SCOTTISH AFFAIRS COMMITTEE REPORT INTO
POVERTY IN SCOTLAND COMMENTARY ON RELEVANT RECOMMENDATIONS
(c) We believe a more Cross-departmental approach
to the provision of support mechanisms within the agricultural
sector is required which would also necessitate close partnership
working between the Scottish Executive and the UK Government.
The Scottish Executive agrees that the problems of
the agriculture industry require a crossdepartmental approach.
That approach is reflected in the Steering Group set up to advise
the Scottish Executive on a new strategy for the future of farming
in Scotland. This Steering Group includes Scottish Enterprise,
Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Natural Heritage, representatives
of the banking sector and the retail sector, and representatives
from the various farming organisations. The aim of the strategy
will be to take a holistic view of the role of farming in a modern
Scotland and to ensure that the policies of the Executive and
its agencies are targeted at achieving that view. In doing this
work, the Scottish Executive is working closely with counterparts
in Whitehall, the National Assembly for Wales and Northern Ireland
(d) We are confident that the Scottish Executive
will want to keep a careful eye on the cost of sea ferries and
to ensure that islanders, particularly those with limited funds
can make necessary journeys economically.
This year the Executive is making available to Caledonian
MacBrayne Limited the highest ever level of subsidy to support
the lifeline ferry services they deliver and to ensure that fares
are kept as low as possible. To comply with European Union requirements,
the services provided by Caledonian MacBrayne will have to be
competitively tendered in the future. In announcing the Executive's
initial consultative proposals for this process, the Minister
for Transport and the Environment gave an assurance that "in
drawing up service specifications for tendering we will make clear
that fares and levels of service will be protected".
The lifeline ferry services to the Northern Isles
have already been subject to competitive tendering and a tendering
process for the contract beginning in 2002 is currently underway.
Under these arrangements, the Scottish Executive has to approve
annual fare increases and expects these to be no more than the
rate of retail price inflation.
(e) Calum MacDonald MP, has come up with
an innovative scheme which we believe should be looked at closely.
He wants the proposed new Highlands and Islands Transport Board
to be enabled to sell petrol it has bought in bulk on the open
market directly to retailers. He believes that this would save
up to 10p per litre. The Highland Council currently does something
similar with marine fuel, passing on cost savings to local fishermen.
The Scottish Executive and local authorities in the
Highlands and Islands have commissioned Deloitte and Touche to
examine the case for establishing a Highlands and Islands Transport
Authority and the functions it might discharge. It is premature
to speculate on the outcome of that study, but we will consider
carefully, in conjunction with local authorities and other partners
in the region, how any such authority can best help to address
the problems of high fuel costs in the area.
(f) The Scottish Executive might want to consider
introducing and financing a remote living allowance, essentially
to compensate for the higher cost of living, including fuel and
travel, in remote or island communities. It could take the form
of an additional grant allocation targeted at identifiable areas
of need, which would be paid to local authorities and passed on
directly to the community in the form of a reduction in council
tax. Appropriate criteria would need to be drawn to ensure that
areas and individuals enjoying relative affluence were not unduly
The Scottish Executive provides for the additional
costs to councils serving remote and dispersed rural and island
communities through special measures in the local government finance
distribution formula. Adjustments redistribute around £40
million of grant support towards rural councils each year, helping
to meet additional service costs and hold down council tax levels.
Additional assistance, totalling over £24 million this year,
is provided through the Special Islands Needs Allowance to compensate
councils with significant islands costs. A review of the level
and distribution of SINA is due to be completed this year.
In addition, the Executive is providing record levels
of support for lifeline air and ferry services and through the
Rural Transport Fund, £14.6 million in new investment over
3 years from 1998/99 to improve transport links in rural Scotland.
(g) The plight of the homeless is a disgrace
to modern Scotland. Being homeless and ill without proper recourse
to treatment is entirely unacceptable. We hope and believe that
the Scottish Executive will treat the adequate provision of medical
care for all sections of society throughout Scotland with the
seriousness it deserves. This should include drug addicts who,
according to a representative from Strathclyde Police that we
met in Glasgow, are unwelcome on GP's lists.
Tackling the problems of homelessness will remain
one of the Scottish Executive's top priorities. We have increased
funding available to the Rough Sleepers Initiative for the five
years from 1997 to 2002 to £40 million which includes £4
million this year specifically targeted through the Health Boards
on the health needs of rough sleepers.
In Glasgow a high level Strategy Team, including
housing, social work and health interests, is identifying specific
action to address the problems of rooflessness and hostel provision
in Glasgow. £2 million has been allocated to progress the
conclusions of the team.
The Homelessness Task Force, chaired by the Minister
for Social Justice, Jackie Baillie, is considering the nature
and causes of homelessness throughout Scotland. Its recommendations
in relation to legislative change are being progressed in the
forthcoming Housing Bill, and it will report next year on its
wider consideration of action which might be taken to prevent,
and to alleviate homelessness.
We recognise the problems which homeless people can
face throughout Scotland in accessing appropriate medical care
and, while much needs to be done, we welcome the efforts by Primary
Care Trusts and committed primary care professionals, including
GPs, to addressing the needs of homeless people. Following the
Scottish Executive's Health and Homelessness Conference, on the
23rd October, guidance will be issued to the service on improving
health care services for homeless people and we will ensure best
practice is effectively disseminated.
(h) Energy Action Scotland recommended a "detailed
cost/benefit analysis of the impact on Scottish households of
living in cold damp homes versus warm dry and healthy homes."
We hope that the Scottish Executive will undertake such an exercise,
since any constructive conclusions will be helpful in a country
whose climate tends to towards the cold and damp.
Introduced in July 1999, the Warm Deal helped 40,000
low income families and pensioners make their homes more energy
efficient in its first year, providing a comprehensive package
of home energy efficiency measures for households on certain state
benefits. The Scottish Executive are commissioning a study to
examine the feasibility of measuring the health impacts of the
Warm Deal. It is anticipated that this will lead to a major 3
year programme of research, commencing in 2001. This research
will assess the impact of the Warm Deal measures on housing and
living conditions; identify which aspects of health are affectedphysical,
mental or well beingand for which types of household; compare
the effects of the Warm Deal with and without additional central
heating measures; and quantify any cost savings associated with
health improvement arising from the Warm Deal.
The Executive are committed to providing, warm, dry
homes to help tackle the causes of poor health arising from house
condition. In addition to the Warm Deal, the Minister for Communities
announced in September that resources will be provided so that
all pensioners and all social tenants across Scotland will have
central heating within five years commencing 1 April 2001. A total
of £350 million is to be invested. Around 70,000 pensioners
and 71,000 other council and housing association tenants are expected
to benefit from a package of insulation and central heating systems
worth up to £2,500. It will reduce average fuel bills to
about £500 per annum and 90% of beneficiaries will be helped
out of fuel poverty.
(i) The Scottish Executive is addressing the
housing problem in Scotland. The question of housing stock transfer
has been the cause of much topical debate. We would confine our
comment to the call for decent and affordable social housing to
The Executive is increasing significantly the investment
in housing in Scotland. Moreover, through the Scottish Homes Development
Programme and the New Housing Partnerships (NHP) Programme, increased
public resources are attracting further private investment to
accelerate the provision of new, improved affordable housing.
One strand of NHPs is to encourage councils, subject
to the approval of tenants in a ballot, to transfer houses to
community ownership through registered social landlords (RSLs).
As well as giving tenants more involvement in decisions affecting
their houses, community ownership can unlock billions of pounds
of investment for Scotland's council housing stock. The Executive
is taking steps to ensure that, after such transfers, councils
continue to have access to a supply of housing to meet the needs
of homeless people. Model contracts to achieve this are being
developed jointly by COSLA and the Scottish Federation of Housing
In addition, we recognise the importance of ensuring
the quality of our housing stock in rural areas. This year, Scottish
Homes will be providing over 1,500 new homes in rural communities,
representing an investment of around £45m. The Scottish Executive
will also be taking forward the Rural Partnership for Change Initiative,
considering how to target resources most effectively at housing
in rural areas and finding new ways to tackle housing pressure.
(j) As well as the call for an analysis of
the impact on Scottish households of cold, damp houses, Energy
Action Scotland also recommended a review of fuel poverty and
energy efficiency in Scotland. We strongly agree with this.
The Department of Trade and Industry is leading an
interdepartmental Ministerial Group on Fuel Poverty to develop
a longterm strategy for tackling the problem. The work of
the group covers Scotland and the Executive is represented by
the Deputy Minister for Local Government. The strategy will be
published later this year.
We are also working to ensure that all new houses
in Scotland are energy efficient through the Building Standards
Regulations. These are kept under constant review and are presently
being amended to further improve the requirements for thermal
insulation and boiler efficiency. This amendment, which it is
intended will come into force at the end of 2001, will improve
energy efficiency by about 25-30% and will place Scotland in the
top third of European countries.
(k) We note that in two of its recent reports
the Health Committee recommended an integrated health and social
care system. We see this formal connection as overdue and inevitable
if meaningful progress towards minimising health inequalities
and developing a seamless care system is to be made. We would
encourage the Scottish Executive to look very carefully at what
it could do to bring about such an arrangement in Scotland.
We clearly want the people of Scotland to have access
to the best possible health and social care services, but believe
we can do this without full integration. As the Royal Commission
on Long Term Care for the Elderly, joint planning and joint working
is the key to providing effective and integrated community care
services. Largely in line with the Commission's recommendations,
the Joint Future Group has worked to bring together representatives
from CoSLA, local councils and the NHS to develop proposals for
joint working on community care. It is intended that by 2002 all
community care services for older people will be jointly managed
and jointly resourced. Meanwhile, we have in place a number of
measures to support joint working including:
· Providing £7.5 million of incentive
funding to implement 'Modernising Community Care: An Action Plan'
which aims to modernise both the management of community care
and the services themselves;
· Establishing the Joint Future Group to
develop a set of key practical measures which agencies have to
adopt to improve partnership working, and provide a lead on the
balance between residential and home-based care; and
· Supporting the pilot study in Perth and
Kinross to integrate the planning, commissioning and delivery
of social care and health services. The pilot should provide a
model of joint working for the future.
We place great value on agencies working together
to provide the services that people want and need. The measures
we are taking will go a long way to delivering more joint, modern
and effective person-centred services.
(m) We urge the Minister for Communities to
continue to support the establishment of a national telephone
money advice service, with particular reference to the difficulties
associated with debt. To compliment the hot-line, the Scottish
Executive might also wish to develop the effectiveness of money
advice services which are delivered into Scotland's poorer communities,
seeking to reach the people who may not, for one reason or another,
make use of the hot-line service. This will involve the allocation
of extra resources as well as making better use of existing provision.
The Scottish Executive is committed to improving
the effectiveness of money advice services in Scotland's deprived
communities. We are currently working up plans for a Scottish
pilot to test out how best a national debtline for Scotland can
be implemented to provide access to free, quality money and debt
advice. We are also working with Money Advice Scotland to consider
what needs to be done to strengthen the infrastructure of money
advice provision in Scotland to support the debtline.
(n) There is a need for local authorities
to develop debt management strategies and we would encourage local
authorities in Scotland to do so.
The Scottish Executive is discussing with CoSLA how
the money and debt advice services provided by local authorities
in Scotland can be improved.
(o) We recommend that the Government should
promote with full vigour the development of credit unions, ensuring
that, with appropriate safeguards for users, they can operate
within a creative legislative framework, and thereby efficiently
serve both individuals and local communities.
Legislation on credit unions is a reserved matter
but the Executive supports moves for new legislative powers for
credit unions and the introduction of a proportionate and effective
regulatory regime for credit unions from the FSA. The Scottish
Executive has supported moves to establish a central support organisation
for credit unions as recommended in the Treasury Task Force report.
The Executive has contributed to a programme to design and deliver
health checks for credit unions in Scotland, the initial pilot
will be rolled out to create a Scotland wide service. We are working
with the key organisations in relation to credit unions to develop
a national development strategy for credit unions, which will
be published later this year.
(t) We would hope that the Scottish Executive
might consider introducing a national concessionary travel scheme
at the earliest opportunity.
The Scottish Executive recently announced a £500m
spending package designed to deliver a modern, integrated transport
network serving all of Scotland's needs. This package includes
new resources for local authorities to enhance existing concessionary
travel schemes. From October 2002, Scottish pensioners and those
with disabilities will have free off-peak bus travel within existing
(hh) We recommend that when a review of local
government finance does take place, the cost of effectively tackling
poverty is then carefully re-examined and re-weighted in any new
Local government has a vital role in tackling poverty
and promoting social inclusion across the range of its service
responsibilities, including education, social work, consumer advice,
etc. We are looking with councils at how the local government
finance arrangements might better assist them in planning and
delivering our shared priorities, for example by providing 3 year
budget settlements and improved distribution arrangements. As
a matter of priority, we are reviewing with the Convention of
Scottish Local Authorities the existing specific allowances for
poverty and deprivation within the grant distribution formula
and whether more account should be taken of these effects. The
review will be completed this autumn, in time for the conclusions
to be considered for next year's settlement. Pending the outcome
of the review, additional special deprivation payments totalling
£21 million have been made available for this year.
The cost of effectively tackling poverty is clearly
not only limited to local authorities. Following the recommendations
of the Arbuthnott Committee, a new funding formula for the allocation
of £4 billion between Scotland's Health Boards will be introduced
by the Scottish Executive. Building on the key aim of tackling
health inequalities, the new formula will target more resources
at those areas in greatest need, whether as a result of deprivation
NEW DEAL RECOMMENDATIONS
Policy on New Deal is reserved, although the Scottish
Executive and economic development, education and training, local
government and voluntary organisations in Scotland play a key
role in delivery. The Scottish New Deal Advisory Task Force monitors
and advises on the development of New Deal in Scotland, and has
recently met the Minister for Employment, Welfare to Work and
Equal Opportunities. Welfare to work policies are constantly evolving,
based on experience and the findings of evaluation work, and the
Committee has highlighted some important issues which are worth
(y) The six month engagement period for New
Deal programmes should be an average rather than a maximum. In
some cases participants would be able to move on within three
months, in other cases it will take longer.
At present individuals are limited in most cases
to six months for the work experience options, and twelve months
for full-time education and training. The core aim of New Deal
is to seek to move young people quickly back to work, and to avoid
prolonged spells of detachment from the labour market. In some
cases participants would probably benefit from a longer period
in a work experience option if they were making real progress
towards employability. There could also be scope for stronger
incentives for providers to encourage young people to move on
quickly from an option into work.
(z) We recommend that so far as possible there
should be parity between the various New Deal programmes.
The programmes are designed to meet the specific
needs of different groups in the labour market. New Deal 25+ was
enhanced with the addition of new gateway and advisory elements,
and access to New Deal 18-24 options where appropriate, from April
and a re-engineered New Deal 25+ will be launched from next April.
New Deal for Lone Parents has been effective in its present form
in helping people to return to work, and New Deal 50+ is also
beginning to have a significant impact. Lone Parents and over-50
year olds will generally already have the skills and work experience
which many young people lack, and training is available within
both New Deals if required.
(aa) We recommend that the Government should
not be blind to innovation beyond that displayed by its assault
on poverty through welfare to work programmes. Major diseases
require intensive care; and there are areas of Scotland that in
our opinion, will not respond to the treatment currently on offer.
Awareness of the nature of the problem and a willingness to invest
public money in suitable job creation schemes should be a matter
of priority. The jobs need to be sustainable in a globally competitive
world and offer reasonable rates of pay to attract people from
welfare to work.
As part of the Review of the Enterprise Networks
in Scotland, the Scottish Executive will deliver a Strategy for
Enterprise to provide strategic clarity in economic development
services and set out the vision for, and purpose of, the Enterprise
Networks. A key task for the Networks will be to work more effectively
with UK wide agencies to implement the overall UK Government objective
of employability. The Strategy for Enterprise will be published
early in 2001. Alongside this, the reviews of both Training for
Work and the New Futures Fund will deliver a more intensive focus
on tackling unemployment amongst the most disadvantaged groups
in society, who can be furthest removed from the labour market.
On a more local level, Employment Zones and Action
Teams are tackling the problems of areas of very high unemployment,
and addressing individuals' barriers to re-entering employment.
Employment and the number of vacancies in Scotland are around
record levels, and there are substantial levels of vacancies in
all parts of the country.
There are, however, variations in labour market demand
at local level which need to be addressed through local regeneration
policies, for example SIPs. Public investment, for example in
improving the housing stock, has the potential to generate significant
additional jobs in areas of high unemployment. We are expecting
the transfer of Glasgow City Council's housing stock to generate
up to £1.6bn investment and with up to 3000 additional jobs
possibly being created as a consequence of the initiative.