Scottish Government unveils plans aimed at no less than the ending of child poverty and achieving fairer working lives
Scotland’s third sector will be at the heart of a £29 million programme to design new approaches to tackling poverty and improving lives.
The Scottish Government has unveiled what it calls “50 bold and ambitious actions” aimed at making the country fairer.
To be achieved over the next 14 years, they have the bold ambition of ending child poverty, providing young people with the best start in life, achieving fairer working lives and a prosperous life for OAPs.
The third sector will play a key role in delivering this Fairer Scotland Action Plan (FSAP), communities secretary Angela Constance said.
At the heart of this is the need to engage with civil society and with people with direct experience of poverty to ensure that real change takes place
A total of £29m, including 12.5m from the European Social Fund, has been earmarked to help voluntary groups “design, test and deliver” the 50 actions.
They include setting a target for councils to make at least 1% of their budgets available for community-designed projects, making funds available to support disabled people running for elected office and helping refugee families settle in Scotland.
The government has also committed to delivering 100% superfast broadband and helping low-income households reduce costs, convening an affordable energy summit, the first national plan for British Sign language, help to promote family-friendly working and the introduction of a bill to establish domestic abuse as a specific offence.
For the first time anywhere in the UK, the FSAP commits the Scottish Government, councils and other public bodies to a socio-economic duty – assessing the impact policy or service changes will have on tackling poverty.
The plan was launched at the Prince’s Trust’s Glasgow headquarters, where Constance joined in a workshop with local teenagers.
She said: “Our ambition is for a fair, smart, inclusive Scotland with genuine equality of opportunity for everyone.
“Our Fairer Scotland Action Plan backs up that ambition with concrete action.
“It contains 50 specific steps to create a more equal society – including eradicating child poverty – and a new £29m programme to tackle poverty.
“We are also the first in the UK to commit to making all public bodies consider how our big decisions tackle poverty, by implementing a socio-economic duty.
“In addition, some of our best-known employers are joining us in these efforts by signing pledges to do more. They see it’s not only the right thing to do but also good business.
“This is a watershed moment in Scotland and a significant milestone in our quest for equality.
“Through these bold and ambitious steps, Scotland will be a fairer, more equal country for everyone by 2030.”
The plan was backed by major third sector groups. Allan Watt, Prince’s Trust Scotland director, said: “Too many young people lose hope and leave school or college with few qualifications, low levels of confidence and low aspirations for the future. An important focus of our Fairer Scotland pledge is to help close the education attainment gap for disadvantaged young people.
“The Prince’s Trust’s new education programme, Achieve, will support those young people by giving them more chances and opportunities to change their lives.”
Jim Sweeney MBE, YouthLink chief executive, said: “We are delighted to support disseminate and contribute to the action plan.
“With our hundred plus member organisations and networks we will promote equality and diversity, rights and participation for the 400,000 young people involved with youth work on a regular basis.”
The Poverty Alliance welcomed the action plan but has warned that real resources will be required to make the high level ambitions a reality.
Director Peter Kelly said: “There is much to welcome and there is always more that could be done. Efforts to address the stigma that many people living on low incomes experience is critically important. But equally important is ensuring that everyone has access to an adequate income.
“With new powers over social security and taxation coming to the Scottish Parliament, it is important that we are ambitious and do all we can to lift people out of poverty.
“The Scottish Government must consider whether we can really have a social security system based on values of dignity and respect without addressing the adequacy of benefit levels.
“At the heart of all of this is the need to engage in dialogue with civil society organisations and with people with direct experience of poverty to ensure that real change takes place. The Poverty Alliance pledges to continue to work with the Scottish Government to ensure that this is done.”
However, Scottish Environment LINK expressed disappointment that the environment is almost completely absent from the action plan.
Chair Helen Todd said: “A vision of a fair society which omits our environment is quite simply inadequate. The importance of the environment has been recognised in the formulation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, to which the Scottish Government has signed up.
“We know that our poorer communities also live in the most environmentally degraded areas of Scotland. And we also know how much the environment can benefit our health and well-being. By not bringing the environment into the discussion about fairness, we are missing important connections.”