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Supporting Scotland's vibrant voluntary sector

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is the membership organisation for Scotland's charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises. Charity registered in Scotland SC003558. Registered office Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6BB.

Briefing: issues for the third sector beyond 2016

Policy briefing 8 April 2016

Taking action together

SCVO briefing: issues for the third sector beyond 2016

Our vision

A fairer Scotland is our vision for the future. We want to see a Scotland that is transparent, well balanced and socially just, which empowers people from all walks of life to participate in society and engage in democracy. Our vision is for a Scotland where individuals from across our society have the confidence to assert their human rights. To build this fairer Scotland we need to be ambitious and visionary, not just tweak existing approaches. We need to build on empowerment, people’s own capabilities and human rights. To achieve this and to tackle the persistent problems of inequality and poverty in our society we must think and plan for the long-term.

Building on our people

We recognise that people contribute to our society in different ways at different times. We want to see a Scotland where people are empowered to build sustainable and meaningful lives which enable them to fulfil their life chances. To achieve this our approach to people needs to change. We need: • A strategic and well-connected approach to support that enables everyone to participate in society • People to have more control over their own support and contribution to enable them to build on their own capabilities • Recognition that everyone’s contribution to Scottish society, financial or otherwise, is important.

Is Scotland ready?

New powers coming to Scotland alongside our existing powers offer an opportunity to break away from current practice and create modern services. This re-design must recognise and address the damaging effects of past decades on many of Scotland’s communities who have been stigmatised, caricatured and abandoned. As the third sector knows, people are our greatest asset and we can re-engage people who have been de-motivated through unemployment, discrimination and disadvantage. In order to make this happen, we need to continue to re-think how people are supported to get involved in society by redesigning our economy, our democratic functions and our services and support to adapt flexibly to the needs of individuals across Scotland. Through person-centred and self-directed services, we can provide support tailored to people’s needs. We recognise that the shift towards self-directed approaches to policy making represents both opportunities and challenges. We firmly believe, however, that by involving people and communities in the decisions that affect their lives we can empower them to realise personalised routes out of poverty and inequality. Through the engagement of people we can ensure that new services offer people a choice over the support they receive and that services can adapt to what individuals can contribute to our society. The third sector must strive to explore and promote how an expansion of self-directed approaches would revolutionise support for the communities we serve. We must also work together to recognise and communicate the links between Scottish strategies if we are to create truly modern services that work in harmony to improve lives.

The third sector approach

Key to the sector’s approach is the belief that we can help people to feel valued, supported and confident in their contribution to society. To achieve this let’s: • Be ambitious and visionary and not just tweak existing approaches, building on empowerment, people’s own capabilities and human rights • Focus on tackling inequality, by recognising the needs of specific groups, being gender aware and recognising specific barriers for rural areas • Prioritise self-directed support, tailoring support to people’s own needs while building their confidence • Continue to push for better links between devolved and reserved employability and social security powers.

Poverty and inequality: let’s tackle it

“People with experience of poverty are the experts.” Elaine Downie, Poverty Truth Commission Poverty and inequality are not inevitable. Despite this, in 2013/14 almost one million Scots lived in poverty after housing costs. These people face very real challenges. They may battle with hunger or struggle to pay their bills or heat their homes. In the long term poverty will impact upon their health, their wellbeing and their life chances. Scotland can do better. Our members across Scotland are taking action. Their message is clear: we need a clear and co-ordinated vision to tackle poverty and inequality.

Social security: new powers, new opportunities

"Now is the time to think about how we use [new powers] to achieve a fairer Scotland." Peter Kelly, Poverty Alliance New powers are coming to Scotland. After years of cuts to welfare services these powers present the opportunity to do things differently, even innovatively, by adopting person-centred, human rights-based approaches to policy making based upon the principles of dignity and compassion. By fully committing to approaches, such as Self-Directed Support (SDS), we can empower people to make decisions about their care and live independent and fulfilling lives. The Scottish Government have accepted the fairer Scotland principles. Now we need to work together to make these happen.

Human rights-based approaches: they’re our rights

“People around the world are fighting for basic human rights.” Naomi McAuliffe, Amnesty Scotland Human rights belong to everyone yet individuals are not always aware of them or what they do. Human rights provide legal protection free from political influence and ideology. We must continue to champion their positive impact and promote how human rights-based approaches can be utilised to achieve justice in Scotland. As a sector we can lead the way by seizing the opportunity to more widely apply rights-based approaches in our work. However, we can’t champion human rights alone. We need institutions across Scotland to ensure that the human rights of individuals from all walks of life are respected, protected and fulfilled by applying this approach when considering their own work. Our sector must also strive to protect human rights legislation for the whole of the UK by rejecting any attempt to repeal the Human Rights Act.

Isolation and loneliness: let’s do something about it

“The need for contact is an innate human need.” Derek Young, Age Scotland In 2014, 80,000 over 65s in Scotland told Age UK they felt lonely “always” or “often”, while 350,000 elderly people said TV was their main form of company. Social isolation and feelings of loneliness are not unique to the elderly. Individuals from across our society, particularly people with disabilities, parents and those belonging to ethnic minorities and the LGBT community, are affected. These feelings have serious impacts on mental and physical health. Despite this, stigma continues to surround the sharing of feelings of loneliness or social isolation. Together we can change this. Our sector must continue to challenge stigma and ensure that policy development in key areas, such as access to accessible transport, health and social care integration and housing, consider these issues.

What some of our members say:

Energy Action Scotland: Fuel poverty is a cross-cutting issue. A cross-departmental group should be set up to better understand the positive outcomes of tackling fuel poverty. Oxfam Scotland: Economic inequality affects us all. We need a plan to reduce economic inequality and to ensure economic activity benefits the many not just the few. Inclusion Scotland: Everyone should have an equal opportunity to contribute. Use newly devolved social security powers to mitigate the impact of UK Government welfare cuts on disabled people. Scottish Campaign on Welfare Reform: Promote a positive approach to social security. Respect for human rights should be the cornerstone of a new approach to welfare. Scotland’s independent regeneration network (SURF): Improve spaces to tackle poverty. Prioritise regeneration and public service investment in Scotland’s most deprived areas. Community Land Scotland: Support the progressive realisation of the right to adequate housing, employment and a decent standard of living by incorporating human rights obligations into Scots Law. Lothian Centre for Inclusive Living (LCiL): Disabled people and those with long-term conditions deserve choices. Engage in a genuine dialogue on the role of social care and human rights. The Scottish Food Coalition: Everyone should be able to access food with dignity. Enshrine the Right to Food into Scottish Law. Community Transport Association: Accessible transport is key to tackling social isolation for younger and older people. Community Planning Partnerships and the new Integration Joint Boards must embed transport provision in their plans to ensure access. Empowerment: stronger communities, stronger Scotland “Community empowerment is… about giving communities power to make decisions.” Ian Cooke, Development Trust Association Scotland (DTAS) We want to see a Scotland where people and communities are empowered, enabling them to direct and build the sustainable activities they feel will benefit their communities. We will continue to break down barriers to participation and build relationships with some of the most vulnerable people in our society, including people who have become disconnected and de-motivated through unemployment, discrimination, and disadvantage. Let’s ensure that every individual across Scotland can play their part in creating the flourishing society we know we can be.

Empowerment, participation and civil society: because together we can

“Let people have the power to lead change.” Michelle McCrindle, Food Train People and communities should be empowered to raise awareness of the issues that matter to them, influence policy, get involved by volunteering and find solutions to problems in their communities. The growth in participatory budgeting initiatives is a positive step, empowering communities to have a greater say over local budgeting decisions. Many of our members believe, however, that more must be done to truly realise empowerment. As a sector we must strive to encourage decision-makers to hold the meetings and events in communities across Scotland that would support citizens and communities to participate.

Lobbying and influence: speaking truth to power

“We will vigorously defend the space for civil society to criticise bad government policy.” Ruchir Shah, SCVO Disadvantaged and marginalised communities are often the least likely to engage in the political process. Our members and the wider sector campaign on behalf of the communities they represent by challenging policy in their areas of expertise. The UK Lobbying Act has restricted the ability of our sector to legitimately engage in the political process. We know that some of our members, perhaps intimidated by new and unclear regulations, are becoming more cautious. Together we must challenge this.

Third sector engagement: let’s create real partnerships

“Partnering will provide the necessary skill sets to provide… seamless integration.” Claire Ford, Quality Scotland The third sector is being encouraged to get involved in a variety of initiatives that will impact upon the communities that we work with, such as health and social care partnerships. We welcome these opportunities, however, engagement with our members suggests that in reality it is not always easy to get involved. However, we are committed to sharing our ideas, experience and expertise. To ensure that this is possible more must be done to facilitate a true partnership. As a sector we must get better at collaboration and partnership working to help and enable the communities we serve. What some of our members say: Joint manifesto for Active Travel from CTC Scotland, Cycling Scotland, Living Streets Scotland, Paths for All, Ramblers Scotland, Sustrans Scotland and Transform Scotland: Empower communities to take control of their streets to make them safer and more attractive. Scottish Environment LINK: Establish a ‘civic forum’ through which all parts of the policy community can openly and freely debate political issues in parallel with formal branches of government. Scottish Wildlife Trust: Connecting people and nature can improve health outcomes. We need Health, Communities and Environment Directorates to ensure join up priorities that make the best use of resources. Voluntary Arts Scotland: Cultural life is local. A joined up approach to asset redevelopment, management and transfer is needed to ensure space for cultural activity in communities. SAMH: Everyone’s experience of mental health is unique. Health and Social Care Partnerships should provide a range of peer support and social prescribing programmes that people can refer themselves to without a diagnosis. Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA): Good housing prevents poor health. New NHS and Local Authority Partnerships should work with social landlords to ensure housing is part of health and social care integration. The ALLIANCE: To enable individuals with long-term conditions to determine their own future the principles of the Self-Directed Support Act should be extended through a partnership pilot project.

Contribution and redistribution: working together for a fairer future

People across Scotland are being battered by… stagnant wages… and job insecurity”. Graeme Brown, Shelter Scotland Scotland is in a position to re-think how it enables people to fully participate in our economy, society and communities. A transparent, well balanced, socially just economy is central, not just to the work of SCVO, our members, and our sector, but to the creation of a Scotland that works for the many, not just the few. Scotland can be an equitable economy where everyone has a real stake in their working life and where the importance of unpaid work, community, society and the environment is both recognised and is the defining feature of how our economy operates.

Tax: let’s do it better

“Developing countries lose… £100bn each year from tax dodging by multinationals.” Chris Hegarty, Christian Aid Scotland Whilst some might feel that the tax system is not the remit of the third sector, without discussing what tax is for and how it can work better the sector will not be able to create the kind of society so many of us are working towards. From environmental levies and taxes on financial transactions, to stopping companies avoiding paying the tax they owe both here and in developing nations – not forgetting the fact that tax brings in the money society uses to support both formal democracy and public services – it is clear that the tax conversation is important. With the new tax powers coming to Scotland, let’s continue to work together to have a positive conversation around tax.

Employment and employability: it’s more than just work

“We need a society where everyone…in or out of work, has a decent income.” Jamie Livingstone, Oxfam Scotland Low wages, zero-hours contracts, underemployment and unequal pay, are issues that our society must address if we are to achieve the Scotland that we want for the future. Many in our sector effectively campaign on these issues, but we can do more. Our sector should strive to become the sector of living wage employers. We must encourage councils to recognise the benefits of ensuring that contracts are set at a level that allows the workers who fulfil those contracts in their communities to be paid the living wage. We must also act to protect our reputation, our staff and those we support, by considering whether zero hours contracts are appropriate and seeking alternatives where possible. Our sector also recognises that people contribute to society in many ways beyond paid employment, by caring, volunteering and learning. We value these contributions and believe that support can and should be tailored to the capabilities and life circumstances of the individual so that people can have the confidence to contribute to society in their own way. As a sector we must raise awareness of these contributions and empower people and wider society to recognise that all contributions to Scottish society, financial or otherwise, are important.

Funding: securing our services for the future

“Charities [need] extraordinary creativity to generate new sources of income.” Ewan Aitken, Edinburgh Cyrenians In Scotland public sector funding for the third sector dropped from £1.87 billion in 2010 to £1.68 billion in 2013 – a 10% cut in cash terms or 18% when taking inflation into account. Cuts to public sector contracts and grants have major implications for the level and quality of public services our sector can provide and impact the wages that we can afford to pay. To avoid this, every penny we lose must be recovered through other means to ensure that we can continue to provide the services and support communities and individuals across Scotland rely on. Our sector continues to innovate and the ever generous Scottish public continue to donate, with general public donations and fundraised income accounting for 11% of the sector’s income in 2013. Public generosity is not, however, a long-term solution to funding vital services. Similarly, there is a limit to how much charities can trade and thrive in a highly competitive market. Demand for the services offered by the third sector continue to grow, with 9 in 10 households using a charity service in 2014. To provide security for our people we need to secure our services for the future. Our members want to be efficient, effective and reliable. To achieve this voices from across our sector are calling for improvements in the way public funding is allocated.

Charity income sources in 2014

What some of our members say: The Poverty Alliance: Companies should be willing to contribute their fair share to our economy. Those who practice tax evasion should be excluded from public contracts. Engender: Gender and other forms of equality are preconditions of sustainable, equitable growth. We must recognise this by mainstreaming gender equality in economic development strategies. Manifesto for Unpaid Carers in Scotland from Carers Scotland, the Coalition of Carers in Scotland, Minority Ethnic Carers of Older People Project (MECOPP), Carers Trust Scotland, the Scottish Young Carers Services Alliance, Crossroads Caring Scotland and Shared Care Scotland: Support carers in and into employment by developing a dedicated employability programme for carers. Stonewall Scotland: Modern apprenticeships are an important route to work. We must collect information on LGBT participation in modern apprenticeships, and work with relevant agencies to ensure access to this route to work for LGBT people. Culture Counts: Core investment for culture at local and national level should be developed to further realise the value and impact of culture (Culture Counts is a network of over 40 national cultural organisations). Open Secret: Survivors of abuse need specialist support. There is no quick fix for the most vulnerable people in our society. We need a commitment to long-term funding initiatives. Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance (SIAA): We must listen to marginalised people to uphold their rights. Ensure the robust provision of independent advocacy through a minimum three years funding cycle for advocacy organisations. Victim Support Scotland: Long-term funding would facilitate secure and sustainable resources while additional resources would ensure that third sector organisations can provide the outcomes-based evidence that is often a condition of funding.


In what is sometimes called the “new age of austerity” we may forget that Scotland is a rich country with a highly developed third sector. Despite this, inequality is rising and hunger has reappeared on our streets. On their own, national and local governments cannot solve these problems or create a fairer and more prosperous Scotland but we believe that together we can. By adopting long-term strategies government, business and wider civil society can re-think how people are supported to fully participate in our communities, our society and our economy. To achieve this we need to re-think how people are supported to get involved in society by redesigning our economy, our democratic functions and our services and support to adapt flexibly to the needs of individuals across Scotland. Empowering people and recognising their contribution is essential to theses aims and to building a stronger, fairer, socially just Scottish economy. By demonstrating how businesses can work for communities, suggesting and discussing alternative ways to ‘do’ the economy, and campaigning for change for the communities we serve, we believe that the third sector can work with government, business and civil society to build an equitable economy that leaves no one behind. Our sector can support and mobilise people and communities that other sectors may struggle to reach. We must utilise these relationships to empower people and communities to be involved in the decisions that affect their lives and to realise personalised, self-directed routes out of poverty and inequality. The question is: is the new Scottish Government willing to be the catalyst for a change of approach – for doing things differently – with the third sector leading the change rather than just ‘contributing’ to it?

More from SCVO on these issues:

Expanding self-directed support in the Scottish third sector Community Capacity & Resilience Fund – Interim Report Briefing: public sector funding Creating a Fairer Scotland: Employability Support – SCVO Response Employability, social justice and contribution discussion paper Work, wages and wellbeing in the Scottish labour market  A social justice strategy for Scotland An Economy for All report
Last modified on 11 February 2021