Recovery and Renewal: addressing food insecurity beyond the pandemic
102. COVID-19 has exposed the pre-existing vulnerabilities and shortcomings of the UK welfare system and the reliance of the UK economy on low paid, insecure work. The UK Government should use this as an opportunity to fix these longstanding issues. During COVID-19 we have seen that the UK Government is capable of making rapid adjustments to existing systems - including increasing Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit and the Local Housing Allowance.
103. However, it is had also indicated that these positive changes will not be retained for the longer term and are intended only as temporary responses to the pandemic. The Scottish Government believes this to be a mistake and has urged the UK Government not only to make the changes permanent but to reflect more broadly on the lessons learned during the pandemic.
104. The direct and indirect impacts of the pandemic have been devastating for individuals and communities across the whole of Scotland. The extent of these impacts provides further reasons to challenge traditional ways of working and to identify ways in which significant further improvements can be made for the future. There has been much positive work to build upon, including the rapid, creative, cross-sectoral responses put in place at a local level to support access to food during the crisis. We are committed to building on existing progress to create a fairer, more equal Scotland in the post-pandemic era.
105. The Scottish Government recognises that independent and objective advice from leading experts, together with civil society partner organisations and individual rights-holders with direct lived experience will be essential in order to face the challenge of ensuring long-term social renewal over the coming months and years.
106. That is why we set-up an expert Social Renewal Advisory Board and related policy circles to capture this learning and drive progress. A specific policy circle on access to food has contributed to these discussions. This circle contains key stakeholders from across civil society and the public sectors with expertise in responding to food insecurity at a local and national level. The Social Renewal Advisory Board's report "If Not Now, When?" was published on 21st January 2021 and contains wide ranging recommendations for how Scotland can learn from the pandemic and take action to build a more equal and socially just society.
107. In our Programme for Government, published on 1st September 2020, we recognised the value of coordinated partnership working across sectors in response to food insecurity caused by the pandemic, and we committed to work with the Board to consider how this can be further developed going forward.
108. If we are to achieve our ambitious goal of ending hunger by 2030, it will require sustained and focused efforts to address poverty and inequality in Scotland. We must be bold in our actions to improve public services, working in partnership with local communities to provide meaningful pathways out of poverty and support to address financial, social, emotional and psychological impacts. It will also require cross-government action on food policy, as currently being taken forward by the Ministerial Working Group on Food, aligning the social, health, environmental and economic priorities to create a more just food system in Scotland. The values of kindness, dignity and compassion, which are at the heart of Scotland's National Performance Framework, must drive our food insecurity policy development if we are to achieve real and lasting change.
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