Elected Members Briefing - 23rd February

Key Messages

Anyone who is identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 will now be asked to get tested – Find out more

The phased return to schools started this week (22 February). Find out more below.

The Scottish Government has today (23 February) published a revised strategic framework, which sets out in more detail when and how lockdown restrictions might be eased. Find out more.

Routine indoor visiting of care home residents by relatives, friends and carers will be able to resume from early March with care providers supporting residents to have up to two designated visitors each and one visit a week for each visitor. Cllr Stuart Currie our Health and Social Care Spokesperson was quoted in a joint News Release – Find out more

Make Local Government the One in ’21

COSLA has called on all political parties to acknowledge the rightful role of Local Government in their manifestos ahead of this year’s Scottish Parliamentary elections.

COSLA President, Councillor Alison Evison said: “This last year has been like no other, the forthcoming elections to the Scottish Parliament will be like no other and Local Government is the sphere of Government at the heart of our communities like no other. The COSLA Blueprint provides a narrative around the kind of country we want, and about the changes that could make a real difference to communities across the country – the election this year offers the chance to make this a reality.

“The value of Local Government can be seen in our response to Covid-19, where Councils have taken decisive action to support communities, people, and businesses. For too long now Local Government has been given a poor diet - and that is why we developed the Local Government Blueprint, which is our menu for change that we want to see.”

Read the press release on our website and watch Councillor Evison in a short video below


Update to the Scottish Budget 2021/22

The Cabinet Secretary for Finance updated the Scottish Parliament on Scottish Budget 2021/22 developments. Constructive discussions between COSLA’s Resources Spokesperson, Councillor Gail Macgregor, and Ms Forbes resulted in additional flexible funding (£275m), and education logistics funding (£70m) being announced for 2020/21. The Cabinet Secretary also announced a further £100 COVID Spring Hardship Payment for children and young people receiving free school meals on the basis of low income.

Last week’s announcement recognises the existing funding gap for 2020/21 that COSLA has been highlighting throughout our ‘Respect our communities: Protect our funding’ campaign. However, it does not address key issues relating to core funding for 2021/22. COSLA has published a briefing for MSPs which explains why the 2021/22 Budget, as it stands, does not represent fair funding for councils. You can view this briefing on our website.

Cllr Macgregor will meet Opposition Party Finance leads w/c 22nd Feb to discuss the key priorities highlighted in this briefing, in order to influence Parliamentary discussions at Stage 1 of the Budget Bill.

Schools return

On February 16, the First Minister confirmed there would be a phased return to in-school learning and that from February 22:

  • Children in early learning and childcare and in primaries 1-3 are would make a full return;
  • In addition, very limited numbers of pupils in S4-6, (5-8% in addition to children of key workers and vulnerable children) will also be able to complete in-school practical work that is essential for completing national qualifications on a part-time basis;
  • Some children and young people with significant additional support needs will also be prioritised for a return to in-person provision, for those most urgently in need of support.

Revised supplementary guidance for the return to schools was published on February 16.

Additionally there has been technical guidance published at the same to support the

targeted return in the senior phase to complete in school practical work.  Revised guidance

to support the re-opening of Early Learning and Childcare has also been published.

The First Minister also announced that in addition to the £50m already committed for the logistics costs of safely operating schools, that there would be additional funding of a further £40 million to implement safety mitigations in 2020/21 and £60m of additional investment in education recovery, including employing more teachers, classroom support staff and facilities management for 2021/22.

Homelessness Prevention report

COSLA’s Community Wellbeing Spokesperson, Councillor Kelly Parry, welcomed the publication of a report from the Homelessness Prevention Review Group on February 18.

The group was set up at the request of Scottish Government and convened by the charity Crisis to take forward the work of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group on preventing homelessness.

The report outlines ambitious new measures aimed at widening responsibility for homelessness prevention.

Councillor Parry said: “The publication of the report from the Prevention Review Group is welcomed, and I am grateful to members of the group and those who have supported its work for their efforts. I am particularly grateful to those who contributed their own lived experience of homelessness to inform the work of the group – it is important we keep their voices at the centre of our consideration.”

End of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) suspension

The UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement foresees that the outstanding EU programmes such as the EU Structural Funds in Scotland would meet their natural closure, including the oversight of the European Commission. The Scottish European Regional Development (ERDF) and European Social Funds (ESF) in Scotland have been interrupted for quite a few months. This was due to different interpretations between the Scottish Government and the Commission on how to process some payment claims.  Following the European Commission ‘Interruptions, Suspensions and Financial Corrections’ (ISFC) internal committee decision last December, the European Commission has lifted the ERDF suspension formally on February 15. We understand that the same will be also publicly announced for the ESF. The consequence of this development is that already committed EU Structural Funds in Scotland can continue being processed as normal so the programmes meet their natural extinction. While all allocations must be committed before the end of 2020 all countries and regions of the EU27 and the UK can actually spend their EU allocated monies until the end of 2023.

Climate Change Plan update

Scottish Government needs to take a positive decision to invest in Local Authorities in addition to national programmes if we want to meet the 2025 net zero targets , Councillor Heddle impressed on the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee last week in a dedicated evidence session between the Committee and COSLA on the Scottish Government’s Climate Change Plan update.

He spoke about the strong commitment and engagement that Councils have across the country in meeting net zero in their own localities, reducing emissions from their own estate and fleet and services commissioned, and importantly through their political leadership, aligning purpose and creating net zero places.

Local Government’s role must be recognised as being more than a delivery partner for national programmes and a myriad of separate, short term and sometimes conflicting policy initiatives and funding streams.

Victims Awareness Week

Victims Awareness Week 2021 (22–28 February) is Victim Support Scotland’s annual national awareness week which provides the opportunity to promote messages in support of those affected by crime by championing their voices, experiences and rights.

This year Victim Support Scotland (VSS) are launching the Your Space campaign , focusing on everyone’s right to support following a crime, under the Victims' Code for Scotland.

The impact of crime is wide-ranging and can affect people emotionally, mentally, physically, financially and practically. VSS focus on the effects of crime on individual and their families and provide specialist support to everyone impacted by crime.

Victim Support Scotland also administer the Victims' Fund which is open to people affected by crime across Scotland, who are in urgent need of financial help as a result of what they experienced. This may be especially relevant during the Covid-19 pandemic.

People can access assistance worth up to £3,000 for a wide range of goods and services where they have no other access to funds.

NHS Inform guides

NHS Inform has a significant amount of information on COVID-19, in English and in alternative formats, as well as a self-help guide.

More information is available here - Coronavirus (COVID-19) self-help guide | NHS inform

National Trauma Training Programme: Survey for Staff Across All Sectors of Scottish Workforce

In October the Deputy First Minister and COSLA President wrote jointly to all local authorities to invite them to nominate local Trauma Champions, with an appropriate level of seniority, to help influence change. Traumatic events and experiences are more common in our population than was previously recognised and we all have a role to play in understanding and responding to people affected by psychological trauma.

The ambition of the Scottish Government and many other partners across Scotland is for a trauma-informed and trauma-responsive workforce, with a recognition that we all have a role to play in understanding and responding to people affected by psychological trauma. The aim is to ensure that services are delivered in ways that prevent further harm or re-traumatisation for those who have experienced psychological trauma or adversity at any stage in their lives and support their unique recovery journey.

The National Trauma Training Programme is asking you to share a short anonymous survey on Trauma Informed Practice, to be completed by Friday 5th March. The results will help them understand more about current levels of understanding of psychological trauma across the workforce, and to what extent trauma informed practice is currently embedded and where additional support may be required in future. This survey is primarily aimed at all staff working across all sectors of the Scottish workforce in both the public and voluntary sectors, however they would also welcome the views of staff working in the private sector, particularly those in the social care sector.
If you are seeking support with recovery from psychological trauma, this website provides information about useful services.

Business Gateway

Business Gateway’s National Unit is carrying out a Business Impact and Priorities survey to help understand the impact of COVID-19 and leaving the EU on businesses across Scotland, and to gauge business confidence. The information collected will help inform what resources will help businesses navigate these challenging times.

Work is also underway on a series of ‘In Conversation with’ podcasts, featuring interviews with well-known Scottish brands and entrepreneurs. Each interview will explore how brands have overcome the challenges of the past year, and how this has impacted their plans for the future. Further details will be available as soon as the episodes are live.

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 toys and HMRC scams.

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 #CouncilsCan - 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.