Scottish Government Disability Equality Scheme 2008-11: Annual Report 2010

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CHAPTER 2 SETTING THE CONTEXT FOR OUR WORK ON DISABILITY EQUALITY

The Scottish Government Purpose

The Scottish Government's Purpose is to create a more successful country, with opportunities for all to flourish through increasing sustainable economic growth. A challenging set of high level Purpose targets, that include specific benchmarks, will track progress in boosting Scotland's economic performance, unlocking Scotland's full potential and create benefits for all our people.

Those Purpose targets that support Scotland's obligations and commitment to disability equality and disabled people's human rights include:

  • Participation: Scotland recognises that the ability of individuals to participate in the labour market is a crucial element and is influenced by health and social factors as well as skills levels. Increasing the number of disabled people in employment adds to the productive capacity of the economy and makes better use of our human capital potential. It also improves the standard of living of those moving into employment and supports a more equitable distribution of the benefits of growth.
  • Population Growth: This overall target is supported by a focus on increasing healthy life expectancy in Scotland, which is influenced by a combination of factors, including the relative levels of economic prosperity and opportunity, quality of life and the quality of public services supporting children and families and health. Learning, skills and well-being are critical factors in the promotion of equal opportunities for disabled people. Addressing these issues helps to create the conditions for talented people to live, work and remain in Scotland.
  • Solidarity and Cohesion: Scotland recognises that the benefits of economic growth should be enjoyed across the whole of Scotland. The healthy development of our society depends on reducing inequalities and sharing the future benefits of growth among all people and communities. This has particular relevance for the promotion of equality and human rights for disabled people. The Government can influence cohesion in Scotland through actions such as:
  • removing barriers that stand in the way of disabled people participating in learning and skills development;
  • supporting local employability partnerships, as part of Community Planning Partnerships, to help more disabled people into work through delivery of effective services that meet their needs; and
  • investment in accessible infrastructure and transport connections to maximise employment opportunities.

We want Scotland to be an inclusive place where all of its people are treated fairly and have the opportunity to fulfil their potential in all aspects of their lives. The aim of the Scottish Government is to deliver lasting change so that disabled people living and working in Scotland can be an integral part of Scotland's future development as a country of equality of opportunity and to provide a high quality of life for all of its citizens.

General approach to disability equality and human rights

The Scottish Government adopts a social model approach to disability equality, identifying the failure of our society to accommodate disabled people as the barrier to their inclusion in society, rather than any person's individual impairment. Therefore, our approach to disability equality is a mainstreaming approach, working across the whole of the government to drive change for disabled people, challenging the discrimination and reducing the barriers which disabled people face.

In 2008, the Scottish Government announced independent living as an overarching commitment and high level policy framework for disability equality, giving coherence and guidance to national and local government activities across mainstream policy. This resulted in specific funding to establish the Independent Living in Scotland ( ILiS) project, run by disabled people and managed by a steering group made up of disabled people and their organisations. This gives disabled people a powerful voice in shaping government policy and public service delivery. The project is hosted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (Scotland).

The founding principles of independent living are about disabled people having the same freedom, choice, dignity and control as other citizens.

Our approach embraces human rights and principles of citizenship; advocates for the personalisation of services; and promotes tackling barriers that prevent access to all aspects of daily and public life in Scotland. The right to independent living is enshrined in Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, but also cuts across a number of other Articles where rights to, for example, education, employment opportunities, mobility and health, all contribute to a person's dignity, freedom, choice and control in relation to their day-to-day lives.

A key outcome of this approach is increased participation and inclusion of disabled people in all aspects of daily and public life. This contributes to the Government's economic strategy of creating a more successful country and flourishing economy, with opportunities for all.

Relationship with partners

The Concordat between the Scottish Government and Local Government establishes a relationship between the two partners based on mutual respect and partnership, where Scottish Government sets the direction of policy and the over-arching outcomes, and stands back from micro-managing service delivery. It enables local authorities and their partners to meet the varying needs and local circumstances in Scotland through local Community Planning Partnerships.

Local authorities and the other public authorities in the Community Planning Partnerships are subject to the public sector equality duties under existing UK equality legislation to take action to eradicate discrimination and to pro-actively promote equality of opportunity. The Scottish Government set out in regulations a list of specific duties to set a framework for the better delivery of the general duty, and it is under the specific duties that local authorities and others are required to publish a Disability Equality Scheme demonstrating how they intend to fulfil their disability equality duty, and that a public authority should involve disabled people in the development of their Scheme.

The Scottish Government and its partners have an agreed set of National Outcomes and a National Performance Framework. It has provided an opportunity for the first time to channel activity across the public sector towards a shared vision and common purpose and in the delivery of shared outcomes. The Framework is designed to focus on improving the lives of all the people of Scotland, including disabled people.

Equality is an integral part of the framework and particular focus is given to it through the specific outcome ' to have tackled the significant inequalities in Scottish society.' We also recognise that promoting disability equality will help contribute to all of our 15 national outcomes. Scotland's local authorities and the wider public sector are key partners in realising these national outcomes and are taking forward action to promote and advance equality and challenge discrimination and prejudice.

Disabled people as partners in shaping government policy

The Scottish Government takes seriously its responsibilities to promote and champion equality of opportunity for disabled people across all areas of life and has mechanisms in place to help achieve this.

We recognise the importance of involving equality groups and within that, disabled people, in the development of policy across government, aiming to make mainstream services accessible and inclusive, removing the barriers that have led to segregation and isolation. This helps us to ensure that we understand how our policies and services impact on disabled people, and take appropriate steps to build disability equality into our policies and functions.

Disabled people tell us that co-production is one of the best ways of championing the development and implementation of policy initiatives and services that meet their needs and support their rightful participation in society. Co-production is where disabled people are fully involved in policy and service planning and development.

The Cross-Government Core Reference Group on Independent Living provides an example of working on the basis of co-production, where disabled people are partners with Scottish Government, COSLA and NHS Health Scotland, working together to combine complementary skills, information and expertise, to achieve shared aims.

Working with disabled people on a model of co-production engages disabled people as equal citizens, and recognises the value of the perspective and contribution disabled people can make from their lived experience. It means recognising that disabled people have experience, skills and resources that are essential to achieving positive outcomes.

Disabled People's Organisations ( DPO) play a significant part in developing our approach to disability equality and the participation of disabled people in policy development. DPOs are those run by a management or executive committee on which either all or the majority of the voting membership is disabled people. Other third sector organisations and service providers who aspire to the same principles and outcomes of independent living but are not necessarily controlled by disabled people are also important allies in our work.

The Scottish Government provided a package of funding over the period 2008-11 to help to build the capacity of disabled people to engage with Government and other public bodies (further detail is provided in Chapter 3). This funding supports a comprehensive framework through which disabled people can engage with government officials and contribute to the development of policy:

  • The Independent Living in Scotland Project is run by disabled people and managed by a steering group made up of disabled people and their organisations, to give disabled people a voice in shaping government policy and public service delivery. The project was launched in March 2009 and is hosted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (Scotland). The project is supported by disabled people's organisations across a wide range of impairments: physical, sensory, mental health conditions and learning disabilities.
  • The Policy and Engagement Officers' Network brings together a number of disabled people's organisations and key service providers. Further information about the activity of this group during 2010 is provided in Chapter 3.
  • The British Sign Language and Linguistic Access Working Group established a partnership of major deaf organisations and language centres in Scotland, including Edinburgh University; Forum of Providers of Social Work Services in Scotland; Heriot-Watt University; Hearing Concern/ LINK Centre for Deafened People; Royal National Institute for Deaf People; Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters; Scottish Course for Training Teachers of Lipreading; British Deaf Association (Scotland); National Deaf Children's Society; Deafblind Scotland; and Scottish Council on Deafness.

A number of these organisations are working together and with the Scottish Government to develop more effective and practical mechanisms and capacity for the involvement of disabled people across the work of the government. They are working to increase the diversity within their own groups and across their projects to help ensure that a broad range of experience and perspectives are represented. This includes other factors which impact on an individual's experience of disability according to other equality factors as well as location, income, and other personal and social circumstances.

At a local level, the Scottish Government recognises community planning as a process which helps public authorities work together with their communities to plan and deliver better services which make a real difference to people's lives. All local authorities have a duty to initiate, facilitate and maintain community planning, including consulting and co-operating with communities. The Scottish Government also places an emphasis on community consultation in the health sector and has a robust process in place for the NHS to involve patients and the public in proposed service changes.

Accountability

It is vital to translate the policy intentions into a reality for disabled people in Scotland's communities so that we make a difference that is felt by disabled people in their communities and in their day-to-day lives. Disabled people in Scotland still have difficult stories to tell about barriers to equality and the fundamental principles of independent living. Unfortunately, we still hear individual circumstances where choice, control, dignity and freedom are limited and where more work is needed.

Scotland's approach focuses on outcomes as set out in our National Outcomes, Local Authority Community Planning Partnership Single Outcome Agreements, and the National Performance Framework. We recognise the importance of monitoring these outcomes: for example, to know what progress has been made in disabled people's access to housing, health services, employment, leisure, etc. and whether this progress affords more choice and control for individual disabled people to allow them to govern their own lives.

Some of the policy and legislative projects outlined in this report are relatively recent and progress is known to be limited. We expect the development of outcomes to support independent living will help focus this more clearly.