Elected Members Briefing - 18th August

Key Messages

A new benefit - Job Start Payment - to support 16 to 24-year-olds into work if they have been unemployed for six months opened for applications on Monday (August 17).

Funding to protect jobs and assist the re-opening of iconic heritage sites closed during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been announced by the Scottish Government.

It is now mandatory for hospitality settings to collect the contact details of visitors to their premises in support of Test and Protect. The new regulations apply to restaurants, cafes, pubs and hotels in which food or drink are sold for consumption on the premises.

A new online resource is being made available to help support people experiencing, or at risk of, domestic abuse.

For professionals in the housing, social work, health, education and other sectors with an interest in the new domestic abuse legislation, the Domestic Abuse Awareness Raising Tool, aims to improve understanding of coercive controlling behaviours, and where to direct people for further assistance.

Return to Schools
COSLA’s Children and Young People Spokesperson, Councillor Stephen McCabe, and Resources Spokesperson, Councillor Gail Macgregor, have thanked school staff for ensuring schools reopened so successfully last week.

Finance
A joint submission by COSLA, SOLACE and Directors of Finance has now been made to the Finance and Constitution Committee who are looking at the impact of COVID-19 on the 2021/22 Scottish Budget. COSLA’s Resources Spokesperson Cllr Macgregor commented: “We recognise that this is an uncertain and volatile environment for the whole public sector, but without more financial stability for Local Government over the medium to long term, Councils cannot plan robustly for the pressures they can face.”

The UK Parliament is currently consulting on its 2020 Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), to be published in the autumn. It will set out the UK government’s spending plans including resource budgets for 2021/22 to 2023/24 and capital budgets for 2021/22 until 2024/25, and devolved administrations’ block grants for the same period. Last year, COSLA asked for multi-year budgets as part of its Scottish Budget lobbying so this announcement could signal some stability for councils post-COVID, should Scottish Government choose to do the same for Scotland.

The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Jeane Freeman MSP, has confirmed an additional £50m of funding to support the social care sector and Health and Social Care Partnerships, bringing the total to £100m. £25m of this new funding has now been allocated based on standard funding formula used for NHS funding, based largely on population  Additional data is being collated to support the release and allocation of the remaining funds before the end of August.
Education

Self-isolation Guidance for Schools
Head teachers and heads of early learning and childcare settings will be issued information and guidance relating to those who have recently returned from countries not exempt from self-isolation rules.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (International Travel) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 require all those returning to Scotland from non-exempt countries to self-isolate at home or another appropriate location for 14 days. Those self-isolating should not go out to work or school or visit public areas.

This point is covered prominently in the sector advice card which should be displayed in all schools.

The list of exempt countries has been changed in recent days, with the removal of some countries, including France and the Netherlands, where people in Scotland commonly spend their holidays.

This information will be circulated to all head teachers and heads of early learning and childcare settings in each local authority requesting that they take urgent action, including ensuring appropriate safeguarding measures are in place.  This includes engaging with children, young people and their families to ensure adherence to the legal requirements.

Youth Work and Mental Health in Light of COVID-19
YouthLink Scotland has launched Heids Together, a collection of free, online resources for youth workers to help reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the health and wellbeing of young people in Scotland.

Heids Together features podcasts, e-books, training toolkits and lesson plans, full of information and advice on how to address key issues for young people impacted by the pandemic, and was developed in response to an increased demand for online mental health and wellbeing services.

Business Gateway
Businesses across Scotland that are rebuilding following lockdown will benefit from a funding lifeline, announced last week by Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture.

The additional £1.5million of funds attributed to Business Gateway’s DigitalBoost programme offers a critical lifeline to businesses looking to upskill in digital in order to keep their business buoyant following the pandemic.

Welcoming the additional funding, Councillor Steven Heddle, COSLA’s Spokesperson for Environment and Economy, commented: “During this pandemic, Business Gateway’s DigitalBoost programme has repositioned itself to help businesses adapt and survive the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Businesses are vital to Scottish local economies and as outlined in the Government’s Economic Recovery Implementation Plan, digital upskilling and maximising the use of technology will be a powerful tool in helping to bring the country out of this financial crisis.

“The additional funds for DigitalBoost will allow Business Gateway to add both more and broader digital support to what is already a fantastic service. It will also allow us to help Scottish businesses upskill, survive, thrive and find new opportunities and markets.”

Meanwhile, following the announcement that the UK economy is now in recession for the first time in 11 years, Business Gateway is also gearing up to support the thousands of individuals who as a result of redundancy or other circumstances are now considering starting up on their own.  Redevelopment of the Planning to Start tool is in hand, to ensure thorough and efficient signposting of new clients seeking support with their business journey.

The National Unit is still very much focused on creating quality online support which can be accessed by both new and existing businesses via the Coronavirus business support hub on Bgateway.com. This includes the Connections podcast, addressing critical issues businesses are facing right now.

The most recent episode, ‘Starting up in Challenging Times’ provides some insight into key considerations for those taking the plunge in the current climate.

A national campaign is also in planning for a kick-off on September 7. The campaign is designed to engage both individuals starting up, and existing businesses who require support with rebuilding and surviving the COVID-19 crisis.

Trading Standards
The Trading Standards Scotland team is a key part of COSLA. In the latest edition of their Scam Share bulletin, they outline scams which have been reported by consumers across Scotland, including those related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

There is some very useful information for local communities, covering issues such as fake designer face masks, energy grant scams, Amazon 'brushing' scams, holiday competition scams and rental scams.

The bulletin can be viewed here.

Summary
The Local Government workforce and partners across sectors are working hard to support our communities.

We continue to highlight this across our social media channels using #CouncilsCare and #CouncilsAct and it is heartening to see communities working together to look after each other. Retweets and follows would be greatly appreciated.

Further briefings will be issued, however our social media channels, Khub and website will be continually updated.

If you or your officers require any clarity from COSLA officers on policy matters, please contact the team in the usual way. If you are not sure who to direct your email to, please contact COSLA member support: membersupport@cosla.gov.uk

Thank you all for your efforts during this challenging time.

Other Useful Links
* The current number of COVID-19 cases and the risk level can be found on the Scottish Government website
* NHS Inform’s webpage continues to be the source of up-to-date public health information
* All Scottish Government COVID-19 related guidance
* Help and support for those experiencing domestic abuse is available; and the helpline number is 0800 027 1234.