That’s a hard question but it’s the one asked by Councillor Jimmy Black, the chair of the Dundee Fairness Commission, in our report, A Fair Way to Go. It has a whopping 56 recommendations – way more than anyone planned. But to understand how we ended up with so many ideas, you have to go back to the start of last year.
When the Dundee Fairness Commission kicked off in early 2015, we brought together a wide range of local and national leaders and experts from contrasting backgrounds and interests. The one thing they had in common, though, was a desire to do something to turn around the unfair (and unhealthy) levels of poverty and inequality faced by too many people in Dundee. A third of the city, its children and its people live in poverty and that is unacceptable in a city that wants to thrive economically AND socially.
After a few Fairness Commission sessions, we were delighted to be able to host an event as part of the Scottish Government’s Fairer Scotland conversation. The big roundtable discussion in the Council Chambers was great but much more meaningful was the private meeting between Alex Neil MSP and some people who were experiencing the sharp end of life on low (or no) incomes. Mr Neil was asked to think about issues like the vicious impact of sanctions, the hardship caused by homelessness and a lack of affordable housing. He also heard about how hard it can be to turn your life around when you’re suffering from poor mental health.
But this community engagement was just the starting point. Inspired by colleagues in Glasgow and Renfrewshire, the Commission were determined to bring the voices of people experiencing poverty in Dundee right to the centre of our thinking. So we worked with dedicated and creative partners in the third sector (Faith in the Community Dundee, Craigowl Communities and Shelter Scotland in Dundee) to facilitate a comprehensive engagement process.
They conducted surveys, face to face interviews and focus groups with particularly vulnerable groups including young mums, BME women and kinship carers. They also made a series of short videos to portray individual cases that ‘tell a story’ of living in poverty from different perspectives and lived experiences. The final engagement report is making a huge contribution to the way organisations in Dundee are planning to improve their services.
But that wasn’t the end of it. We presented some of our early thinking to people who had participated in the research and we received some very honest and direct feedback.
“I think it’s good that they talked to us but they need to follow
through on what needs to be done.”
“It’s all fine writing things on a notepad and getting emotional
but we need to see change otherwise we’re still in it
all the time. What’s the point?”
“We need feedback, an outcome, change.”
So after about a year’s worth of evidence sessions, engagement and decision-making, we came up with those 56 recommendations to reduce poverty and inequality in Dundee covering,
Work and Wages;
Closing the Education Gap;
Benefits, Advice and Support;
Housing and Communities; and
Food and Fuel.
Yes, there are lots of recommendations for Westminster and Holyrood because that’s where some of the biggest causes of inequality will have to be sorted. Without national policies on fairer wages and conditions, benefits and support into real jobs energy prices we’ll be fighting an uphill battle to lift all of our people out of poverty and deal with unjust consequences like child poverty and the unacceptable education gap it creates.
But most of the Commission’s ideas are about what we can change in Dundee to come up with local solutions for local people. That means everyone – public services, voluntary organisations, businesses and employers, faith groups, and communities themselves – coming together and agreeing what they can do to
And following a packed and positive launch event, we’re assured that Dundee is up for it. According to Jimmy Black in his foreword to the report:
Many times over the last century, Dundee and its people have shown that they will care for and support their friends and neighbours who are struggling against poverty and we are confident that our citizens will rise to this challenge again.
So that’s the new question we’re faced with: how can we come up with meaningful actions that will match the ambition and breadth of the Fairness Commission’s recommendations? One way is to make sure that local people continue to have a voice in the process. We’ve taken the principle of nothing about us, without us, is for us completely to heart and we’re going to find a way to make sure that our progress is informed and scrutinised by the people who most need a helping hand.
A Work Experience Student from James Hamilton Academy, Kilmarnock writes about ‘life as a Civil Servant’ for a week.
Why politics at 14?
At the age of 14, the Scottish Independence Referendum had a major impact on my outlook on life and my goals. As a strong Yes supporter without a vote I was extremely heartbroken when the results came through and Clackmannanshire set the tone for the night. After the vote, I didn’t give up, I became an activist. Over the last two years I have been extremely interested in politics and have been encouraged to do something about the huge unfairness on the working class of Scotland. I have been trying to improve my political knowledge and experience in any way possible. When I found out about the Fairer Scotland event in Kilmarnock, I knew I just had to go.
I was majorly impressed to hear that Government were going out and about into communities to let them have their say on a Fairer Scotland. When have the government previously journeyed to Kilmarnock to actually listen to the views of the people? I went along with a few friends from Yes East Ayrshire and was really amazed at the set up! I had the image of a formal meeting, suits, rows of seats and hushed silences not tables with sticky notes and pens, people in jeans and t-shirts and to actually have a discussion led by the people who were in the room not someone talking to us.
How did I end up in 5 Atlantic Quay for a week?
Being the youngest person at the event at 15, I felt this gave me an ideal opportunity to give my personal input on issues surrounding the youth and how the Scottish Government could help with this. After giving my views around the table and after some debating with my fellow participators Karen – an amazingly kind, hardworking member of the Social Justice team – mentioned the opportunity to do work experience in the Scottish Government if that would be of interest to me? Obviously I was delighted! I was hugely interested in the work of the Government and thought this would be a great opportunity to really find out.
I arranged my work experience with the school and was shocked at how bad the WorkIt system was for pupils. WorkIt is a ‘web application which provides pupils, school and local authority coordinators and Health and Safety officers with a single point of contact as they plan, prepare and take part in work placements. It ensures that everyone is kept informed and can track their involvement in the work placement programme.’.
It definitely doesn’t do what it says on the tin…….. It has hardly any work experience that related to pupils preferences and also their preferred future aims in relation to jobs. I was one of the extremely lucky pupils who got something which could be useful to them in the future. Most were stuck in Kilmarnock doing jobs such as cleaning a gym and being a barista for a week when they wanted to be a mortician or a graphic designer! I’m also very lucky as I have been able to travel to Glasgow to do this. I was the only pupil allowed to leave the Kilmarnock area! I was lucky I got out without being tagged.
The anticipation, visions and surprises
On the build-up to my first day I had formed a vision in my head of the building being immensely bland, and for the staff to be super formal, smart and very ‘yes minister’ type. Well, what I surprise I got, huge glass tower, funky décor, modern, spacious, good IT equipment and decent grub. And the civil servants of Atlantic Quay wore pink glittery lanywards, jeans, trainers, t-shirts, some suits, dresses, colourful and even mosher style. All smart but casual and smiling, didn’t think that would happen! Everyone I met was so friendly and happy to talk to you! I was worried that they would look down on me as a working class girl from Ayrshire but it was the complete opposite. I was so lucky to be met with such an amazing team in the Social Justice and Regeneration Division. It was made up by some of the best people you could meet. They were all so welcoming and I felt part of the team straight away.
There was one thing though…
Despite the positives, there were a few things I noticed that I feel needs to be addressed. The lack of ethnic minorities within the government I feel is concerning, it’s an issue in politics in general but also in Scotland and the UK in general. Much more needs to be done to get those who wouldn’t normally be interested in politics or those who are deterred involved. Another thing I noticed was the lack of those with disabilities within the government. I understand that people from within Government are trying to change these issues and I welcome this and give full support. I felt comfortable enough to feed this back this back to the division who seem to have taken it on board.
Day 1 – Antics and excitement
I was introduced to the House Team and was given a tour around the windowed roasting glass tower. I was happy to hear of the partnership between John Paul Academy, in Summerston, and the Scottish Government. We need more youth involvement in both politics and Government. My favourite part of the day and week was that I met with policy officials from zero hours contracts. I grasped this opportunity with both hands to engage in a debate and give my side of the argument. It was truly a memorable debate and feel that my points were listened to but understood the challenges that Scottish Government face and how difficult it is for them to change things for the better.
Day 2 – Unique Opportunities
On Tuesday my schedule was changed last minute to include a meeting with Jeane Freeman, the new Minister for Social Security. Believe it or not, not many civil servants actually meet the Ministers that they serve let alone having them come in and personally meet their team.
After my introduction to Minister I spoke to the Social Justice Delivery team who focus on food poverty and informed about the government’s plans and actions to help those in need. I was surprised to hear of the work Centrestage does within my area in Ayrshire. I had no idea of the work that went on literally up my street.
Despite not being able to meet those who focus on the Named Persons Act I had the opportunity to email them with questions as this is an area I’m interested in and sceptical on. I was glad that the team I was working with were doing all they could to give me as much experience as possible.
Day 3 – A trip to the Capital
Off to Edinburgh to meet the Elections Team and visit the Young Scot. When Shona – an energetic, spectacular team member with hope and real life experience – and I got to St Andrew’s House we spoke with the Team Leader of the elections team who Shona used to work with. She informed me about the work they do but also that the day was unique due to the issue of the registration to vote in the EU referendum had crashed and they had to prepare for the possibility of it coming up in First Ministers Questions. The whole building was buzzing and a bit more stressed than usual. It really was a unique experience for anyone in Government but as an ‘outsider’ it was fascinating.
Next stop was to find out about the work of Young Scot as I had no idea of all the work they done. Most young people my age just know about the card and the discounts available but I don’t feel that they truly showcase the other amazing work that they do. They do a lot of great stuff such as day schools and giving young people the opportunity to work in teams to create new innovative ideas.
Day 4 – My 15 minutes of fame
On day one and within an hour of starting they asked if I would be willing to deliver a presentation on my working week. It was to be delivered at a Divisional meeting and I had the scope to deliver it however was most comfortable for me. I chose just to talk and had a PowerPoint to speak to – the latter designed by Andrew, a diligent worker who was an incredible pleasure to be a fellow team member with. It went down a treat and I was thankfully for all the amazing and positive feedback. It was great to get this experience as I quite enjoy public speaking but being able to present to a division in the government is a very original experience for anyone let alone a 15 year old girl from Ayrshire.
After my 15 minutes of fame I found out more on the Modern Apprenticeships and Graduate Interns in the Scottish Government and thought this was a good opportunity for youth to get involved in areas like the government if they felt school wasn’t for them.
Day 5 – The end of this journey but the start of another
Friday was sadly my last day. I was truly disappointed that I had to leave such an amazing environment and team but was so thankful for the opportunity to actually get into the Government and witness first-hand the hard work of the civil servants and how all the cogs work behind the scenes.
I feel that too much thanks and praise is placed on MSPs and ministers. In reality it is the civil servants that are the real cement in the government and keeping things together. Overall I have enjoyed my time at the Scottish Government so much and I am so glad I had the amazing chance to experience the ‘life of a civil servant’.
I am looking forward to the next part of my political journey whether it be in the Civil Service or challenging them. We shall see what doors and opportunities open for me as I start chapping away and having my voice heard.
The definition of dignity is self-respect and self-worth. The UN Declaration of Human Rights is clear that everyone has the right to dignity.
For many people living on benefits, or in poverty dignity is all that they can lay claim to. But even this, is now being eroded, by welfare and disability reforms. Sanctions, choosing to “heat or eat”, social exclusion, the ‘bedroom tax’ and using food banks have all chipped away at people’s dignity.
All that is left to people now is shame, no self-respect and no future to envisage. This often leads to depression, substance abuse and even suicide. All people want is their dignity restored – is this too much to ask?
The Social Worker’s Point of View
By Professor Fergus McNeill
What inspired you to write this piece?
This piece of writing reflects on ways in which I might have deprived people of their dignity (despite my best intentions) when working as a social worker in the East End of Glasgow in the 1990s. I might be exaggerating a little; I’m not sure I was this bad a social worker, but I think it represents some of what was and is problematic about the ways that professionals and professional services are constructed and about the ways I worked.
It was all about you
Respect for persons
Human dignity and worth
I was taught to understand you
‘Poverty, Discrimination and Disadvantage’
‘People in Adversity’
That bus to Barrowfield
My mind was trained
To empathise and engage
Building trust and rapport
Assessing and planning
In partnership, of course
Task or person-centred?
Cognitive and behavioural?
Individual, group and community?
Clients, targets, systems
And when we finally met
I tried hard to be for you
I applied my mind
Applied my skills
Counseled, motivated, advocated
Striving to change for the better
It, them or you
But not us
And then I drove home
In my bought-and-paid-for car
To my west end flat
My home improvements
My cookbooks and culture
My double income, no children
Mostly strife-less life
The next day I drove east again
Full of ‘preliminary empathy’
Figuring out how exactly to
Social work you better
In partnership, of course
You were allocated to me
Already a ‘case’; an orange folder
Bulging with your annotated problems
Already a case; pre-reported
In a pre-liminary way, of course
All subject to a negotiation
But one in which I wrote your story
Conforming to my structures
A story that rendered you;
Stripping the layers back to a
Hollowed out skeleton
That could fit my small coffin-shaped box of tricks
It was meant to be all about you
But most of you was missing
All the fleshiness
The strong sinews that held you together
And the mind making sense
Of the senselessness
It was meant to be for you
‘Promoting social welfare’
But nothing about you without you was for you.
Except in the moments when I saw you and knew you
And you saw me and knew me
And we made some sense together.
I always get a crumbling feeling when I go into the Job Centre. It feels as if someone is sitting in there waiting for me to come in and make a mistake. Waiting to tell me I haven’t been trying hard enough. They don’t treat me like William, like a person, they treat me like a number. I can feel my dignity crumbling away.
When you get there, go in the door, you are met by two security guards. Right away I feel like a piece of trash, like I’ve done something wrong before I even go in. There’s no privacy in the Job Centre either. I can hear other people’s business and they can hear mine.
Some advisors are good, but others don’t seem to listen and are at you all the time. Even though I’ve got my book filled in to show how I’ve been looking for work, they still look at me and say it’s not enough. Do they know how hard I worked to fill that in? I start to feel low, worthless, anxious, emotional and angry. I try and bite my lip and not answer back, but there’s only so much you can take. You know that if you answer back though they’ll accuse you of threatening behaviour and you will either get your money cut, or be escorted out by the police.
There have been some good days in the Job Centre, but they are rare. I feel like they don’t believe in me, like I am just another number on a list.
It would be better if staff didn’t judge you – it’s like they’re judging a book by its cover when they look at me. It would be better if they didn’t jump to conclusions and think I don’t want to work. It would be better if they understood what it is like to live in poverty and with the pressure from the Job Centre. I want to work, but at the Job Centre I’m not encouraged in my job seeking. Instead they try to force me into short term, part time jobs just so they can reach their targets for getting people into work.
A couple of years ago I started going to the Lodging House Mission. It’s a Day Centre for people with homelessness needs. I went there for the cheap food at first, but ended up getting involved in a choir they ran. It was good, and I grew to love singing.
Scottish Opera ran a project with the Lodging House Mission and I got my first lead role in their production – ‘Who Killed John King?’ We ended up performing it at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Who would ever have thought that I would have been performing with the Scottish Opera at the Royal Opera House?
There were other groups performing from all over the world, all of us experiencing homelessness. We got a standing ovation at the end of our piece. I’ll never forget that. It was a beautiful experience. Our play was about two families and a gangland war. I felt like I was going to be sick with nerves – heavy nervous before I went on – but I done it, and it was good. I still can’t believe I was there. People dream about that sort of thing.
That gave me the confidence to get involved with the Citizens Theatre and to go to college. It’s amazing and has given me something I love doing. Singing is a big part of my life now. I used to be a timid wee person with a lot of hurt and problems through homelessness and poverty. The choir gave me a group of people who believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself, and encouraged me to believe in them. I felt full of dignity working with them. Working together.
What is dignity? It’s being allowed to be who you are. It’s being a person, not a number. It’s being supported, listened to, believed in. It’s doing things together with people – not doing things for them, or forcing them to do something they don’t want to on their own.
Last year was a very difficult year for me, and it feels good to be standing here talking to you at the beginning of this one. The Poverty Truth Commission has taught me that we might all be in poverty, but we’re still strong, and we’re still together. It’s been a place for me to blossom. I’ve got to work with people I never even thought I would meet. And together we can say,
Since June last year the Fairer Scotland conversation has been going strong throughout the country. People have had their say on how they perceive Scotland to be fairer and what has to change to help us all achieve that goal. We encourage people to continue this conversation during this difficult time following the EU Referendum.
Our next step is to publish an Fairer Scotland Action Plan during summer 2016. More of this to follow soon.
A New Future for Social Security in Scotland
On the same day we published the summary report we also published ‘Creating A Fairer Scotland: A New Future for Social Security in Scotland’. This is the first look at how Scotland will build a new Social Security system for the people of Scotland and to ensure that at the heart of it all is to be fair and treats everyone with the dignity and respect that they deserve.
Voices of the young adults whose family are in prison
It’s estimated that 27,000 children and young people experience the imprisonment of a family member each year in Scotland
KIN is a partnership project between Vox Liminis and Families Outside who help those aged 16-25. It is a new step in opening up the conversation in Scotland around what young people experience and may need when a member of their family is imprisoned.
This new dynamic, energised and ambitious project aims to collect the voices of young adults through working with writers, documentary makers, illustrators and theatre professionals that have experienced a family member in prison in order to help all young people in this situation across Scotland and to help them find confidence in themselves again. The work of KIN ultimately wants to eliminate prejudice against imprisonment that many young people unfortunately faces at the moment. We want the lives of young people in that position to be as ‘crime-free’ and equal as any other young person.
The goal of KIN is to bring fairness and equality to young people in Scotland.
Imprisonment is a common occurrence in society. People with families are sent to jail for one reason or another. In Scotland today, it is almost taboo for someone with a family member in prison to talk about it, and is more often than not met with judgement every time the topic is brought up. For us here at KIN, a fairer Scotland would not have this issue.
“We don’t talk about this at home”
People would know that imprisonment is a very real factor in society, and young people could speak about their experiences freely, without fear of judgements from their peers.
“It’s something that’s part of me but it’s not what defines me”
A partnership project between Vox Liminis and Families Outside, KIN is a new step in opening up the conversation in Scotland around what young people experience and may need when a member of their family is imprisoned.
“This has been different to any other day in my 17 years.
In addition to this KIN have also recently released a video to KIN artwork. Each member of KIN has their own experience, their our own reflections and their own hopes for the future – both for for themselves and the wider society. By creating art that is informed and inspired by their experiences, KIN hope to engage a wide variety of audiences in thinking, discussing and creating together to shed new light on an issue that affects many young people in the country, but is so often unspoken, unseen and unknown.
Do you need someone to talk to?
If you or someone you know have experience of family imprisonment and are interested in this project please don’t hesitate to contact KIN Project worker Rosie on firstname.lastname@example.org. Or for more information you can also visit our website.
Join the KIN team to break down walls and find your voice.
An inspirational chat with four awesome students…..truly the ’Fantastic Four’.
On the 10th November I had the honour of meeting four remarkable young adults at Southcraig Campus, Ayr. Their teacher, Yvonne, had written to the Fairer Scotland Team [via the mailbox!] inviting me to talk with the fantastic pupils of Southcraig campus, who had something to say about a ‘Fairer Scotland by 2030’.
The students of Southcraig are all on the autism spectrum and often have very complex additional and/or supporting needs. There are 97 students, from pre-school to 19 years-of-age, with a comparable number of teachers on-hand to support through their school years.
Some of the students need one-one support. The four students I met with – Harley, Rory, Louis and Zoe – were in the senior phase of their schooling, aged between 15 and 19. My fantastic four, all of whom have additional and complex needs in everyday life and learning.
We started with an explanation of the Fairer Scotland initiative and discussed how it was important to have our say in this. We then focused on what fair and unfair mean, using scenarios on cards to decide if a situation was fair or unfair.
The four picked 6 topics that were of most importance to them. Over a five week period they discussed the topics and articulated their thoughts of ’what mattered to them?’ on a poster and a video.
What was different?
Through the entire Fairer Scotland journey – meeting dozens of communities and organisations – the team often returned to a central issue. That of Social inequality. This visit was no different.
What was different was the way the four described their vision for the future, designing their own posters to express what they believed Scotland would look like. In fact, what a fairer country looks like.
Not only did they design an amazing poster, but they also had the courage to stand up and speak about their ideal world as part of an ‘SVQ N2 Talking and Listening’ class award. They delivered their visions with confidence and pride – in front of the camera (something that a lot of people would find too intimidating to even contemplate).
What mattered to them?
Some of the common elements central to the Fairer Scotland conversation include areas like housing, welfare reform, health and income and employment. However, Harley, Rory, Louis and Zoe’s focused on:
Being Equal and
The leading light for the Fantastic Four was their wonderful teacher, Yvonne Cameron. From the outset, Yvonne was on-hand to help them with their conversation, ensuring the students said what they wanted to say.
“We started with an explanation of the Fairer Scotland initiative and discussed how it was important to have our say in this. We then focused on what fair and unfair mean, using scenarios on cards to decide if a situation was fair or unfair.
We moved on to discuss what is important to young people in a Fairer Scotland. Each week we looked at a different aspect eg. money, jobs, equality, good health, being safe, being valued and most importantly for our young people, inclusion. We discussed this fully and then videoed each individual pupil’s input. During the Scottish Government visit we looked at all of the contributions and challenged our young people to narrow their suggestions down to the most important item to them under each heading.
This has been a really interesting and enlightening project. I have known these four young people for several years and through this class I know a lot more about what is important to them.”
Sure enough, all four students had a lot to say about the kind of Scotland we all want to see.
Zoe would like to see:
Being equal – people who sign should get the same chances
Money – families should have enough so that poor people can get home
Being healthy – looking after the environment keeps us healthy
Being included – people should play together and not leave anybody out
Jobs – jobs should have good wages
Being safe – tell the police if you are getting bullied. If you don’t, they can’t help you.
Zoe is interested in drama and is a very confident and articulated speaker. She said she was nervous, but you would never have known. She was brilliant. Zoe is the youngest of the group and explained that she often feels safer at home – just now, she couldn’t think about being on her own.
Rory would like to see:
Being equal – people in wheelchairs should get the same chances
Money – more money to live on my own and money to go to college
Being healthy – going to the dentist gives me healthy teeth
Being included – ramps for buildings
Jobs – to learn skills to go to work
Being safe – hospitals keep us safe.
Rory would like to be able to live on his own one day. He was very shy, but delivered his story very well, and was proud that he done it. We all were. Rory was very interested in ensuring he had the opportunity to speak up for his friends in school. He felt many of them would not feel confident speaking out about the issues and difficulties they face, on a day-to-day basis. He explained that many of them felt they simply didn’t have the same chances as others, because they were in a wheelchair. It was a very admirable and thoughtful gesture, and I was taken back by Rory’s selflessness in thinking about his fellow students.
Harley – AKA ‘Miss Chatterbox’ – was on the ball from the outset, and a fantastic host. Harley wanted to see:
Being equal – boys and girls have the same chances
Money – more money for people to buy food
Being healthy – opportunities to go to free dancing and exercise classes keeps us healthy
Being included – everybody should have the chance to play
Jobs – work experience like “work out” will help me get a job
Being safe – I don’t want to live on my own. I want to stay with my mum and dad. They keep me safe.
Harley’s passion is dancing and exercise and she often accompanies her sister, a dance teacher, at classes. She loves keeping fit and being a social butterfly. Harley is the oldest of the group and it was clear that she really cares for her fellow students and the teachers. She really does have a heart of gold.
Louis is a tall, strong, strapping lad who can’t wait to live on his own. All he wants is to be treated as an adult, and the thriving 17-year-old he is – not as a child. Louis is passionate about web access for all, so he can learn and gather advice on things that he is interested in.
Being equal – everyone should have access to Youtube
Money – we need more money in schools to buy things for leisure time and fun
Being healthy – getting the chance to eat cheap healthy food and drink bottled water
Being included – people should treat me the age I am
Jobs – get the chance to go to work
Being safe – watch out for animals. Keep animals safe. I don’t want to see animals run over.
My Fantastic Four were uber excited to have us along as it gave them the chance to have their voices heard by the Scottish Government. They put a lot of time and effort into their projects and were delighted that they could showcase them for us.
From the outset of the Fairer Scotland conversation, the Scottish Government wanted to engage with and encourage people across Scotland – in particular those with lived experiences of inequalities and who don’t normally get the chance to discuss the things that are important to them.
Harley, Rory, Louis and Zoe certainly did that – and in the most dynamic, interesting and fun way. It really was a truly memorable experience.
The Fairer Scotland conversation is on-going. We want to make sure we continue to engage with those who have helped us through this journey so far. Now, we plan to delve a bit deeper into “what’s changed?” and “what still has to be done?“.
My Fantastic Four are going to help me kick start this next chapter, and I’ll make sure they are very much part of this adventure. ‘Real Lives, Real People’.
Watch this space.
More information Southcraig Campus, Ayr
Southcraig Campus, Ayr, is a Primary and secondary special school for pupils with additional support needs.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition that affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour.