Introduction: Disability, Inequality and A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People
This report provides a progress update on the implementation of A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People action plan, published by the Scottish Government in 2016. We believe that a fairer Scotland can only be realised when equal rights are enjoyed by everyone. We recognise that effective solutions to the problems and barriers faced by disabled people must be drawn from the lived experience of disabled people and we are committed to working with disabled people to develop policies and the approaches required to solve problems and dismantle barriers.
Disabled People in Scotland
In Scotland, we recognise that whilst our aspirations are to achieve equality, there remain differences in outcomes for disabled people compared to non-disabled people. The Scottish Government's recent review of the National Performance Framework (NPF) - Scotland's Wellbeing: national outcomes for disabled people - shows the differences in outcomes between disabled and non-disabled people which helps us understand where our priorities should lie to inform decisions around work going forward. We recognise that effective solutions to the problems and barriers faced by disabled people must be drawn from the lived experience of disabled people and are committed to working with disabled people to develop policies and the approaches required to solve problems and dismantle barriers.
The National Performance Framework report identified some positive outcomes, including:
- Comparable numbers of disabled people and non-disabled people perceived their neighbourhoods as 'very good' place to live.
- There have been increases in the proportion of disabled people entering Modern Apprenticeships and Higher Education.
- Employed disabled people are slightly more likely – at 40% - to be affected by collective bargaining agreements than employed non-disabled people (36%).
At the same time, there are ongoing areas of concern:
- Higher levels of child material deprivation in households containing a disabled person – at 20% - compared to households without a disabled person at 8%.
- Higher rates of food insecurity among disabled people – 18% - compared to 5% among non-disabled people.
- Higher likelihood of living in relative poverty after housing costs with a disabled person in the household, i.e. 24% of families with a disabled member compared to 17% of families with no disabled members.
- Lower educational attainment among disabled people, in a context where 25% of disabled people have low or no qualifications at SCQF level 4, compared to 10% of non-disabled people.
In light of these ongoing challenges, the need for policy development in this area is pressing. The Scottish Government recognises the social model of disability, where people are disabled by barriers in society, not by their impairment or difference. The National Performance Framework review provides Scottish Government with both a baseline of the current statistical position and an evidence base on which to draw when considering and taking current and future policy decisions. It also indicates where these barriers are particularly acute. This needs to be accompanied by evidence showing the lived experience of disabled people.
The Policy Context
In November 2016 the United Nations concluded its inquiry into the UK Government. The inquiry found systematic violations of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: 'The committee considers that there is reliable evidence that the threshold of grave or systematic violations of the rights of persons with disabilities has been met in the State party….the impact of several measures have disproportionally and adversely affected the rights of persons with disabilities'. Specifically, the UN looked at the UK's record on three articles: independent living, employment and social protections.
It also acknowledged the different approach the Scottish Government took including the assessment of the welfare cuts on people in Scotland, our mitigation measures, and our continuation of the Independent Living Fund which is vital in supporting the independence of disabled people. The UN committee chair told the UK delegation at the examination in 2017 that "Evidence before us now and in our inquiry procedure as published in our 2016 report reveals that social cut policies have led to a human catastrophe in your country, totally neglecting the vulnerable situation people with disabilities find themselves in."
A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People
A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People, launched in 2016, includes 93 actions that seek to reduce these barriers. The actions are organised into five ambitions:
- Support Services that Meet Disabled People's Needs
- Decent Incomes and Fairer Working Lives
- Places that are Accessible to Everyone
- Protected Rights
- Active Participation
As a baseline was not set in 2016 when A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People was published, this report is intended to act as a stocktake for where we are in 2019. When considered alongside the data included in the National Performance Framework report Scotland's Wellbeing: national outcomes for disabled people, it will support us in evaluating progress in the future and inform the next steps of policy development in this area.
This report offers an overview of the policy developments that have followed the development of the action plan. This overview is primarily descriptive rather than evaluative. A number of these policies have their own dedicated frameworks for evaluation, many of which are already planned and we did not seek to duplicate these efforts. However, we believe that an overview of this nature provides a useful, 'at a glance' account of the wide range of policy developments that have followed the publication of the A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People Action Plan. The report provides a quick overview of some key policy developments since 2016 and then explores each of the five ambitions in turn.
We envisage that this paper will form the basis of our report to the Scottish Parliament in early 2021. At that time we will also publish a more detailed account of the progress on each of the 93 actions in A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People. We will explore options for supplementing this work with additional questions to disabled people, created in conjunction with Disabled People's Organisations.
Ministers have announced the creation of a new National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership, to be co-chaired by Professor Alan Miller and the Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People. Further details, including membership and remit will be announced in due course.
The Taskforce is expected to commence work in the Autumn and will take forward recommendations made last December by the First Minister's Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership. In particular, it will develop proposals for a new statutory human rights framework for Scotland to be delivered by a future Act of the Scottish Parliament.
The proposed new legislation will incorporate the rights and duties set out in United Nations and other international human rights treaties into domestic Law, in a form which ensures that these rights and duties are fully justiciable in the Scottish courts. The Taskforce will be asked to consider all UN treaties that the UK is party to, including the UNCRPD.
The structure of the report is as follows: first, we provide a timeline of the key policy developments in Scotland in relation to disability. Second, the five ambitions underpinning the Action Plan are repeated from the Plan and analysed in turn, with available evidence provided and further information linked to.