The team worked with members and partners to influence policy on an array of issues related to COVID-19 and more.
Throughout the pandemic, the ALLIANCE’s Policy team worked closely with members to influence and inform policy on many issues including COVID-19 and wider health, social care, social security and other sectoral issues, including emergency legislation, clinical and ethical guidance, the national decision making framework, lockdown arrangements, pandemic recovery and renewal, the shielding plan, the draft COVID-19 Rehabilitation and Recovery Framework, and social care (including guidance on social care assessments). Reference to equalities and human rights was consistently embedded and mainstreamed into our COVID-19 policy work, and we were invited to join the Public Health Scotland COVID-19 Inclusion Health group, providing input to a report outlining how the rights based approach will support recovery from COVID-19 and the resulting control measures. We produced podcasts relating to different COVID-19 issues with several guests SPAEN, Energy Action Scotland, Carers Scotland, Royal Pharmaceutical Society and GMC Scotland.
Briefings and consultation responses
The team also produced briefings on a wide range of other important issues, including remote consultations and prescribing, Scotland’s national digital strategy, procurement, single-use plastics, and the Sustainable Development Goals. Routine work for the ALLIANCE policy team includes regular interaction with senior decision makers, including Scottish Government officials and Ministers, elected members across all political parties, and representation on several Scottish Parliament Cross-Party Groups, including those on Carers, Mental Health, Health Inequalities, and Women’s Health. We were also actively involved in a range of other advisory and working groups, including those focused on human rights, social security, mental health, and women’s health.
The Policy team supported development of advice on the new Carer’s and Disability Assistance through membership of the Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group and on other issues – including overpayments and maximising uptake – on other Scottish Government/Social Security Scotland advisory groups. As an active member of the Scottish Campaign on Rights to Social Security, the ALLIANCE contributed to the SCoRSS long term vision for rights based disability social security. We hosted a joint members session with the Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance (SIAA) on mainstreaming equality outcomes in the new social security system and published our response online. We were subsequently invited to join the Social Security Scotland Equalities Network. Influenced the development of an accessibility toolkit for Social Security Scotland staff working on local delivery across the country. We also met with the Social Security Commission to discuss how they should engage with ALLIANCE members in their future consideration of regulations and met with Scottish Government social security officials to discuss social security take-up strategy and third sector supporting information for applications. We submitted a response to the Social Security Committee’s consultation on the Social Security Administration and Tribunal Membership (Scotland) Bill.
The Policy team met senior decision makers on a range of human rights issues, including Christina McKelvie MSP and Aileen Campbell MSP on the Good Food Nation Bill and the prevalence of food insecurity among people with long term conditions, and the Cabinet Secretary for Social Security, Shirley Anne Somerville MSP, and Christina McKelvie MSP about plans for Scotland’s second National Action Plan for Human Rights. We spoke at Human Rights Consortium Scotland event on ‘becoming a human rights based organisation’ and continued to focus on innovative approaches to public finance, including human rights budget work in partnership with the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC), the University of Glasgow and Glasgow Caledonian University. This included a joint response to the Finance Committee’s inquiry on the impact of COVID-19 on the public finances and the Fiscal Framework and substantial input from the ALLIANCE and partners into an SHRC report on the human rights based Open Budget Survey.
The ALLIANCE also continued to support and promote equalities and human rights based approaches by co-convening the Health and Social Care Action Group of Scotland’s National Action Plan for Human Rights with Public Health Scotland, and actively shaping the second National Action Plan. We have also supported the National Task Force on Human Rights Leadership – including representation on the Civil Society and UNCRPD Reference Groups, and been actively engaged in wider civil society partnership work to support incorporation of international human rights law into Scots law. With Inclusion Scotland, we commissioned a paper by Dr Kasey McCall-Smith on incorporating the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People into Scots law. We responded to the Scottish Government Social Renewal Advisory Board call for ideas with suggestions to incorporate international human rights into Scots law.
Valuing the Third Sector
In June 2020, the ALLIANCE led a joint letter to the Scottish Government on the financial impact of COVID-19 on third sector health and care organisations, co-signed by over 30 ALLIANCE members, and published an associated briefing paper. We worked with Monica Lennon MSP’s researchers to lodge parliamentary questions on Third Sector Recovery and Renewal Fund and met with the Head of the Scottish Government’s Third Sector Unit to discuss funding issues facing third sector health and care organisations. We gave evidence to the Equalities and Human Rights Committee to inform their 2021-22 pre-budget scrutiny. We produced a briefing paper ahead of the ‘Valuing the Third Sector’ parliamentary debate.
The ALLIANCE (along with Camphill Scotland and SCVO), had previously championed a Private Members’ Bill, introduced to the UK Parliament by Brendan O’Hara MP, calling for an independent evaluation of the impact of leaving the EU on the health and social care sectors across the four nations. When this unfortunately failed to complete its passage through parliament, we continued to work together in support of an Amendment to the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill that called for international volunteers to be made exempt from paying the Immigration Health Surcharge. We also signed a joint statement to the UK Government to show support for the Human Rights Act and judicial review. We co-signed two letters to Home Secretary Priti Patel MP about the inclusion of social care workers in immigration policy announcements, one of which was raised with the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Sport and Wellbeing, Jeane Freeman MSP, at a daily Scottish Government Coronavirus briefing. Further Brexit-related activity included recording a podcast with the Human Rights Consortium Scotland (this link will take you away from our website) about the impact on disabled people’s rights, and co-signing an open letter to the UK Prime Minister with over 50 members of the Brexit Civil Society Alliance calling for an extension of the transition period as a lifeline for charities and organisations serving on the front line of the COVID-19 crisis.
We hosted a Satellite Wee Circle event on gender equality and mental health as part of the First Minister’s National Advisory Council on Women and Girls (NACWG), published a consultation response on the continuation of remote abortion services, and were active members of the Women’s Health Group’s mainstreaming gender and menopause, menstrual health including endometriosis workstreams, aimed at developing Scotland’s Women’s Health Plan. We attended a meeting with Scottish Government Maternal and Infant Health team and Senior Medical Officer for Obstetrics about healthcare inequalities in childbirth and are working in partnership with Engender to develop a briefing paper and roundtable to further explore this issue. Finally, we joined the CPG Women’s Health and were also invited to join the advisory group of Engender’s ‘Gender Matters and Social Care’ programme.
The ALLIANCE has actively engaged with the review of Scotland’s mental health legislation being led by John Scott QC. We have an advisory role on the reviews’ Communication and Engagement Advisory Group, interviewed John Scott QC for ALLIANCE Live, submitted a response to the review’s first consultation, published an article in Holyrood magazine welcoming the review’s approach, and contributed to work of the Mental Health CPG including a report about ongoing concerns about adult services and support. We also added a quote to a press release in support of a Scottish Green amendment to the emergency legislation calling for mental health supportive policies.
The ALLIANCE submitted a joint letter with Energy Action Scotland and others to the First Minister on energy bill debt.
Holyrood 2021 election manifesto
We met with SNP staff members to discuss the ALLIANCE’s manifesto asks for the 2021 Scottish election. We then developed the ALLIANCE 2021 Scottish Parliament election manifesto with substantial input from members and hosted member engagement events with the SNP and Labour election manifesto teams.
Reports of other ALLIANCE programme activities during 2020 can be found in our News section.