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Our priorities for action
This Scottish Government plans to continue with current arrangements for the management of the NHS in Scotland, focussing on sustainable quality and for the integration of adult health and social care services. Services will be accessed in the same way as under the devolution settlement.
Despite efforts to address the challenge of health inequalities in Scotland over recent years, health inequalities persist and demonstrate that the “fundamental causes” of health inequalities – the socio-economic inequalities in society – are the most important.
Recent research shows the strong correlation between poor health and poverty. It suggests that the reason for Britain’s high health inequalities is the failure of successive Westminster governments to choose to reduce inequality.
On Tuesday 26th November the Scottish Government published its White Paper on Scottish Independence called Scotland's Future - A Guide.
It looks at lots of issues across Scotland and many of these issues will benefit people with disabilities and their families even though they are not menitioned directly. For example many families with disabled children will benefit from the extra childcare on offer as both parents will be able to go out to work and the families will be better off.
The main policy statements that affect people with disabilities directly are
An end to the welfare reform changes. The paper suggests that by 2016, the government's move of people to Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment will not have got very far and so it will be stopped. People will stay on existing benefits such as DLA until a new reformed welfare system is introduced. Presumably people who have been transferred to PIP will stay on that as well although the white paper is not clear on this.
The system of medical review of people with disabilities will be urgently reviewed.
There will be a continuing role for voluntary organisations in the development of civic Scotland.
The successful challenge to the government over the decision to close the Independent LIving Fund has raised wider issues. The EHRC had been an interested party in the court case.
The Commission intervened in the case, as an expert body with a mandate from parliament to oversee the public sector equality duty. The Commission was seeking to clarify what is required for a public body decision-maker to show that proper consideration has been given to the impact of a proposal which affects people with a protected characteristic under equality law.
The reason for the court's decision is that the judges decided there was insufficient evidence that the 'very grave impact' on some of those affected was properly brought to the Minister's attention, despite officials having been clearly informed of the possible impacts not only by service users but also by local authorities.
The court reiterated the importance of record keeping in being able to demonstrate that 'due regard' to the need to advance equality of opportunity has been had, and that general regard to issues of equality is not the same as a conscious approach to the statutory criteria.
Scotland is entering a year of debate and discussion over the future of its position within the United Kingdom. On September the 18th 2014, there will be a referendum on whether Scotland should be independent. In the Learning Disability Alliance Scotland, we want to make sure that people with learning disabilities have as much of a say in Scotland's referendum as other citizens.
We are currently running workshops for people with learning disabilities to look at the issues arising from the Independence Referendum. These are available to any parts of our member organisations. Please get in touch if you would like to book one of these for your group or organisation.
On Tuesday 7th November the Appeal Court in London upheld a legal challenge to the government's decision to close down the Independent Living Fund. The judge held that the government had failed to take account of their duties under the Public Sector Equality Duty to promote equality of opportunity.
This is a good step forward but does not yet mean the Independent Living Fund is saved. The government may yet carry out a quick consultation or another manoeuvre that allows them to meet their legal duties and then go ahead and close the fund anyway. There is still 18 months before the fund is due to close in April 2015.
Meanwhile we would expect the Scottish Government to continue analysing the results of their consultation on the future of the ILF in Scotland. The ILF may be saved in the end but nothing is certain yet.