If not now, when? - Social Renewal Advisory Board report: January 2021

The Social Renewal Advisory Board was set up by Scottish Ministers to make proposals that can renew Scotland once we start to emerge from the pandemic. The final report “If not now, when?”, sets a course towards this future.

5. Closing The Gap Between Promise and Practice

This concluding section of the report identifies a final Call to Action on how the actions in this report can be taken forward.

Call To Action 20

Decision-makers must commit to co-designing the means of gauging progress towards renewal.

This Social Renewal report is a Call to Action to address the harm and hardship created by the pandemic and the underlying, deep-rooted inequalities that have blighted people's lives for too long. We do this with genuine optimism about the prospects for renewal. But we need to combine greater ambition with an unwavering commitment to following through on the implications for power, rights and decision-making. Good ideas and laws alone will not win the day.

We have set out what we believe needs to change and how we should go about it. As we say in the introduction, this is not a 'to do' list for the spheres of government or any other sector alone. Sustained renewal will only be realised when people and places have the say, power and influence they need to gain the security and opportunities consistently denied to them.

There is no blueprint for assessing Scotland's progress against our Calls to Action, but we can at least begin by asking 'how will we know?' and placing this question at the heart of the response. Closing the gap between promise and practice, to ensure good intentions result in better lives, means we must give early attention to the 'vital signs' that will tell us if we are having the impact we want to see.

That's why our final Call to Action is for decision-makers to commit to co-designing the means of measuring the progress we're making towards renewal. This means prising open the process of assessing how we are faring nationally and in local places across Scotland, leading to deeper engagement with people and communities with first-hand experience of poverty, inequality and restricted life chances. We cannot second-guess what this process will lead to, but can identify some of the essential building blocks:

  • Starting with policy commitments already in place, asking tougher questions about how they contribute to long-term goals on climate change, child poverty and human rights. Many good impacts may flow from investment already made, but are they the ones intended? If not, what needs to change to get there?
  • Consistent use of equalities and human rights data to improve capacity to monitor, alongside independent evaluation of how far investment is driving renewal and for whom.
  • A consistent focus on place-based approaches to strengthen communities, reduce inequalities and make the most of the opportunities where we live and work. Place underpins, in fundamental ways, all the Calls to Action in this report.
  • Participatory approaches to the traditionally dry tasks of measuring progress. The National Performance Framework is a valuable asset but should become a live dashboard, informed by people's experiences as well as current outcome measures, improving our ability to strengthen effective approaches, change course and address gaps. Committing to this will generate insights which otherwise may be missed in a flurry of performance data.
  • Getting back on course to enact the prevention principles of Christie. As we said at the start of this report, spring 2021 marks 10 years since the Christie Commission set out a compelling vision to move upstream in order to prevent harm and reduce avoidable costs locked into high-tariff services. To make sustained progress, we will need to ensure systems to drive accountability - design, investment, audit and evaluation - never lose sight of this purpose and are aligned towards genuine progress.

Finally, the prospect of half the population receiving one of the three current Covid-19 vaccines by May, and a new parliamentary term starting then too, gives us an opportunity to have some hope that soon we will be able to genuinely start anew. So we need to start preparing now. Now is the moment – because if not now, when?


Email: socialrenewal@gov.scot

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