Elected Members Briefing - 15th December

Key Messages
The first vaccinations in care homes in Scotland have taken place.

Visiting arrangements for hospitals and care homes in Scotland will remain in place over the Christmas and New Year period, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

Anyone required to self-isolate, due to contact with someone who has had a positive test for coronavirus (COVID-19), or as a result of quarantine rules on arrival from overseas will need to do so for 10 days following updated clinical advice.

On Friday, Leaders agreed distributions for four additional COVID funding streams, including £5m for homelessness, £22m for Councils to support vulnerable children, £1m to address backlogs in justice social work services (in particular in relation to unpaid work orders) and £400k funding for the administration of the £100 Winter Hardship payment that will see payments to families of £100 for each child in receipt of Free School Meals (FSM) based on low-income criteria. Councils are currently pulling out all the stops to get payments made before Christmas, recognising the financial challenges faced by many families this year.

This week, COSLA’s pre-budget lobbying focuses on the efforts of the Local Government workforce during the pandemic. COSLA will formally launch its Budget lobbying campaign on January 11.

UK Exit from EU
At the time of writing, negotiations continue between the UK and the EU over a possible trade deal to take effect from the end of the Transition Period on 31 December 2020.

Last week, COSLA President, Councillor Alison Evison had separate meetings with Iain Stewart, Under Secretary of State for Scotland and  Aileen Campbell, Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Communities.  At these meetings the President raised various issues including the potential problems around Export Health Certificates, discussing the contingency measures that the Governments are working on with Local Government.

She also highlighted the concerns raised by Councils about border controls and infrastructure and the need for all spheres of government to work jointly with relevant agencies to identify workable solutions and secure the resources necessary to meet the short and longer term challenges.

The UK and the EU last week agreed the details of which goods can move between Great Britain and Northern Ireland without extensive checks.

The Scottish Government’s formal resilience process has just been stood up again and COSLA is seeking to ensure Local Government involvement.

Ivan McKee, Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation, presented to the Environment and Economy Board last week where he set out Scottish Government’s current thinking on the Shared Prosperity Fund in Scotland.  There are both similarities and differences between the proposals from Scottish and UK Government, as they are currently understood.  COSLA officers have been asked to bring a further report to Leaders in January when there will be more information available and Leaders can more ably begin to consider Local Government’s position in relation to the new Fund.

The Commission has announced a number of contingency plans in the event of No Deal to ensure that core air, transport, transport safety and fisheries management are in place for the next six to twelve months.  However, any EU measure still has to be reciprocated by the UK and vice versa.

Now that No Deal could be more likely than ever, in order to inform representations to the UK and Scottish Governments over the next few weeks COSLA, officers will once again ask councils for an update on the issues of greatest concern as we approach 31 December.

Business Gateway’s national support webinars, focussed on helping businesses prepare for leaving the EU, continue: 21 December - Are You Prepared for Leaving the EU?

Both UK and Scottish Governments are currently making every effort to keep their websites up to date with information helpful to business and communities.

You may want to promote locally the following links – www.gov.uk/transition and www.prepareforbrexit.scot.

COVID-19 Daily Dashboard Changes: Neighbourhood Maps

The neighbourhood maps function on Public Health Scotland’s COVID-19 daily dashboard has been updated. The dashboard now includes new ranges for the seven-day positive case rate, a new colour scheme, a change in disclosure control and the ability to download data at a neighbourhood level.

The seven-day rate of positive cases per 100,000 has been revised to account for the increased number of cases, with the earlier version of the neighbourhood maps no longer providing an appropriate level of detail in areas with high case rates. The categories are now wider and the highest one has increased from 100+ cases per 100,000 to 400+ per 100,000.

Changes to the disclosure control approach will help protect patient confidentiality and reduce situations where very small numbers of cases in an area with a small population show a disproportionately high rate. Dashboard users will no longer be able to identify areas with zero cases. However, it is important to note that even in an area with no confirmed cases, this does not mean that area is free from infection. Local level maps will continue to be suppressed where the Local Authority case count is under five.

COVID-19 Modelling and Analysis Hub at Scottish Government
During the coronavirus pandemic, restrictions and guidance have been introduced to limit the spread of the virus. These important restrictions have changed the way we shop, travel, work and socialise. Evidence shows that some people are finding it difficult to follow the restrictions completely for a range of reasons.

This short anonymous survey asks a few questions about experiences of coronavirus restrictions, to help understand barriers in more detail. It asks what people have found easy and difficult.

Responses will help the Scottish Government continue to support people across Scotland to stay safe and keep their families and communities safe too.

Clear Your Head
The Scottish Government has launched the latest phase of its Clear Your Head mental health campaign, which has been designed to ensure everyone gets through winter feeling as mentally well as possible.

The campaign offers a range of advice and support, including on isolation and loneliness during the pandemic.

Local Leaders
COSLA Community Wellbeing Spokesperson, Councillor Elena Whitham, launched a new Local Leaders network of Councillors who are committed to helping drive delivery of the national action plan to Improve the Lives of Gypsy / Travellers 2019-21. Activist Davie Donaldson joined us for the launch and Elected Members discussed how they will build their impact and membership during 2021.

The network will help us to champion the plan within Local Authorities, drive progress and crucially ensure that work to tackle race inequality and discrimination includes Gypsies and Travellers. To find out more contact dominique@cosla.gov.uk or eloise@cosla.gov.uk.

Scottish Illegal Money Lending Unit
The Scottish Illegal Money Lending Unit (SIMLU) is part of the Trading Standards Scotland team at COSLA, and has launched the Stop Loan Sharks Scotland Charter Mark. The first recipients of the award are social housing provider Wheatley Group and StepChange debt charity in recognition of their commitment in supporting and promoting our work and for taking a zero-tolerance stance on illegal money lending.

The launch comes as the SIMLU issue a warning to avoid borrowing from loan sharks this Christmas. As more people find themselves in financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic, illegal lenders may look to take advantage of those who are most vulnerable.

The SIMLU works to investigate and prosecute individuals involved in illegal money lending while supporting victims to transfer away from using the individuals. We also provide training and support to organisations across Scotland regarding illegal money lending.

If members are interested in finding out more about the work of the SIMLU please email John Pollock at john.pollock@cosla.gov.uk

16 Days of Activism
COSLA’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence ran from November 25 to December 10, Human Rights Day.

It featured a broad range of events developed and supported with the Improvement Service, Public Health Scotland and the National Violence Against Women Partnership Network. Elements this year have included a strong focus on how Local Government, working with a broad range of strategic partners, is responding to the gendered effects of the pandemic, including the rise in women’s and children’s vulnerability to Gender-Based violence and abuse.

Members from across COSLA’s Governance structures were involved in a number of ways;  as chairs of events, key speakers and attendees. Areas of focus included:

- The importance of men’s engagement in tackling the prevalence of gender-based violence and the attitudes that allow it to occur;
- The importance of access to local support for victim/survivors of domestic abuse, particularly in the current public health environment;
- The heightened risks of violence against women and girls (VAWG) that people of all ages living with a learning or intellectual disability face, and how services can work together to tackle this and to support victims to recover from the impacts of abuse;
- The heightened vulnerabilities and risks facing women engaged in commercial sexual exploitation an outcome of the economic impacts of the pandemic on women’s lives, and how the mitigation of those harms to women might be better supported locally;
- What the ‘gendered analysis’ underpinning Equally Safe tells us about the causes and consequences of violence against women, and how gender-stereotypical beliefs and behaviours and continuing gender inequality harms men too;
- The crucial importance of adopting a collective leadership approach across spheres of government and the public sector, to tackling gender inequality and preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls, ensuring that a gendered response is embedded in renewal and recovery.

Reports and Equally Safe funding information published through the 16 Day period that may be of interest to Members include:

* The Scottish Government and COSLA’s Joint Equally Safe Three-Year Update Report
* The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2019: attitudes to violence against women
* Delivering Equally Safe Fund: The new phase of the Scottish Government funding programme to support third sector organisations and public bodies contribute to the objectives, priorities, and outcomes of the Equally Safe strategy was launched on December 7. Applications are open until noon on March 21, 2021.

National Digital Strategy Consultation
COSLA, Local Government Digital Office and the Improvement Service have run a number of workshops on the ongoing consultation for the refresh of Scotland’s digital strategy, which is a joint strategy between Scottish Government and Local Government.  The workshops have now been completed but there is still time for an individual / organisation / group to respond directly here before Wednesday, December 23.

The next stage of this process will be to compile all the feedback that has been received from the workshops with a paper be taken to Leaders for consideration in due course.

Business Gateway
Business Gateway will host a webinar on Thursday (December 17) at 11am when a panel of experts will discuss how Scottish businesses can use tech, platforms and strategies to rebuild and adapt.

The session will be hosted by Danny Gallagher of Business Gateway Highland and panellists include Sarah Johnson of IndigoLeap, John Callagy of the Scottish Business Resilience Centre and Patrick O'Shaughnessy of VisitScotland.

You can submit a question in advance via business@bgateway.com. We will try and get through as many as possible during the session.

Trading Standards
Trading Standards Scotland is the national team for trading standards in Scotland and is 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 online Christmas shopping.

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 - retweets and follows would be greatly appreciated.

Our Twitter and Facebook channels, Khub and website will be regularly 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.

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.