A guaranteed basic income and the further expansion of free childcare are key to Scotland’s recovery from coronavirus, a Government-commissioned report has said.
The social renewal advisory board, which was formed by ministers to help guide the country out of the Covid-19 pandemic, has published its final report which issues 20 “calls to action” for the Scottish Government.
Among them is a guarantee of a basic income, which would see the Government top up the finances of those on low incomes to a specified standard.
The report, released on Thursday, said: “A minimum income guarantee – basically, an agreed minimum level of income that everyone must receive, taking into account the needs of different individual needs – may be deliverable, if expensive.”
The board also calls for the feasibility of piloting a minimum income guarantee to be assessed, along with an increase to benefits such as the new Scottish Child Payment and potentially to disability payments.
One of the flagship policies of the Scottish Government since the 2016 election has been to introduce 1,140 hours of free childcare for every youngster.
The report urges the Scottish Government to go further, giving every child between the ages of six months and five years 50 hours per week of free childcare, should they need it.
It said: “As with other advisory groups, including the National Advisory Council on Women and Girls, we are calling for an entitlement to 50 hours per week of funded, good quality and flexible education and childcare for all children between six months and five years old.
“In the next parliamentary term, urgent work should be carried out on how childcare can be provided more flexibly, alongside a funded or subsidised out of school care entitlement to develop an integrated childcare offer from 0-12 years.
“An integrated childcare offer should include provision that meets the needs of disabled children.”
Further recommendations include increasing training and skills development for people worst impacted by the pandemic, and a programme to create 53,000 affordable homes over the next parliamentary term – with at least 37,100 available for social rent.
Jon Sparkes, the joint chair of the report’s editorial sub-group and chief executive of the charity Crisis, said: “If accepted and implemented, the calls to action in this report will transform Scotland, building on firm foundations of social justice by continuing to tackle poverty and inequality, ensuring basic rights are realised and working towards fairer, healthier and empowered communities.
“We must seize this opportunity because if not now, when?”
While the Scottish Government has not committed to implementing the recommendations of the report, Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said: “This ambitious report is a challenge to be bold as we recover from Covid-19.
“It recognises the strong response to the pandemic which has taken place across Scotland thanks to the collective efforts of local and national government, communities, organisations and individuals.
“The actions recommended build on work to tackle poverty and reduce inequality, taking a human rights-based approach.”