Over recent years, Glasgow Caledonian University’s Department of Law, Economics, Accountancy and Risk, a supportive SURF member, have researched the extent to which the public sector in Scotland is aware of the impacts budget reductions have on poverty and disadvantaged communities.

Their most recent programme report, published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) on 20th August, explores how councils in Scotland can do more to consider social and community risks when making service cuts. It also identifies barriers to better risk assessment and considers opportunities for improvement through new joint working arrangements in community planning partnerships.

JRF_LOGO_RUBINE RED_SPOTAn extract from this report, a brief summary of the main findings and conclusions from the report, follows. Please click on the link at the bottom for access to the full report on the JRF website.

Assessing the Social and Community Risks of Council Spending Cuts in Scotland: Summary of findings and conclusions

  • Although some impacts may currently be captured as a part of general social considerations, particularly in councils with advanced leading practices, not all potential impacts and opportunities will be captured unless they are explicitly articulated as ‘social and community risks’ and considered early as part of the planning process and linked clearly to creative risk mitigation.
  • There is some momentum towards expanding the scope of impact assessments but there is a need for greater leadership, education and the promotion of good practice examples.
  • Whether motivated by the social argument (a moral or a Human Rights case) or by the economic argument (create social ills and it will cost us in the long run) there are good reasons to promote social and community risk impact assessment.
  • Offsetting cuts with some investment in reconfigured (and even improved) services can mitigate risks and help support hard decisions about cuts.
  • Simple, challenging questions early in the planning process may be better than producing new extensive guidance.
  • A ‘fear factor’ inhibits the impact assessment process: officials worry about breaching the Equality Act.
  • Many council officials may need education and greater empathy to understand urban and rural poverty, modern vulnerabilities, and the health and well-being of a community in its widest sense.
  • There are opportunities to share knowledge and promote integrated impact assessment through joint working in health and social care, community planning partnerships, and the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill.