Scottish Government responds to welcome the call to action from the Social Renewal Advisory Board
Today the Scottish Government published its initial response to the Social Renewal Advisory Board’s Report “If not now, when?”.
Welcoming the ‘ambitious and innovative’ calls to action set out in the Board’s report current Ministers have made clear, that depending on the outcome of the May 2021 elections they will meet with Board Members early in the next parliamentary term to discuss how to progress them.
The response from Scottish Government provided an indication of what action could be taken in the short term, which includes initiating a full review of the Scottish Welfare Fund, increasing work to automate benefit entitlements, and investigating the possibility of a Minimum Income Guarantee.
To kick start this work the Scottish Government have committed to investing £25 million to take forward a number of actions informed by the Board’s recommendations. This will include, amongst other things, £13.5 million for third sector recovery and transition to support the organisations who have supported communities throughout the pandemic and £6.7 million to tackle fuel insecurity.
As Heather Fisken, our Director of Policy and Research makes clear, this is a positive response but action must follow:
‘The Scottish Government has clearly understood what Inclusion Scotland have been saying since the beginning of the first lockdown – that the direct and indirect impacts of the pandemic have been devastating for disabled Scots.
This is particularly so for disabled people living in areas of multiple deprivation, disabled women, disabled children and young people, those from minority ethnic communities and older people. This is a direct result of structural inequality – shaped by poverty, disadvantage and discrimination. Covid-19 has exacerbated the inequality disabled Scots already face and made new inequality likely.
These impacts will only be worsened by reduced income as a result of job losses, reduced working hours, the inequalities arising from furlough and what happens when furlough ends.
At present the Scottish Government’s response focuses on work already underway to respond to Covid-19.
However, with unemployment predicted to rise in the medium term and already affecting particular sectors disproportionately involving disabled Scots, we will be looking for urgent action in the short-term and new far-reaching commitments to driving forward equality for disabled people in the next parliament.
Inclusion Scotland looks forward to being involved and ensuring disabled people’s voices are heard in the collective to drive forward the Social Renewal Advisory’s Board’s calls for action and to emerging from the pandemic in ways that reduce poverty and disadvantage for disabled people and advance their equality.’
What is the Social Renewal Advisory Board?
In June 2020, the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government and the Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People announced the creation of a Social Renewal Advisory Board.
Inclusion Scotland was represented on the Board, alongside our DPO partners Glasgow Disability Alliance and Glasgow Centre for Inclusive Living, alongside other representatives from the third sector, think-tanks, academics, equality representative organisations and Local Government.
The Board’s aim was to draw up proposals for how Scotland might emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic with a view to becoming a socially renewed country – by reducing poverty and disadvantage, embedding a human-rights based approach and advancing equality
The Board scrutinised and brought together the work of nine ‘policy circles’ – specific groups working on a series of key policy issues. – that were each tasked with working at pace on recommendations and solutions.
In addition, the Board placed people’s lived experience at the heart of its work. Community Listening Events were held in 31 local authorities across Scotland, where people were asked what the impact of the pandemic had been for them, how it had changed their lives and what they wanted to see from their lives post pandemic. Four equality focus groups were held involving disabled people, women, older people and young people and four discussion sessions took place with Poverty Truth Commission groups in Shetland, Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow.
Finally, the Board had an open “call for ideas” to which it received 100 responses from across Scotland. Inclusion Scotland’s response can be seen here.
The final, independent, report titled ‘If Not Now, When?’ was published in January 2020. It contained 20 ‘calls to action’: structured around three themes: Money and Work – everyone should have a basic level of income from employment and social security; People, Rights and Advancing Equality – everyone should see their rights realised and have access to a range of basic rights, goods and services; Communities and Collective Endeavour –to work together to deliver a fairer society it was felt that and we needed to give more power to people and communities and empower frontline teams.