1. A Fairer Scotland for All
Poverty & Low Income
Action 1 – Introduce A New Socio-Economic Duty on Public Bodies
This new duty – renamed the Fairer Scotland Duty so everyone is clear why it has been introduced – has been in operation since April 2018.
The duty is a new legal responsibility on Scottish Ministers and local authorities, the NHS and other public bodies to actively consider what more can be done to reduce inequalities of outcome, caused by socio economic disadvantage, when making strategic decisions.
Getting the key decisions right is particularly important to tackling poverty and inequality effectively. So we will monitor progress on implementing the new duty over the next year and provide resource to support this work.
Action 2 – Provide New Funding so That, Across Scotland, People With Experience of Living In Poverty Can Speak Out, Tackle Stigma and Push for Change to Public Services
We are committed to ensuring people who have experienced poverty can influence national and local policy-making to help tackle the causes and consequences of poverty. That is why we have funded new community organisations making sure that, in three local areas, people with lived experience of poverty can get their voices heard.
We currently part-fund the Poverty Truth Commission, based in Glasgow, which has over 10 years' experience providing a platform to people with experience of poverty across Scotland. Based on this model, we have provided start-up funding of £60,000 for the three new bodies mentioned above: Dundee Fighting For Fairness, North Ayrshire Fair For All, and Shetland Voices For Equity.
We committed to further explore how we can help other areas set up similar organisations informed by good practise from existing Poverty Truth Commissions. The Scottish Government has recently provided funding to support the work of the newly established Edinburgh Poverty Commission. The Commission will define the long-term actions and responses needed to reduce poverty and inequality in Edinburgh and make recommendations for change to partners across the city, informed by the views and experiences of people affected by poverty who are at the heart of this work.
This year we also funded the Poverty Alliance to deliver Get Heard Scotland. This is a new programme designed to make sure that members of communities affected by poverty are able to get their voices heard on the policies and decisions that most impact their lives and the lives of people in their communities – both at national and local level.
Action 3 – Establish A Poverty and Inequality Commission In 2017/18
Scottish Ministers established the Poverty and Inequality Commission on 3 July 2017, appointing the Chair and two Deputy Chairs. The Commission Chair then appointed additional members with a range of expertise, including individuals nominated by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Poverty Alliance and Poverty Truth Commission. The Commission worked rapidly to provide valuable advice to Ministers ahead of the first Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan and has recently published advice on poverty in the school holidays. It is currently working on a range of other projects, including a follow-up on the plan itself.
The Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 sets out that the Commission must become a new public body so it can scrutinise progress towards the child poverty targets. Recruitment for the Chair of the new body is now underway, and recruitment of between four and eight members will commence in March 2019 so they are in place ahead of the statutory Commission going live on 1 July 2019.
Action 4 – Invest £29 Million In New Programmes To Tackle Poverty
This funding, supported by the European Social Fund, has enabled us to set up two new funds for communities and the third sector: the Aspiring Communities Fund and Growing the Social Economy.
The Aspiring Communities Fund supports communities to develop their own solutions to address poverty and inequality. To date, around 140 community-led projects have secured almost £13 million to deliver new or enhanced services to address local priorities and need, increase active inclusion and build on the assets of local communities to reduce poverty and promote inclusive growth.
Growing the Social Economy invests in third sector organisations and promotes the development and testing of social innovation approaches to tackle poverty. The Social Economy Growth Fund supports job creation and enables services to be expanded and new approaches developed and delivered to help disadvantaged individuals and families overcome financial and social exclusion. The Fund has awarded over £5 million to 33 projects. Over £3.5 million has been awarded to 49 collaborative partnership projects through the Social Innovation Fund to research, develop and test new ideas that tackle social problems. We intend to commit further funding in 2019.
Citizens Basic Income
Our 2017 Progress Report included a commitment to establish a new fund to support local areas to develop meaningful pilots to test aspects of Citizens Basic Income. Following this commitment, we have now awarded funding of £250,000 over two years to four pilot local authorities – Fife, Edinburgh, North Ayrshire and Glasgow – alongside assistance from Scottish Government analysts. This funding will support the scoping out of small scale pilots which will help us understand the costs, benefits and savings of a Citizen's Basic Income in Scotland. The pilots, working in partnership with NHS Health Scotland and the Improvement Service, will provide a final business case outlining proposals to Scottish Ministers by March 2020.
Action 5 – Take Action to Tackle The Poverty Premium
The Scottish Government is committed to a range of action to tackle the 'poverty premium', the extra costs that people on low incomes pay to access essential goods and services. This includes the introduction of a Financial Health Check for families living on low incomes, providing access to free sanitary products, action on energy costs, and making affordable credit more easily available.
Financial Health Check
Our Financial Health Check, supported by £3.3 million over 2018-20, was launched on 2 November 2018. Delivered by Citizens Advice Scotland and local bureaux, the Financial Health Check will offer personalised advice on 17 different elements to increase people's income, reduce household costs and tackle the 'poverty premium'. It will cover things like access to free school meals, school clothing grants, benefit uptake, council tax reduction uptake and cheaper deals on energy and other utilities.
The new check is expected to help at least 15,000 households in Scotland each year.
This work will be supported by both local promotional work and a national campaign to raise low income families and older people's awareness of this service.
Being able to access sanitary products is fundamental to securing equality, dignity and rights for women and to address the issue of 'period poverty'. In 2017, we said we would introduce a scheme to fund access to free sanitary products in schools, colleges and universities and we also committed to consider action to support those on low incomes. Sanitary products are now available for free in all schools, colleges and universities and, informed by the findings of a pilot scheme in Aberdeen which concluded in March 2018, the Scottish Government announced it is expanding access to free sanitary products across the country via FareShare and its network of community partners.
From the start of the 2018-19 academic term, the Scottish Government has committed £5.2 million to providing access to free sanitary products to students in all schools, colleges and universities in Scotland. We have worked in close partnership with COSLA, Colleges Scotland and Universities Scotland to develop a set of guiding principles and agree on a funding model to deliver this commitment. This is a ground-breaking commitment to tackle the gender injustice of lack of access to sanitary products, and we are proud to be the first national government in the world to take action across all schools, colleges and universities.
In order to help low income consumers get a better deal on their fuel bills, the Scottish Government held the first Energy Summit in December 2016. It brought together energy companies and consumers, who are key partners in delivering a fairer Scotland, to challenge industry, consumer group representatives and the regulator to work together in pursuit of improved consumer outcomes. Following on from the first Summit, we wrote to energy companies to challenge them to identify further action they could take to help low income consumers get a better deal on their fuel bills. In recognition that a continued collaborative effort is needed to effectively tackle the poverty premium in the energy market, we reconvened the Energy Summit in January 2018. This work will help inform the development of a consumer vision and action plan to ensure our policy decisions respond to the needs and interests of energy consumers in Scotland.
We want to make it easier for everyone to be able to access affordable energy. At the heart of the Scottish Energy Strategy published in December 2017 is a commitment to "promote consumer engagement and protect consumers from excessive or avoidable costs, prevent new forms of social exclusion and promote the benefits of smarter domestic energy applications and systems". We want to deliver a people-centred energy transition shaped by and for the people of Scotland, and are developing a vision and action plan to set out how we will do this with a focus on the disengaged and consumer in vulnerable circumstances. We intend to publish the energy consumer vision and action plan in Spring 2019.
Our ambition is to develop an approach to a public energy company which sells energy to customers at as low a price as possible and to offer people more choice, particularly those for whom fuel poverty is a real and present concern. In April we published the strategic outline case for an energy company. Since then we have been considering the approaches set out in that report and the consultants' recommendations. In the Autumn we commissioned the outline business case to further investigate these proposals and to develop our understanding of the practical details, costs and benefits. Key stakeholders and partners such as local authorities are being involved in this process. Once completed, the outline business case will form the basis of a public consultation as to next steps.
The poverty premium is where people on low incomes pay more for basic goods and services because they have limited choices. To help address the poverty premium, the Scottish Government has this year invested £1 million into Carnegie's Affordable Credit Fund. This resource will enable not-for-profit lenders, such as Community Development Financial Institutions and Credit Unions, to provide access to mid-cost credit to low income households. Alongside this, these social lenders will offer wider financial inclusion advice and support, such as opening a bank account, debt advice and help in claiming benefits, alongside the loans to help increase borrowers' financial sustainability. This investment is supported by a further £80,000 from the Scottish Government for organisations which have drawn down a loan from the Affordable Credit Fund to market their services.
Action 6 – Deliver 100% Superfast Broadband Access by 2021
Good quality access to the internet is important for everyone in Scotland. The Scottish Government and our partners are investing over £400 million through the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme (DSSB). The aim of the programme - to extend fibre broadband access to at least 95% of premises across Scotland by the end of 2017 - was met. It has since exceeded this target, with DSSB coverage now reaching over 900,000 premises, extending coverage within the Highlands, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.
However, we don't believe the roll-out should stop there. That's why we have committed to delivering 100% superfast broadband access across the whole of Scotland, backed by an initial investment of £600 million (including a contribution by the UK Government of £21 million). Procurement to roll out broadband access of 30 megabits per second or above to all premises in Scotland began in December 2017 and is on track for contract award in 2019.
Participation, Dignity and Respect
Action 7 – Do More to Help People to Have A Say In Their Local Areas
Since 2014, we have invested £6.5 million through our Community Choices Fund to support and promote 'participatory budgeting' (PB) as a way for local people to have a direct say in how public money is spent in their community. PB is delivered in partnership with local authorities, communities and third sector organisations, and across policy areas from policing to health and social care, transport and education. The Fund has supported thousands of community projects and helped 100,000 community members to participate in decisions about how money is spent locally.
Our agreement with COSLA in October 2017 that at least 1% of local authority budgets will be subject to PB by 2020-21 will give more people a say in how almost £100 million will be spent in their local area.
We are working with Glasgow Disability Alliance (GDA) on their commitment in the Fairer Scotland Action Plan to "actively encourage local authorities to ensure that disabled people can play a full part in the participatory budgeting process". In February 2018, GDA was commissioned to explore how disabled people can play a full and meaningful role in participatory budgeting processes and, as part of that work, the Budgeting for Equality action research report was launched on 24 August 2018. This highlights the experiences and views of disabled people in relation to having their voices heard in decision making processes, and the findings of the report will help inform the development of a PB framework to reduce the inequalities faced by disabled people and improve outcomes.
Action 8 – Make Democratic Institutions More Representative of The Communities They Serve
In 2017, we committed to further work with disability groups to remove the barriers to participation which prevent some people from standing for selection/election. This includes a £200,000 Access to Elected Office Fund, which supported 39 disabled candidates to stand for election in the 2017 local government elections. We will continue the Fund for the Scottish Parliament elections in 2021.
We also committed to setting up a new programme of 120 disability internships, which includes placements in the Scottish Parliament. We have delivered 28 in the first year of the programme and are on track to have helped 120 disabled people into internships by 2021.
Further, we have funded a coalition of equality organisations to develop practical tools, including the Equal Representation Tool which has now been launched, to help political parties to become more inclusive, and to increase representation of people with protected characteristics, including women, disabled people, LGBTI people, and those from minority ethnic communities. The Equal Representation Coalition meets regularly, with Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (CRER) providing secretariat support. At the last meeting of the Coalition, the Scottish Parliament expressed interest in facilitating a workshop on the tool for elected members.
Action 9 – Reform Public Services to Deliver The Highest Quality Service to Users, With Dignity and Respect At Their Core
High quality, person-centred public services play a crucial role in ensuring the wellbeing of people, families and communities across Scotland. Our ambitious programme of reform in Scotland, with its emphasis on prevention, integration and empowerment, provides a long-term strategy for ensuring that public services are sustainable and improve outcomes for the people of Scotland. We are working with our partners and communities to ensure people are empowered and fully engaged in the design and planning of the services that matter to them.
We remain committed to ensuring that fairness, dignity, respect and the views of those involved in Experience Panels (which involve people with direct personal experience of the current benefits system), underpins Scotland's new social security system. In February 2018, we published About Your Benefits and You, a report based on the lived experience of 1,144 panel members across Scotland, and their priorities for the new system. The research has helped to identify key themes to be considered in the new system, what currently works well and areas for improvement.
In April 2018, we launched the Fair Start Scotland employment service which will provide tailored, person-centred support to a minimum of 38,000 people over the next five years. In response to feedback on other employment support services, sanctions will not be applied in this new voluntary service, embedding respect and fairness at its core to further support people to achieve their full potential through access to employment opportunities.
The Adult Social Care Reform Programme supports reforms to make adult social care sustainable for the future by identifying and highlighting good practice and supporting take-up across Scotland. We are developing, with Inclusion Scotland, an innovative approach to engaging with and seeking the views of people who have lived experience of using adult social care. The People-led Policy Group will involve core membership of up to 20 people, a wider panel of around 50 people, and will also draw on other networks including equality groups, older people's organisations, carers' organisations, impairment-specific charities, the Scottish Independent Living Coalition, and the Care Inspectorate amongst others.
Our reform of public services includes devolving more power to a local level. In June 2018, the Scottish Government and COSLA jointly launched a Local Governance Review, the aim of which was to ensure local communities have more say about how public services in their area are run. The Local Governance Review will consider how powers, responsibilities and resources are shared across national and local government, and with communities. The review has two strands. Democracy Matters is a conversation about community decision making. The issues discussed as part of this conversation will help inform new legislation. At the same time, we will work with our public sector partners, such as local councils, to consider if increasing the powers they hold could improve outcomes for people.
Equality and Human Rights
Action 10 – Establish an Advisory Council on Women and Girls
The First Minister's National Advisory Council on Women and Girl's (the Council) held its inaugural meeting on 6 December 2017. The Council plays a key leadership role in raising awareness of gender inequality, acts as a champion for the rights of women and girls and is a catalyst for change. The Council's vision is of a Scotland which is recognised as a world leader for its commitment and action towards realising an equal society where all women and girls can reach their true potential. Louise Macdonald OBE, CEO of Young Scot, is the independent Chair of the Council and a membership announcement in November 2017 included a diverse range of 16 women, three of whom are 21 and under. The output of the inaugural meeting was the Council's initial three year strategy.
The Council's work in 2018 has been focused on attitudes and culture change – in public life, in work and in learning systems. The Council is currently working on the outputs for their annual report to the First Minister due to be published in January 2019 and will include recommendations for progressing gender equality. In 2019, the Council's focus will be on policy coherence: the way in which policies are made and analysis of the way in which they work together.
The Council's model also includes mass engagement with Scotland to generate discussion and further awareness of the impact of gender inequality. The Council's digital platform was launched on 1 June 2018. Every month features a spotlight on particular issues, with a mechanism for people to provide feedback built in.
Action 11 – Make Sure That Refugee Families Can Access Crisis Grants Quickly and Efficiently
Delivery of Family Reunion Crisis Grants began on 14 May 2018 and supports the integration of refugee families arriving in Scotland under family reunion rules, who would otherwise be destitute during their first days in Scotland. They provide the financial support families require to meet their basic needs before they are able to access welfare benefits.
Family Reunion Crisis Grants are delivered through the Scottish Welfare Fund. Sponsors are able to make an application for a crisis grant before family members arrive in Scotland, with the same eligibility rules as currently apply to the Scottish Welfare Fund. Awards are paid in advance of the family's arrival.
In response to the Committee Inquiry on Destitution, Asylum and Insecure Immigration Status in Scotland and its report Hidden Lives - New Beginnings, the Scottish Government is working with COSLA to update the Scottish guidance on No Recourse to Public Funds, Establishing Migrants' Access to Benefits and Local Authority Services. The guidance assists local authority staff when they are approached for support by people with No Recourse to Public Funds, including families with children. The new guidance, due to be launched in early 2019, will be available online in a more user-friendly form and will provide information and practical tools to help with decision-making and service delivery. Alongside the updated guidance, the Scottish Government is supporting training and dissemination activities to promote the new guidance to key audiences, particularly frontline staff.
The Scottish Government believes that integration begins from day one of arrival for all asylum seekers and refugees. To support this, we ensure that asylum seekers and refugees have access to devolved services, such as health and education, to help them rebuild their lives. However, although Scotland plays its part in supporting asylum seekers, the UK Government only funds integration support in local authorities in England. The Scottish Government is pressing the Home Office to ensure that all local authorities are funded fairly for the role they play in supporting asylum seekers and to find a long term solution to dealing with people at the end of the asylum process in a way that respects their dignity and rights.
Action 12 – Take Forward The Implementation of The Race Equality Framework
The Race Equality Action Plan, published in December 2017, builds on progress made through the Race Equality Framework. The Action Plan, informed by 72 recommendations in the Independent Race Equality Advisor's report Addressing Race Inequality in Scotland: The Way Forward, contains over 120 actions we will take over the course of this Parliament to secure better outcomes for minority ethnic communities. These are in areas such as employment, education, health, housing, poverty, community cohesion and safety, participation and representation, and Gypsy/Travellers.
The Scottish Government continues to work with stakeholders to monitor, coordinate and report on actions from the Action Plan, ensuring that it aligns with the overall aims of the Framework. The Race Equality Action Plan Programme Board, which oversees the implementation of the Action Plan, had its first meeting in August 2018, and the second meeting in November 2018. At these meetings the Programme Board reviewed the 75 actions planned for Year 1 and agreed that there needs to be a mechanism for measuring impact. The appointment of a Delivery Group, responsible for coordinating projects and actions from within each policy area, was agreed in principle.
A Race Equality conference was held on 11 December in 2018, at which progress against the Action Plan was reported. A conference will take place annually over the lifespan of the Action Plan to update stakeholders on progress made and, through engagement with stakeholders, to help inform the development of the next Action Plan for 2022-25.
Action 13 – Review and Reform Gender Recognition Law So it is in Line With International Best Practice for People Who Are Transgender or Intersex
The Scottish Government consultation on reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004 in Scotland closed on 1 March 2018 and received over 15,500 responses. Responses from organisations have been published alongside an update on the Scottish Government's progress following the consultation. The external analysis of responses was published on 23 November 2018, and legislation on gender recognition will be brought forward in this parliamentary session.
Action 14 – Deliver More Warm and Affordable Homes In This Parliament
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. In 2018-19, over £756 million is available to increase the supply of affordable homes, and over £568 million of this has been allocated to council areas across Scotland. Increases will continue over the coming years, rising to £591 million in 2019-20 and £630 million in 2020-21. This will bring the overall funding allocated to councils for affordable housing to £1.79 billion over the three years to the end of March 2021.
Since the start of this Parliamentary term, we have approved 25,357 affordable homes, started 23,999 of these and completed 19,400. Total approvals over the 12 months to September 2018 have increased by 9% on the previous year, indicating an increase in the pipeline of supply. This investment is laying the foundations for achieving our target as affordable homes that have been approved or on which work has started will form the basis of completions later in the five year target period.
The Scottish Government is committed to tackling fuel poverty to ensure everyone lives in a warm home that is affordable to heat, no matter where in Scotland they live. Progress on the Energy Efficient Scotland programme and the Scottish Energy Strategy is set out under action 5.
Following a public consultation, on 27 June 2018 the Scottish Government published the Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill 2018. The Bill has the following aims:
- It sets a target that by 2040, no more than 5% of households will be in fuel poverty;
- It creates a new definition of fuel poverty that brings the definition closer to relative income poverty;
- It mandates the production of a new, long term fuel poverty strategy, to be published within a year of the relevant provision of the Bill being brought into force; and
- It requires reporting on the steps which have been taken and the progress made towards the 2040 target every five years from publication of the strategy.
The draft Fuel Poverty Strategy published alongside the Bill reflects the different needs of all of Scotland's urban, suburban, rural and remote communities. It sets out how we will work across government to tackle all four drivers of fuel poverty to improve people's lives. We will take forward a range of actions to help achieve this, including:
- Continuing work to ensure our funding is targeted on those most in need;
- Continuing to provide free and impartial advice on how best to use energy in the home as well as on energy efficiency schemes and funding, delivered by Home Energy Scotland;
- Ensuring consumers have advice and support on switching to the best offer available to help households reduce their fuel bills;
- Maximising incomes by taking forward the wider set of actions outlined in our Fairer Scotland Action Plan and our efforts to boost jobs in a low carbon economy;
- Delivering the ambition of a public energy company, which contributes to tackling fuel poverty; and
- Removing poor energy efficiency as a driver of fuel poverty, to be delivered through the approach set out in our Energy Efficient Scotland Route Map. Launched on 2 May, this sets out our vision that by 2040, our homes and buildings are warmer, greener and more efficient, meaning that they are more comfortable and easier to heat. The programme will help to keep bills affordable, improve health and wellbeing outcomes for our children and more vulnerable Scots, increase the productivity and competitiveness of our businesses, support jobs, and make a positive contribution to the Scottish economy, in a sustainable way.
Action 15 – Deliver Improved Services for Tenants In The Private Rented Sector
Over the past 12 months, we have introduced the biggest changes to private renting in Scotland for more than a generation.
The new Private Residential Tenancy, commenced on 1 December 2017, gives tenants greater security, stability and predictability. It is a modern, open-ended tenancy where landlords cannot evict a tenant simply because their tenancy agreement has reached its end date. This means that tenants can exercise their rights without fear of eviction. Instead, to end a tenancy, a landlord must use one or more of the 18 grounds for repossession and, if a tenant has lived in property for six months or more and is not at fault, must give the tenant 12 weeks' notice of this. Rent increases are limited to once every 12 months and tenants must be given three months' notice of any increase. If a tenant thinks the increase is unfair, they can challenge it, free of charge, by applying to a Rent Officer for rent adjudication.
For any disputes under the new tenancy, tenants can also apply at no charge to the new Housing & Property Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal, which delivers benefits of specialism, consistency and improved access to justice for tenants in the private rented sector.
From 1 December 2017, local authorities have a new valuable discretionary power which enables them to apply to Scottish Ministers to cap rents in areas where rents are rising above average and are having a detrimental impact on tenants and housing. Ministers can decide to cap rents increases in that area for up to five years for tenants with a private residential tenancy.
We are also taking a number of actions to improve standards for over 770,000 people who rely on the private rented sector to provide them with a home:
- Firstly, we have introduced a robust framework for the regulation of letting agents. New regulations came into force on 31 January 2018 which require mandatory registration, training and qualification requirements for letting agents and a comprehensive statutory Code of Practice, which will drive up standards in the industry and improve services for tenants.
- Secondly, we will introduce new requirements on landlords to strengthen the fit and proper person test. From summer 2019, landlords will have to confirm that they meet their legal obligations in relation to gas and electrical safety, the repairing standard and building insurancewhen they apply for registration.
- Finally, working with local authorities, Police Scotland, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, we have published guidance for practitioners involved in taking forward enforcement and prosecution activity in the private rented sector. The guidance provides officers working in local authority private sector housing or licensing services and police officers with a range of information, advice and best practice on the different stages involved in taking action against a landlord's failings in property standards or management. The aim is to improve understanding of the range of powers available to the different parties and deliver a more consistent approach to enforcement across the country.
Action 16 – Build On Scotland's World-Leading Homelessness Rights
The short-life Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group, established in September 2017, delivered its final set of recommendations in June 2018. It has put forward a total of 70 recommendations on the actions, services and legislative changes needed for a whole system approach to prevent homelessness, and making it clear that this is the responsibility of all parts of the public sector.
This work is being supported by a £50 million Ending Homelessness Together Fund, available over five years, of which £21 million is being allocated to help local authorities accelerate towards rapid rehousing and Housing First for people with multiple and complex needs, and an additional £20 million for addiction services.
Our focus on prevention has already contributed toward a significant fall in homelessness applications. In 2010-11 there were 55,642 homelessness applications, compared to 34,972 in 2017-18 – a reduction of 37%.
We are working with COSLA and other partners to develop a detailed implementation plan and published a high level action plan in November 2018. The Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group has been reconvened with a remit to provide strategic oversight.
Social Security and Crisis Support
Action 17 – Make Social Security Fairer Where We Can
The Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 was passed by the Scottish Parliament in April 2018. This Act provides the legislative framework for the delivery of a new Scottish social security system built on a set of founding principles that include human rights, dignity, respect, equality, non-discrimination and a role in contributing to the eradication of poverty. To ensure these principles are meaningfully reflected in operational delivery, the Act requires Ministers to co-design a social security charter with the people of Scotland that translates the principles into more specific and practical commitments. Ministers will be held to account for this charter by both the Scottish Parliament, who must approve the drafting (including any changes to it in the future) and an independent expert scrutiny body, who will assess the extent to which the charter is being fulfilled. This body – the Scottish Commission on Social Security – will seek to have regard to relevant human rights instruments when carrying out its assessment, and will also effectively provide a 'whistle blowing' role for stakeholders if they believe that the system is falling short of the charter's standards. Consistent with the approach embodied in the principles and charter, the Act also places additional duties on Ministers to develop a strategy to encourage the take-up of assistance (see Action 19) and to have regard to the importance of communicating inclusively – with the aim of reducing stigma and making the system easier to navigate.
Furthermore, we are making social security fairer by having legislated that clients will not be required to undertake disability benefit assessments by private companies. Clients will have the right to be accompanied by a supporter if they need or want it during an assessment or meeting. We will not criminalise genuine errors and individuals. For any 'in kind' benefits that may be provided in the future, clients will always have the choice to receive benefit payments in cash if they so choose. Where a client is unhappy with a decision, assistance will continue to be paid at the original level until the re-determination and/or appeal is decided.
To ensure we have a truly fairer social security system in Scotland, we expect to spend over £125 million in 2018-19 on welfare mitigation and measures to help protect those on low incomes. This is over £20 million more than in the previous year. This mitigation is a necessary tool to try and limit the damage and harm caused by the UK Government welfare regime.
Moreover, since 4 October 2017, we have been giving people in Scotland the choice to receive their Universal Credit (UC) award either monthly or twice monthly and have the housing costs in their UC award paid directly to their landlord in both the private and social rented sector. A person can make just one or both choices. The UC Scottish choices are available to everyone claiming UC in a full service area in Scotland. Full service is where people receiving UC maintain their claim online, compared to live service where a UC claim is managed by phone. These choices enable people to have their UC award paid in a way that best suits their needs and preferences for managing their household budget; consequently, making it fairer.
Action 18 – Do More to Help Carers as Soon as we Have The Ability
Carer's Allowance Supplement (CAS) is the first social security benefit to be delivered in Scotland. CAS will increase Carer's Allowance (currently £64.60 per week) to £73.10 per week, an increase of 13% in 2018-19 and an investment of over £30 million per year. CAS will be paid as two six month lump sums of £221 in 2018-19 by Social Security Scotland to people who are resident in Scotland and in receipt of Carer's Allowance on two 'qualifying dates' per year, chosen by Scottish Ministers. The first payments were made to people in September.
The Young Carer Grant is part of a new package of support for young carers. From autumn 2019, a £300 annual payment will be made to 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. The Scottish Government will work with young carers, including through Experience Panels, to ensure that the detailed policy and processes for the Young Carer Grant are shaped by the experiences, needs and priorities of those who will use it. Recruitment for the Young Carer Panel was launched on 25 January, Young Carers Awareness Day 2018.
The consultation on the draft regulations for the Young Carer Grant launched on 17 September 2018 and closed on 10 December 2018.
Recipients of the grant will also be eligible for free bus travel (subject to successful piloting) and a bespoke carers' element to the Young Scot National Entitlement Card is being developed, providing non-cash benefits for young carers aged 11-18.
Action 19 – We Will Work with A Range Of Partners To Help People Claim The Benefits The Are Entitled to
Our Financial Health Check, supported by £3.3 million over 2018-20, was launched on 2 November 2018. This provides low-income families and older people with help to reduce costs and maximise incomes, for example, support to access cheaper deals on utilities and help in claiming the benefits they are entitled to.
Sections 3 of the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 (Scottish Ministers' duty to promote take-up), 8 (Strategy to promote take-up) and 9 (Further provision about preparing strategies to promote take-up) place statutory requirements on Scottish Ministers to take certain steps in relation to increasing the take-up of benefits provided via the Scottish social security system.
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament on 25 April when the 2018 Act was passed, the then Minister for Social Security, Jeane Freeman MSP said "[These provisions] build on the duty to promote take-up of assistance by requiring the Government to publish and periodically revise a strategy for promoting take-up… [This will include the] steps the Government will take proactively over the strategy's lifetime to boost take-up rates [to] ... enshrine in law the Scottish Government's commitment to ensuring that everyone gets the assistance that they are entitled to through our social security system."
Since the legislation was passed, the Scottish Government has been working to deliver its statutory requirements to promote take-up. The first strategy will be published within a year of the relevant section of the 2018 Act coming into force (which occurred on 22 October 2018).
Action 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
We are continuing to tackle food insecurity as an integrated part of our wider Good Food Nation vision. In the Fairer Scotland Action Plan, we committed to help more people get access to affordable, healthy, nutritious food, in a dignified way. Building on the dignified food principles identified in Dignity: Ending Hunger Together In Scotland, 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 being targeted to support children and families experiencing food insecurity during the school holidays. The Fund continues to support community organisations and food banks to transition away from charitable approaches as the only or primary response, and to move towards more dignified and rights-based approaches.
We also continue to support FareShare (£200,000 in 2018-19) to redistribute high quality surplus food from the food industry to community organisations supporting people affected by food insecurity. Through this activity, we will further develop our understanding of what practical delivery of dignified approaches looks like to inform future support.
At the same time, we continue to tackle the causes of food insecurity by maximising incomes and making it easier for families on a low income to access healthy, nutritious food.
Action 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 (CLWs) working in practices in some of our most deprived communities. Fifty-six CLWs are already in place, working across 72 GP practices, connecting people with local services and support.
As we work towards our target of 250 CLWs by the end of this Parliament, and as set out in the Memorandum of Understanding, Integration Authorities have outlined in their Primary Care Improvement Plans how they propose to develop these services locally. The roles CLWs undertake will be consistent with assessed local need and priorities.
'Frank's Law', named after the campaign led by footballer Frank Kopel's widow, is the extension of free personal care to everyone who is assessed as needing it, regardless of age. In 2017, we committed to implementing Frank's Law by April 2019, an initiative which is thought to benefit at least 9,000 families in Scotland. An Implementation Advisory Group (IAG), set up in December 2017, will consider issues around the implementation of the extended policy, including the possible increase in demand and costs for uptake of services, interactions with the benefits system and with children's services, impact on local authorities' eligibility criteria, and to assist in drafting guidance for local authorities and service users. The IAG will be supported by a Finance Sub Group which was put in place in June 2018.
From 1 April 2019, free personal care will be provided to all adults under the age of 65 who are assessed by their local authority as needing this service.
Action 22 – Extend Home Visiting Services for Families With Young Children
We remain on target to expand the Family Nurse Partnership programme to all eligible young mothers and create 500 additional Health Visitor posts, an increase of almost 50%, by the end of 2018. At 30 September 2018 there were at least 414.3 additional Health Visitors than there were in 2014.
A core programme of visits and child health reviews by Health Visitors will also be available to all families to further reduce health and social inequalities by reaching more families, more often. In addition to improving child health and wellbeing overall, this will help us better respond to needs of children and families, support development of parenting capacity and improve access to other services and support.
Action 23 – Extend The 'Childsmile' Programme to Reach Even More Comparatively Deprived Communities
The Childsmile Programme of supervised tooth brushing and fluoride varnish application for nursery and primary 1 and 2 children has been expanded to nurseries and schools in the 20% most deprived areas in Scotland. This means that the programme will now include additional areas of Ayrshire and Arran and Greater Glasgow and Clyde. Funding of £327k per annum has been put in place to support this with the roll-out commencing in the new school term in August 2018.
Action 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 was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 22 February 2018. It provides for additional uses of electronic monitoring (EM) of offenders, and will consider ways in which the current use of EM could be expanded and new technology that could be used.
Evidence shows that community sentences are more effective than short-term imprisonment at reducing re-offending and can enable people to maintain housing, employment and family contacts, which all support desistance from offending. 51% of offenders imprisoned for 12 months or less are re-convicted within a year, compared with 31% of those given Community Payback Orders (CPOs). Scotland's focus on robust community sentences has helped reduce reconviction rates over the last decade to an 19-year low. CPOs also deliver real benefits for communities.
We have protected justice social work funding for local authorities at record levels of around £100 million per year, and will work with Community Justice Scotland, Social Work Scotland, local authorities and partners to prevent re-offending and to ensure robust and credible community sentences and non-court disposals are available.
We are continuing to develop a progressive new model for the female custodial estate, with a smaller national women's prison and local community-based custody units. This model will include access to intensive support to help overcome issues such as alcohol, drugs, mental health and domestic abuse trauma which evidence shows can often be a driver of offending behaviour. The Scottish Prison Service is currently working towards timescales to achieve the opening of the first two community custody units and the new national prison by the end of 2020.
Action 25 – Introduce A Bill To Establish Domestic Abuse As A Specific Offence
The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 was passed by the Scottish Parliament in February 2018 and is likely to come into force in early 2019. It will introduce a new criminal offence of domestic abuse that explicitly criminalises psychological, as well as physical, abuse. The Act will also bring in a range of new safeguards as part of the criminal justice process, such as extending new protections to children affected by domestic abuse offending and requiring the courts to always have regard to victim safety when sentencing domestic abuse perpetrators.
Email: Daniel Paterson