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Is the Community Empowerment Bill 'Humankind'?

Posted by Francis Stuart Research and Policy Adviser for UK Poverty in Oxfam Scotland

13th Feb 2014

How do we judge whether new policy proposals would improve Scotland's 'prosperity'?

For too long, ideas have been assessed on the basis of their impact on economic growth alone. We don't think that's a good enough measure so last year, with the support of the Carnegie UK Trust, we launched we launched an online tool to help assess new policies more widely.

The Humankind Index (HKI) Policy Assessment Tool  is designed to encourage policy makers to consider a broader range of issues during policy design and development than they otherwise might. It allows them to rate their policies on whether they have a net positive, negative or neutral effect on the full set of factors measured by the HKI - an index of priorities identified by the people of Scotland. Read more about the Index here.

We thought we would try out the Tool on the Scottish Government's proposed Community Empowerment Bill. The Bill aims to make the most of the talents that exist in our communities; deliver high quality and improving public services; and support strong local democracy and local decision-making.

According to our assessment, the Bill scores +20 overall - on a scale of -100 to +100. Have a look at our assessment in full here.

At first glance +20 might seem like a pretty positive result but, overall, our analysis suggests that unless there are significant changes the Bill will be a missed opportunity. While there are some positive measures contained in the consultation document, it fails to recognise the impact that poverty and inequality have on community empowerment.

That's not to say some of the proposals - such as the extension of Scotland's community right to buy to urban areas - will have a negative impact - they won't. But they do risk benefiting wealthier communities, who are already more empowered - whilst failing to reach our most marginalised communities.

Now, of course, such a policy analysis is subjective. Our assessment suggests it will only have a positive impact in 4 out of the 18 factors contained in the Humankind Index. Someone else may assess the same policy and get a different score.

But simply going through the thought-process of assessing how such a policy may lead to increased access to decent housing, improved physical and mental health, more quality jobs, or better relationships with family and friends is a helpful experience. After all, the Humankind Index was created in consultation with 3000 people across Scotland - it therefore goes some way towards reflecting the priorities of the people of Scotland. It is a process policy makers would do well to bear in mind when developing new policies.

So what do you think? Is our assessment fair? We're keen for others to use the tool so have a go yourself.

Blog post written by Francis Stuart

Research and Policy Adviser for UK Poverty in Oxfam Scotland

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