This year’s priorities
Communities, Social Security and Equalities Secretary Angela Constance looks ahead to the rest of 2017:
January is a time for reflection on the milestones that we’ve met in the year past and renewed action towards the goals we will achieve in the year ahead.
From the outset this government has been clear that we want to build a fairer country with equality of opportunity for everyone, irrespective of their background.
Tackling poverty and inequality is at the heart of everything we do and this year we will continue our work to eradicate child poverty, close the attainment gap in schools, and build a fairer social security system based on dignity and respect.
Poverty is not inevitable and our focus will be on eradicating child poverty and tackling the root causes of poverty and deprivation. Preventing the next generation of young people being born into poverty is vital. So, the thing I look forward to most this year is introducing a Child Poverty Bill to Parliament in the coming months and laying a foundation to end child poverty which damages young lives and holds back the progress of our society as a whole.
We want to ensure everyone, regardless of their circumstances, is treated with dignity and respect and has their rights protected. This month, the First Minister opened the £29 million Fairer Scotland fund inviting applications for new projects to help those on low incomes build a better life. The fund was established to back up our Fairer Scotland Action Plan which sets out 50 concrete actions to create a fair, smart and inclusive Scotland by 2030. And this year we will be seeing some of these measures come to life, such as the Scottish Baby Box which will help reduce the costs of providing for a child in the early days and weeks of life.
Our work towards building a social security system based on the principles of dignity and respect is a real priority this year and indeed over the lifetime of this parliament. We will continue to engage with stakeholders and people with direct experience of the welfare system to ensure we build a system that meets Scotland’s needs and ensures the safe and secure transition of social security powers.
I am also determined that we continue to drive progress on housing. I believe that everyone in Scotland should have a safe and warm place to call home and I am proud of the work we have done as we continue our progress towards delivering at least 50,000 affordable homes, including 35,000 social homes. With over £3 billion being invested during the lifetime of this Parliament, this is a 67% increase on our previous 5 year target of delivering 30,000 affordable homes, which we exceeded.
I also want to help people make more choices at a local level and our work to empower communities will continue allowing them to make decisions on the things that matter most to them. We are working in partnership with local government to scope out a Bill that will decentralise local authority functions, budgets and democratic oversight to local communities.
All of this work will be instrumental in building the fairer Scotland we all want to see. And it is not only the right thing to do; it is the smart thing to do. By achieving a fairer Scotland and generating inclusive and sustainable growth we will make a happier, healthier, more productive Scotland.
I look forward to the work ahead and am sure that 2017 will be a year we will look back on with pride from a ‘fairer future’.