Elected Members Briefing - 8th December

Key Messages
Healthcare workers are ready to begin vaccinating priority groups in Scotland against COVID-19.

COVID-19 testing for designated visitors of care home residents will start this week with a trial across five Local Authority areas.

Christmas and New Year school holiday dates will remain as planned.

The Scottish Government has produced guidance following the announcement of relaxed restrictions over Christmas. An advert with travel information can be viewed here.

Two news releases have now been issued as part of this year’s ‘Respect our Communities: Protect our Funding’ campaign, in advance of the Scottish Budget on January 28, 2021.

The first release focussed on the need for full funding to ensure that shared commitments in the National Performance Framework can be addressed, and this week COSLA highlighted the wider role of councils in relation to health and public protection.

COSLA Resources Spokesperson, Councillor Gail Macgregor, said “Scotland’s councils make a significant contribution to the health and wellbeing of people across Scotland – from lifeline social care services that keep people out of hospital, to housing and to the open spaces and parks that everyone can enjoy – these things all contribute to wellbeing and the prevention of ill-health.”

Last week saw a package of funding announced by Scottish Government as part of a ‘Winter Plan for Social Protection’ - once again Local Government is a key delivery partner. The package includes the £100 COVID Hardship Payment that will go to every child who is eligible for Free School Meals. On Friday, Group Leaders agreed that Local Government will deliver these payments and councils are now making the necessary arrangements to get payments out, ideally before Christmas. £23.5m was also announced for vulnerable children, with £22m of this going to council social work services. Distribution will be agreed at the last Leaders’ meeting of the year on Friday, December 11, along with distribution of an additional £5m to address homelessness.

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 December 31, 2020. Leaders’ meeting on Friday will be updated on any developments and potential implications for Scottish Local Government.

COSLA continues to seek to influence the Scottish and UK Governments at ministerial and officer level reflecting our agreed positions on issues including protections for and formal consultation arrangements with Local Government around powers returning from the EU, the replacement for state aid, UK-wide common frameworks and the replacement to Structural Funds.

As an example, following work with the Scottish Government, an amendment has been agreed to the Scottish Continuity Bill that will ensure Local Government consultation whenever Scottish Ministers want to introduce new powers to keep pace with future EU Law.

As part of the Comprehensive Spending Review, the UK Government announced some initial details of the Shared Prosperity Fund, a replacement for Structural Funds. Alister Jack, Secretary of State for Scotland, met the President immediately after the announcement to provide some further detail. There will be a UK-wide interim fund of £220m for 2021/22, of which the funding available to Scotland is yet to be determined but probably £20-25m. Outstanding EU funding not yet spent will continue to be honoured over the next 3 years. From 2022 on, the new Shared Prosperity Fund will take effect. Details of that still require to be worked up, but it seems likely that the Internal Market Bill, currently being debated in the UK Parliament, will be amended to allow local authorities, individually or in groups, to bid direct into that. Further details are expected in January 2021.

There will be a need in future for Export Health Certificates (EHCs) and other certification on various products to be exported to the EU from 1 January 2021 on. Work continues with UK and Scottish Governments to identify the means by which capacity can be increased – both in the short and longer term - to allow Environmental Health Officers to play a lead role in this across Scotland.

In late November 2020, Business Gateway began to arrange a series of national support webinars focussed on helping businesses prepare for leaving the EU. Further webinars in January will be publicised soon, but meantime the following are upcoming:

15 December - Are you prepared for leaving the EU?

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 -

Brexit transition - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Prepare for Brexit free business support - Prepare for Brexit

Further meetings are to be held with Scottish and UK Ministers this week to discuss UK Exit and Leaders will be updated on developments on Friday.

Local Self-Government
A major step towards a long-held COSLA aspiration for Local Government in Scotland was taken last week when the Scottish Government confirmed its support for the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill.

This Bill will align the standing of Local Government in Scotland with that of many other countries by securing a strong legal foundation for our right to self-government. This milestone is testament to the ongoing cross-party support that has been secured through COSLA and the Scottish Parliament and the work that has been done with Andy Wightman MSP, who presented the Bill, and politicians across the political spectrum.

Following oral evidence by the COSLA President, Councillor Alison Evison, on November 18, the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, Aileen Campbell MSP, confirmed Scottish Government support for the Bill last week, while giving her evidence to the Local Government and Communities Committee. Mr Wightman is providing evidence this week, after which COSLA will continue to engage with politicians of all parties and none to ensure the Bill crosses the finishing line by the end of this Parliament.

16 Days of Activism
As part of COSLA’s 16 Days of Activism on Gender Based Violence, a Roundtable Event for Members was held on December 2 to consider the work of a COSLA Short Term, Multi Agency Working Group.

Commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) across its forms, including prostitution, is recognised as violence against women in the Equally Safe Strategy, jointly owned by COSLA and the Scottish Government. The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened women’s and children’s risks of and vulnerability to harms caused by all forms of gender-based violence – including CSE.

Representatives from key expert organisations considered COSLA Leaders’ direction to explore ‘how better local areas might mitigate the harms facing women engaged in Commercial Sexual Exploitation’.

Councillor Kelly Parry, chair of COSLA’s Community Wellbeing Board, took views from attending members on the following questions:

What are the key risks to women engaged in CSE you think should feature as a priority in any envisioned, flexible model of support?

Which services and agencies in your area are critical to and should be involved in exploring this further?

How best do you think an exploration of resourcing implications linked to support for women towards exiting CSE should be taken forward in 2021?

Councillor Parry is keen to seek responses and views from other elected members on this important issue to inform the Community Wellbeing Board’s further considerations in the New Year.

Your views are invited via this Mentimeter Link. This link will remain live and open for your views until December 14. Please leave your email contact details on your answer so that you can be kept informed of progress.

Leaders were also encouraged to sign the White Ribbon pledge at Friday’s meeting. Anyone wishing to do so can sign here.

Primary Care Research Priorities in Scotland after the Coronavirus Pandemic
The Scottish School of Primary Care is undertaking a research project to provide a clear direction for future primary care research. The aim of the project is to reach a consensus for primary care research priorities in Scotland where uncertainties remain and set research direction that will be relevant for patients, carers and generalist healthcare professionals for the next five years.

As part of this, they are inviting anyone living in Scotland who uses primary care services, or who are healthcare professionals working in Scotland, to participate in an online survey.

If you are interested in this work, and would like to share it with your networks, click here for further detail.

The Scottish Government is continuing with its FACTS guidance to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The advice encourages members of the public to wear a face covering; avoid crowded places; clean hands and surfaces regularly; stay 2m away from other people; self-isolate and book a test if you have COVID-19 symptoms (new continuous cough, fever or loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste).

Test and Protect Guidance
The Scottish Government published two new guidance documents on December 2, in relation to Test and Protect:

Advice for employers (and employees)
Information and support for people who are asked to self-isolate because of COVID-19.

EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS)
COSLA is working in partnership with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to provide Scotland-wide assistance to Local Authorities supporting vulnerable people through the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) application. IOM caseworkers will work alongside local authorities to deliver immigration advice and provide support for individual cases.

We are delivering targeted online briefing session for front line local authority workers and key strategic leads. These sessions will help officers fulfil their duty to support vulnerable individuals and to make EU citizens aware of the Scheme, signpost them to information and support, and make referrals to IOM caseworkers directly. We have added a second IOM caseworker to our team, and hope to have a third join shortly.

This will help us reach out to all local authorities who have vulnerable individuals and groups who need support to complete their applications. The deadline for applying to the EUSS is 30 June 2021, for anyone living in the UK by December 31, 2020.

If you would like any further information on this, please get in touch with Cameron Heenan at cameron@cosla.gov.uk

Digital Consultations
The Scottish Government and Scottish Local Government have launched a consultation which seeks views to update the Digital Strategy for Scotland, which will be crucial in helping to build a Digital Scotland.

With the vigorous commitment to working with stakeholders and people across Scotland to deliver an updated Digital Strategy for Scotland, COSLA, the Digital Office for Scottish Local Government and the Improvement Service have been hosting a series of workshops to engage directly with representatives from across the Local Government family.

The next sessions are:
Tuesday, December 8 – 2-4pm: A Digital and Data Economy & A Vibrant Tech Sector (Digital Economy);
Thursday, December 10 – 2-4pm: An Ethical Digital Nation.

The consultation closes on December 23 with the aim of a finalised Strategy to be published in early 2021.

For further information on the workshops, email info@digitaloffice.scot. More information can be found here.

Digital Telecare
As soon as 2023, analogue telephone services in the UK will be switched off and replaced by digital systems using internet protocol (IP) technology. Telecommunication suppliers are well on their journey to making this switch to ‘IP networks’. Scotland’s telecare service providers including health and social care partnerships, housing associations and many other organisations who use analogue connectivity to deliver their services, will need to upgrade. Some may have already started this transition journey.

Digital Telecare for Scottish Local Government was established in early 2017 to work with telecare service providers to identify their requirements to ensure a smooth, safe transition to a digital service for those in receipt of telecare in their home environments. Digital Telecare for Scottish Local Government has now published a National Briefing Document to raise awareness of the urgency and importance of the switch from analogue to digital telecare to the whole of the sector.

The document provides, amongst other areas:
- An overview of the digital telecare landscape;
- A roadmap detailing the process of upgrading from analogue to digital telecare, aligning with the accelerated deadline of 2023;
- An estimated timeline with an in-depth breakdown of the timescales to complete key operational components of the transition;
- Estimated resources and costings for the transition;
- Information on the impact that the transition will have on service users;
- Potential benefits and opportunities of a digital telecare service;
- Risks to be considered;
- Recommendations that telecare service providers should follow to minimise disruption to their service users and;
- Information on resources available from the Digital Telecare Programme which will support the transition journey.

Read the National Briefing Document

*Please note that this document is interactive and you may need to click on various elements for further information.

Further information on the wider Digital Telecare for Scottish Local Government Programme is available here and any questions can be directed to digitaltelecare@digitaloffice.scot

Business Gateway
A recent survey by COSLA’s Business Gateway National Unit has shown that many businesses are still not prepared for the impact of the UK exiting the EU. In response, a series of national webinars has been developed (see above). Business Gateway is also recording a podcast episode on Leaving the EU in the first part of December as part of its regular series on critical business issues. You can listen to those podcasts here.

The Business Gateway network has been assisting businesses with Leaving the EU preparation for some time now, reinforcing the message that many will need to take action.

We continue to signpost to Prepare for Brexit, which is part of the enterprise agency and Business Gateway network response.

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 counterfeit cosmetics  and misleading energy ads.

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.