3. Policy development
Social security principles include co-design of the social security system with the people of Scotland, and continuous improvements in putting the needs of the user first and the advancement of equality and non-discrimination1Principles (f) and (g) ii in Section 1 of the Social (Security) Scotland Act 2018. Human rights encompass rights to participation2See ‘PANEL’ principles: http://www.scottishhumanrights.com/rights-in-practice/human-rights-based-approach/. This means that the Commission has a duty to examine not just the content of regulations but the process of participation and engagement that informed their development.
There is good evidence that the Scottish Government has engaged with young carers and the organisations that represent them. Working with young carers to develop the Grant shows respect for children’s’ right to a say on decisions affecting them3An independent group of experts who provide policy advice to the Scottish Government. See: https://www.gov.scot/groups/disability-carers-benefits-expert-advisory-group/. The Scottish Government has also sought the advice of the Expert Advisory Group on Disability and Carers Benefits. However, the Commission is not aware that the Scottish Government has taken adequate, proactive steps to identify, engage with or explore the specific requirements of young carers who have protected characteristics, intersecting equality characteristics, or who belong to seldom-heard groups. Focussed engagement with these groups is always likely to be crucial since their needs and circumstances can sometimes vary substantially and in specific ways to those of the majority. Some seldom heard groups may be especially likely to experience acute disadvantage and barriers. The fact they are ’seldom heard’ is both a symptom of this and compounds it, making it all the more important that they are given the opportunity to participate in the policy making process.
Regarding protected characteristic groups, a good example is the evidence4Consultation on Young Carer Grant Regulations, p14: https://www.gov.scot/publications/consultation-young-carer-grant-regulations/#res540446 that young women are more likely than young men to assume traditional gender roles such as caring responsibilities, and that this can result in lifelong disadvantage. Focussed engagement with young female carers would therefore have been worthwhile, if not specifically carried out.
Similarly, there is little evidence that the Scottish Government has undertaken proactive engagement with the people who are supported by young carers. It is the Commission’s view that this group will have a valuable perspective into the nature and scale of the challenges faced by young carers as well. Moreover, it is imperative that both parties have choice and control over caring arrangements and that neither feel compelled or coerced into a carer/cared-for relationship of a kind they would not want. This appears to be in keeping with the draft general comment on Article 19 of the UNCRPD5See: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/DGCArticle19.aspx that requires states to provide adequate social support and protections schemes for ensuring independent and community living. This by implication could encompass the needs of care-givers whose contribution might be key to the ‘cared-for’ person’s enjoyment of that right. This consideration is reinforced by the fact that cared-for people will often be the parent or another close family member of the young carer. Their views on the barriers and solutions for supporting young carers could therefore provide evidence of considerable value.
Recommendation 1: The Commission invites the Scottish Government to provide information on any specific engagement or consultation undertaken with equalities groups, those from seldom-heard groups and cared-for people.
Recommendation 2: In the event that there was no specific engagement or consultation undertaken by Scottish Government with equalities groups, those from seldom heard groups and cared-for people on this occasion, the Commission recommends that it seeks to improve its approach to engaging with a broader range of people directly affected by a proposed policy as a matter of priority.