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Reaction to the Draft Budget 2022-23

Responding the Budget Statement for 2022-23 on Thursday 9th December 2021

This draft budget contained some welcome commitments to tackle poverty and inequality including the increase and expansion of the Scottish Child Payment; freezing higher and top rate income tax; and a pay rise for those working in social care.

These commitments are important steps that will have an impact on women, particularly women on low incomes.

But it’s an opportunity missed to make transformative change in how care is viewed and delivered in our community and leaves question marks over funding local services. Care is the backbone of society. Yet, because it is overwhelmingly carried out by women, it is undervalued and has suffered from chronic underinvestment. Further increasing the minimum wage floor for social care staff, providing funds for local recovery and delivery of services, and financially supporting those providing unpaid care are all steps that need to be taken to deliver a caring economy.

Adult social care

We welcome the decision to set a minimum income floor for staff in the social care sector. However, set at £10.50 this can only be viewed as a first step. After years of underfunding & undervaluation of the social care workforce significant further investment is needed within this highly gendered sector. Alongside increased wages delivery of Fairwork principles within the care sector must be prioritised to properly value and respect those who deliver care across the country.

The wage commitment comes alongside a rise in overall funding to Health and Social Care. While the sums of money involved may sound large this comes at a time of unprecedented challenge in recovering from the pandemic and following years of underinvestment in social care. A further cash injection to support social care delivery now is needed alongside long-term planning for the National Care Service. There is need to deal with urgent staff shortages and recovery of services that were reduced through the pandemic.

There is little in the budget for unpaid carers, despite the numbers of unpaid carers rising sharply during the pandemic as well as the demands placed by caring responsibilities when many services have shut down. Support to unpaid carers and those receiving care is urgently needed including increasing the value and eligibility of Carers Allowance to provide support and protect carers from poverty, as well as access to local services including respite care.

Just transition

Care economy jobs need to be considered fundamental to transitioning to a greener, wellbeing economy and need adequate funding and training.

As necessary commitments are made on how Scotland will tackle the climate crisis in this Budget more needs to be done for Scotland to champion a feminist just transition. There is a risk that the unprecedented investment in decarbonising economic activities will widen labour market gender inequality if a gendered analysis is not built into the planning process. In yesterday’s budget the focus on infrastructure and energy spending, adapting our lived environments and retrofitting homes missed an opportunity to compliment this investment with investment in green social infrastructure.

A comprehensive just transition policy must also expand socially necessary and low-carbon jobs, such as those in the caring economy. Care jobs are green jobs.

Continued support to the Green Jobs Fund must be matched with commitments that this fund can also work to tackle inequality. This could be done by including a portion to specifically support people from areas of socio-economic deprivation, women, lone parents, those belonging to minority ethnic communities, refugees, disabled people, carers and young people to train for and get green jobs.

Social Security

The pre-announced good news on the doubling of Scottish Child Payment was confirmed through the draft budget. This is a vital step towards tackling child poverty in Scotland. We know that to end child poverty, we must solve women’s poverty. This action will be crucial to protect women’s incomes, make progress towards interim child poverty targets, and to mitigate against the withdrawal of the £20 uplift to universal credit.

Funding to deliver disability assistance was committed in this budget an important step in moving this support to devolved delivery. As roll out of this payment moves forward it must be delivered through a human rights-based system that provides dignity and respect to those who receive it.

Tax

We welcome the Cabinet Secretary’s announcement to freeze higher and top rate tax as a method of continuing the use Scotland’s income tax powers to deliver progressive taxation.

There is no continuation of the Council Tax freeze, which may come as a relief to cash strapped local authorities but with it a risk to low income families that raising council taxes will hit them hardest. Efforts to support lower-income households will need to be stepped up in order to protect women's incomes and set Scotland on track to meet its child poverty targets. Scotland needs a fairer form of local taxation and this budget had an opportunity to announcement measures to start investing to agree alternative options. Reform of local taxation and options for local revenue raising should be agreed over the course of the 2022-23 budget year, to deliver a more progressive tax system across all taxation within devolved powers.

Equality and Fairer Scotland Budget Statement

The Equality and Fairer Scotland Budget Statement (EFSBS) is an important statement of intent and commitment to equality analysis within the Budget process. Capacity and support must be provided at an early stage in the budget process to ensure that the EFSBS is resourced to provide quality, transparent analysis of the equality impacts through the budget in an accessible format.

Alongside this building understand and knowledge of the structural causes of inequalities must remain a priority for the Scottish Government. The Equalities Budget Advisory Group has provided a set of recommendations for Government to take to continue to improve how equality, gender and human rights budgeting is delivered in Scotland. These recommendations need support from leadership and capacity to deliver.

One additional Equality Impact Assessments has been published, for Public Sector Pay Policy, alongside the draft Budget. We’d like to see the publication of all related Equality Impact Assessments to allow for transparent scrutiny of the budget decision making process.

For more details on these themes and our pre-budget recommendations please see our Pre-Budget Briefing.

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