Elected Members Briefing - 23th September

Key Messages

In a statement to Parliament yesterday (Tuesday), the First Minister introduced a number of additional restrictions the Scottish Government believes are now necessary in order to reduce COVID rates as we enter winter.

These include a national curfew of 10pm for pubs, bars and restaurants, and a ban on meeting in each other’s homes. The First Minister’s full speech can be found here.

Scottish Government funding for youth work is being increased by more than 30% to recognise the vital role the sector will play in making up any ground lost in learning during COVID-19 pandemic.

Finance
The COSLA Spokespersons for Resources, Community Wellbeing and Environment & Economy have written to the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture in relation to the Scottish Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund. The letter asks the Minister to consider making the remaining £15.5m of the £107m fund which has not yet been committed, available to support Local Authority/ALEO cultural assets/services. A response is awaited from the Cabinet Secretary and an update will be provided at Leaders.

The same letter also raises the possibility of any surplus business grants funding being made available to Local Government once all reconciliations are done. There is a strong case that Local Government can use funds in a locally responsive, flexible way to most effectively support local economies, given local businesses are facing continuing challenges as they seek to recover and re-establish themselves.

Lone Working Guidance
COSLA has produced Lone Working Guidance for Councillors aimed at keeping Elected Members safe as they carry out their duties.

The guidance, which has been endorsed by Council Leaders, has been circulated to Scotland’s 32 Councils for consideration and possible implementation on a voluntary basis.

It examines councillor safety in relation to lone working, outlining key principles to follow and providing examples of how these might be applied in a range of settings.

The document also includes a section specifically related to lone working for Councillors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new guidance does not provide a policy for adoption, but promotes the ongoing development of local, supportive and appropriately funded lone working practices.

As Councillors often carry out duties in various locations, including in community spaces, online and in constituents’ homes, the guidance suggests that they undertake personal safety training and that they have a means of communicating with others at all times.

The guidance further explores the means of Councillors being able to provide details of their whereabouts, e.g. through the use of an app, and being equipped with an emergency alarm system.

COSLA President, Councillor Alison Evison, said: “Our Councillors often carry out duties in various locations, including in community spaces, online and in the homes of constituents; they also frequently work outside of regular office hours and undertake duties independently. With this in mind it is essential that safe working practices are considered.”

The full release is available here.

Local Government Blueprint – Health and Social Care
Local Government has a central role, along with our communities and partners, in reforming how our health and social care services are delivered, Councillor Stuart Currie, COSLA’s Health and Social Care Spokesperson, said this week.

Councillor Currie said:  “As the recently published COSLA Blueprint highlights, Local Government reaches into all aspects of our lives and is central to leading and delivering improvements across the social determinants of health, including housing, education, environment, employment, social support and access to health and care services.

“The acceleration of the integration of health and social care – with local democratic oversight and community engagement strengthened is critical to achieve this vision.”

The full release is available here.

Violence Against Women Guidance
A refreshed version of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Supplementary National Violence Against Women (VAWG) Guidance from Local Authorities and their strategic partners has now been published on COSLA’s website. The Executive Summary can be accessed here.

Councillor Kelly Parry, COSLA’s spokesperson for Community Wellbeing, said: “The pandemic continues to impact women’s equality and safety disproportionately. By refreshing the Supplementary Guidance on VAWG we aim to ensure that it will continue to be relevant and helpful to support the strong leadership being demonstrated by local authorities to keep women and children safe.”

Key updates include:
- Additional information on heightened risks to women, children and young people experiencing VAWG during lockdown and other social restrictions to inform strategic planning and response through the next months;
- How collaboratively working with specialist VAWG services now schools have re-opened can support the trauma and wellbeing needs of children and young people to be met;
- How undertaking a strategic needs assessment will support linked learning being embedded in wider recovery and renewal planning;
- Highlighting how women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and how the use of equality and human rights impact assessments tackle gender inequality, including  prioritising a shift towards preventing VAWG  in policy and practice as local authorities look to build back better.

Equalities Minister Christina McKelvie said: “During the pandemic, we invested additional resources of £1.5 million to Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland, and we have extended our current funding arrangements for front line services until September 2021. Later this year we will invite bids to our new Delivering Equally Safe Fund.”

The Scottish Government has also published ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women and girls during Phases 1, 2 and 3 of Scotland’s route map (May 22 to August 11, 2020)’ which presents qualitative evidence on the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on people experiencing domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women/girls.

Business Gateway
Business Gateway plans to publish its Annual Report for 19/20 week starting September 21. This will be available on the Business Gateway website.

Business Gateway and its DigitalBoost programme are currently running a national campaign promoting the services and support on offer to businesses throughout the Pandemic. Further details of the campaign along with assets to support it across digital channels can be found here.

Over the last few months Business Gateway and its DigitalBoost programme has produced a series of podcast episodes on a wide range of topics, speaking to industry experts, businesses and experienced advisers.  New episodes include: Starting a business in challenging times; Using digital to get your business ahead and Is Flexible working the Future. You can listen to them all here.

The DigitalBoost Programme Office continues to work with Scottish Government on developing additional services and products in response to the additional funding allocated to the programme for 20/21. Work around this is moving at pace with a number of groups set up to help scope and shape the work being carried out.

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 contact tracing scams, energy efficiency scams and more.

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.