The Scottish Government’s budget announcement for the year ahead has given us some cause to celebrate, the focus on tackling inequalities and to address the ‘cost of living crisis’ and targeting resources at low-income households is to be applauded. However, there is an element of concern, as due to constraints of the pandemic less ‘day to day’ funding is available and that “hard choices”, have been made. 

We were delighted to see the commitment to doubling the Scottish child payment to £20 from April. That, and the £41m for the Scottish Welfare Fund, should make a huge difference to families across the country whose income was dealt a brutal blow following the removal of the £20 Universal Credit increment by the UK Government in October. 

We were also pleased to hear the reaffirmation of the Government’s commitment to #KeepThePromise although the initial provision of just £50m of the £500m Whole Family Wellbeing Fund as laid out in the Programme for Government will perhaps not be a much as the sector had been hoping for. We must also ensure that all young people in Scotland, including those currently in, and about to transition out of, the ‘care system’ have the best lived experience possible and we must not lose sight of those living in the here and now.  

There was no explicit mention of the £11.6 million Care Experienced Children and Young People Funding or the Care Leavers Grant as outlined in the Programme for Government. We will all watch with interest as to whether those commitments fall under the funding which will ‘”ramp up significantly through the Spending Review, as capacity and capability for transformational change builds in the sector”  

Spending on mental health services is hugely important, particularly in the times we are living in, as many continue to feel the strains of living in a pandemic. It is a consistent message we are hearing from across the care leaver community and the increased prevalence of loneliness and isolation coupled with worries about sustainable income. To hear that £1.2bn is being earmarked for mental health is hugely welcome. 

We are also encouraged to see funding of £1.6bn for for social care and integration which, the Government states, will lay the groundwork for the creation of the National Care Service. A National Care Service may have the possibility to improve the support and resources of the Throughcare and Aftercare workforce and thereby improve the outcomes for care leavers. As part of the £1.6bn, £846.6 million will be going to local government to allow them more fiscal autonomy. We hope this translates into a better supported, resourced and empowered social care workforce.  
The Government’s commitment to being trauma informed has been reinforced with £1.6m towards National Trauma Training. An excellent development which we, as a Trauma Champion and through our participation in a Trauma Training Consortium hope to support them deliver. 

Our members tell us repeatedly that issues of decent, available housing for care leavers is hugely problematic so we were buoyed to hear there will be £831m allocated for affordable housing and will work closely with our members to understand the impact this will have over the term of the budget. 
We also know that inequalities in access to education and employment exist for care leavers. The £200 million to tackle the poverty-related attainment gap and £225m for Skills Development Fund should mean that further opportunities are made available and will support our members through the Care Leavers Into Employment Focus Group that we facilitate to ensure care leavers voice is heard as opportunities arise. 
Finally, of slight concern is a £300,000 drop in Third Sector funding. To what extent this drop in income means for government funded organisations such as Staf, and many of our members, remains to be seen but it is a worry. 

Although the budget has yet to be voted on, with Scottish Greens now in partnership with the SNP Government the bill is expected to be passed as it stands. We wait to see whether this budget does indeed achieve what it’s set out to do and create ‘a land of opportunity’ for all and what the impact of those ‘difficult decisions’ will be.  

View the full budget proposal here