widen the support available for funeral costs by 40% compared to the current payment. We are also working with local authorities, funeral directors and other organisations to develop guidance on funeral costs which aims to improve the availability, transparency and consistency of information on funeral charges to help people access information, compare prices and choose the funeral option that is right for them.
Email: Daniel Paterson