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EACEA National Policies Platform


4. Social Inclusion

4.3 Strategy for the social inclusion of young people

Last update: 25 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 12/03/2018 - 16:28

On this page
  1. Existence of a National Strategy on social inclusion
  2. Scope and contents
  3. Responsible authority
  4. Revisions/ Updates


Existence of a National Strategy on social inclusion

There is no single strategy for the social inclusion of young people in Scotland. However, there are a number of strategies which work alongside other areas to promote social inclusion:   

Wider, all-age community learning and development (CDL) policies  also promote social inclusion. See the CDL pages of the Scottish Government and Education Scotland websites.   

Scope and contents

Social mobility strategy

Although there is no specific social mobility strategy in Scotland, the Scottish Government do make commitments to tackling inequality and poverty, and do make reference to delivering a solution to tackle the lack of social mobility in the Fairer Scotland Action Plan 2016 (more information can be found in this article, in the section below).

Published in January 2016, the National Improvement Framework (NIC), is the Government’s commitment to promoting social mobility: ensuring ‘all children and young people can realise their potential, regardless of their social background and learning needs, thereby developing knowledge, skills and attributes they will need to flourish in life, learning and work.’ The Government believe to achieve fairer outcomes, the government must ensure children have the best start in life, tackle inequalities prevalent in society, improve the life chances for children, young people and families who are at risk, and it is vital to invest in education.  

Hence, the priorities listed in the NIC are: 

  • improving attainment in literacy and numeracy, 
  • closing the attainment gap between the most and least disadvantaged children,
  • improving children and young people’s health and well-being,
  • improving young people’s employability skills and,
  • ensuring young people do not become NEET (not in education, employment or training) after leaving school.  

The Framework informs the Delivering Excellence and Equity in Scottish Education: A Delivery Plan for Scotland that was published thereafter. It outlines the Government’s plans to achieve excellence and equity in education for children and young people to ultimately improve their life chances and social mobility. 

The delivery plan outlines the six key areas that the Government will reform and invest into, in order to improve the Scottish education system, and contribute toward achieving its priorities and aims listed in the NIC:

  • school leadership,
  • teacher professionalism, 
  • parental engagement 
  • assessment of children’s progress, 
  • school improvement
  • and performance information.

This Delivery Plan covers the period of 2016 to 2020. 

Fairer Scotland Action Plan

Fairer Scotland Action Plan, was published in 2016 by the Scottish Government, it sets out the government’s long term commitment to ultimately ‘tackle poverty, reduce inequality and build a fairer and more inclusive Scotland’. The Government define ‘Fairer Scotland’ as, a country ‘with low levels of poverty and inequality, genuine equality of opportunity, stronger life chances, and support for all those who need it.’ The Framework’s five ambitions till 2030, are:

  • A Fairer Scotland for All, 
  • Ending Child Poverty,
  • A Strong Start For All Young People, 
  • Fairer Working Lives, and
  • A Thriving Third Age.

The Action Plan also outlines fifty ‘Fairness Actions’ that will help to achieve these ambitions, and it spans across government departments. Section 3, ‘A Strong Start for Young People’, specifies what ‘Fairness Actions’ the government will implement to increase social inclusion for young people, this includes:

  • Reducing youth unemployment by 40%, by providing and developing skills and experiences for young people in training and the workplace.
  • Widening access to university, to ensure everyone, regardless of their socio-economic background, has equal access to attending higher education (universities) 

Provide financial help by introducing a Job Grant for young people (aged 16 to 24) who have been unemployed for six months and more. It ranges from £250 to £100 grant (depending on personal circumstances), and free bus travel. 

Race Equality Framework for Scotland

Scotland’s Race Equality Framework, published in 2016, state six themes that relate to young people: 

  • community cohesion and safety, 
  • participation and representation, 
  • education and lifelong learning, 
  • employability, employment and income, 
  • health and income,
  • and the overarching vision for a fairer Scotland by 2030.

The Framework sets out the Scottish Government’s long-term ambition of tackling racism and inequality, and addressing the barriers that prevent ethnic minorities from fulfilling their potential. The Framework outlines how the government’s plans to achieve this ambition for the period 2016 to 2030. It sits alongside the broader work of the Scottish Government, complementing the Fairer Scotland Action Plan (see section above for more information). The Framework will help develop policy strategies and processes to achieve equality and eradicate racial inequality, and will be published in its Action Plan (see below). The key areas of strategy and policy include: 

The Government published its Highlight Report in 2017 (along with the Race Equality Action Plan), summarising the progress it has made so far in the implementation phase. 

A Fairer Scotland for All: Race Equality Action Plan 2017-2021

In 2017, the Scottish Government published its Race Equality Action Plan for the period of 2017 to 2021. The Action Plan outlines how the government seeks to achieve its ambitions of ‘advancing race equality, and addressing the barriers that prevent people from minority ethnic communities from realising their potential’ as set out in the Race Equality Framework. The Government seek to implement policies and programmes that will affect young people, in the following policy fields:

  • employment,
  • education and lifelong learning,
  • health,
  • housing, 
  • poverty, 
  • community cohesion and safety,
  • participation and representation, 
  • and targeting social inclusion and issues relevant to gypsy and travellers. 

A progress report on the first year of the plan was published in June 2019.


Participation strategy

Opportunities for All - supporting all young people to participate in post-16 learning, training or work, published in 2012, was the Scottish Government’s commitment to prevent the young people of Scotland from becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training) and to be participating citizens. It outlines the Scottish Government’s national and local policies and strategies at individuals in the post-16 learning system, aged 16 to 19. 

The delivery of Opportunities for All is a collaborative effort between Scottish Government, and other agencies: the Curriculum for Excellence, partnerships with local authorities, colleges, Skills Development Scotland, a collaboration with the Department for Work and Pensions (UK), and Skills Academies.

The aim of the programme is to improve the life chances of young people post-16 education, by providing them with a range of opportunities, this includes: staying on at school, training programmes, university, and colleges course; but also skills and knowledge to progress forward. 

The Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC), launched in February 2015, complements the Opportunities for All strategy. It’s aim is to close the poverty-related attainment gap, which will in turn, contribute towards achieving equity in educational outcomes. To achieve its aim, SAC will support schools and local authorities in improving literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing in children and young people; and it will support the other initiatives and programmes under Opportunities for All. It has created the Attainment Scotland Fund, which provides funding to four initiatives which aims to close the attainment gap: The Challenge Authorities, The Schools Programme, The Innovation Fund, and Pupil Equity Funding. It hopes that its contributions will improve the equality of opportunity for children and young people, to ensure that a child’s socio-economic circumstances do not determine their life chances. Any updates can be found on the Education Scotland website.   

Youth employment strategy

Published in 2014, Developing the Young Workforce - Scotland’s Youth Employment Strategy, complements Opportunities for All. It is a seven-year national implementation programme, for the period 2014 to 2021, which aims to better prepare children and young people (aged 3 to 18) for the world of work and to reduce youth employment by 2021. It’s aim is to reduce youth unemployment, excluding those in full-time education, by 40%, in 2021. The strategy focuses on ‘creating, promoting and incentivising opportunities’ in order to provide young people with opportunities, which in turn, will improve young people’s life chances. To achieve their aim, a collaborative approach is required; hence, the Government’s implementation plans involve the following areas: schools, colleges, apprenticeships, employers, and equality and diversity. 

In October 2017, the Government announced that the target made in Developing the Young Workforce strategy was achieved. Youth unemployment has decreased 48.3%: 52,000 in 2014, to 27,000 in 2017. Furthermore, in March 2018, the Minister for Employability and Training, Jamie Hepburn, announced the government’s new employability support service, Fair Start Scotland. The Fair Start Scotland service will provide tailored employment support to unemployed people, including those facing multiple barriers, which will in turn, improve the life chances of everyone in Scotland, including the prospects of young people. It also stated the Gov recommitment to See also ‘Preventing early leaving from education and training (ELET)’.

A further update, Developing the Young Workforce: 2017-2018 progress report, reiterated the early achievement of the headline target and highlighted other notable successes: 

  • Year on year increase in the number of school leavers achieving vocational qualifications and an increasing number of senior phase enrolments on vocational pathways
  • An increase in the number of young people starting Foundation Apprenticeships.
  • The proportion of looked after children in positive destinations is 76 per cent in 2016/17. This is an increase of 4.8 percentage points since 2015/16, and an increase of 6.7 percentage points since the baseline figures were recorded in 2012/13.
  • An increase in the disability employment rate - the employment rate for young disabled people increased from 35.6 per cent in January– December 2016 to 43.2 per cent for the same period in 2017. This is an increase of 8.0 percentage points compared to the baseline figure of 35.2 per cent (Jan-Dec 2014).

Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC)

Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) focuses on improving the wellbeing of children and young people, outlining how organisations involved in delivering children's services should work together and tailor their support to individuals in order to improve their wellbeing. In order to assess the quality of a child or young person's life and identify the support they need, GIRFEC list eight wellbeing indicators:

  1. safe - protected from harm, neglect and abuse
  2. healthy - having the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health and access to suitable healthcare and support
  3. achieving - being supported and guided in learning and the development of skills
  4. nurtured - having a nurturing place to live
  5. active - having opportunities to take part in activities which contribute to healthy growth and development
  6. respected - being heard and involved in decisions which affect them
  7. responsible - encouragement to play active and responsible roles
  8. included - support to overcome social, educational, physical and economic inequalities and being accepted in their community.

All services working with children and young people must promote, support and safeguard children and young people's wellbeing.

Child Poverty Strategy for Scotland

The Child Poverty Strategy for Scotland: Our Approaches 2014 - 2017 published by the Scottish Government in 2014, builds on the previous strategy's overarching aims, reformulating them as three key outcomes to work towards:

  • maximising household resources - reducing income poverty and material deprivation;
  • improving children's wellbeing and life chances - breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty, inequality and deprivation by tackling the underlying social and economic determinants of poverty;
  • children from low income households living in well-designed, sustainable places - addressing area-based factors which heighten the effects of poverty, particularly in areas of multiple deprivations.

There are three principles underpinning the above outcomes:

  • early intervention and prevention
  • building on the assets of individuals and communities
  • ensuring that children's and families' needs and abilities are the focus of services design and delivery.

The child poverty strategy also introduces a new outcomes framework, which moves the focus of policy towards the impacts that policies have on people and communities.

Child Poverty (Scotland) Act  

The Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 forms part of the Scottish Government's overall approach to tackling poverty and inequality in Scotland; also see the Fairer Scotland Action Plan (2016, Scottish Government). The Act sets statutory targets for Scotland to reduce the number of children experiencing the effects of poverty by 2030. According to the Act, these targets must be met: 

  • fewer than 10% of children living in families in relative poverty,
  • fewer than 5% of children in families living in absolute poverty, 
  • fewer than 5% of children living in families with a combined low income and material deprivation,
  • and fewer than 5% of children living in persistent poverty. 

The Act also requires the Scottish Government to publish a three-year child poverty delivery plan on how it will eradicate child poverty, which will be updated every five years and produce annual reports to measure progress. 

The Scottish Government published its first child poverty delivery plan in March 2018, and its first year progress report (2018 to 2019) in June 2019.

The Scottish Government has introduced a legal requirement on public bodies aimed at reducing socio-economic disadvantage.



Responsible authority

See ‘Governance’ in 'Administration and Governance'.


Fairer Scotland Action Plan 

The Fairer Scotland Action Plan is still in its delivery stage, and as a result, not all the ‘Fairness Actions’ have been implemented. The Government published its second annual progress report in 2018, indicating progress made and highlighting the cross-government commitment to eradicate child poverty through the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017,  the Every Child, Every Chance, our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan for 2018-22 (see below), supported by the £50 million Tackling Child Poverty Fund and a range of other investments. 

As stated by the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Securities and Equalities, the Action Plan is ‘always meant to be a living document’ since it has a 2030 timeline to achieve its ambitions. Thus, the Action Plan will be continually updated to meet the needs of Scotland and any new ideas that have been developed. The Government will issue another Progress Report by the end of 2019, which will illustrate what the government has achieved and their progress on actualising the five ambitions stated in the action plan (more information can be found in this article, in the section under ‘Scope and contents’).

Since this is a long-term commitment, the next parliamentary term will continue to carry out this framework. Additionally, the Government has decided to hold a Citizen’s Forum in the second half of this parliament, to identify new areas that need attention and identify what next ‘Fairness Actions’ the next session of Parliament need to do’. 

A Fairer Scotland for All: Race Equality Action Plan 2017-21

The Action Plan covers the duration of the current Scottish Parliament, until 2021. To ensure the Action Plan remains relevant and tackles the prevailing race-related issues of Scotland, the current Scottish Government will publish a new Action Plan to cover the next parliamentary term. Additionally, a progress report will be published in early 2021, to evaluate the progress made and any new ideas for the next Race Equality Action Plan for 2021 till 2026.

Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2018-2022

Under the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017, the government is required to produce a child poverty delivery plan. In March 2018, the Scottish Government published its first plan, ‘Every child, every chance: Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan

The Delivery Plan outlines the actions the Government will seek to implement between 2018 to 2022, to achieve its 2030 target set out in the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 (see ‘Scope and contents’ above for more information). This delivery plan is the first of three plans to achieve the 2030 targets. It consists of new policies and proposals that focus specifically on the three main drivers of child poverty: employment, household costs, and social security. This includes: 

  • support for childcare after school and in the holidays, 
  • a £3 million investment in a new Financial Health Check service to provide low income families with financial advice,
  • a £2 million investment to test the innovative Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland programme, that helps improve children’s outcomes,
  • a new £1.35 million investment to create initiatives for Scotland’s outreach programme to improve young people’s outcomes and life chances,
  • a £500,000 tailored education programme for Gypsy/Traveller groups, 
  • £500,000 for the Healthier, Wealthier Child approach, which provides financial and practical support for families with children at risk or experiencing poverty,/

The Delivery Plan recognises ‘priority families’ as those at high risk of poverty, including lone parents, families with a disabled adult or child, young mothers, minority ethnic families, families with a children under 1, and larger families (three of more children), and places more emphasis and focus on these groups. 

The Government will publish annual progress reports from 2019 in order to assess the newly implemented actions, policies and programmes, their progress on tackling the main drivers of poverty, and announce any new ideas and programmes.

No One Left Behind - Next Steps for the Integration and Alignment of Employability Support in Scotland (NOLB)

Published in March 2018, NOLB sets out how the government will better integrate employability support with other services, like housing, health and justice. It’s aim is to ultimately provide better support for those unemployed, and focuses on providing extra support for groups like those released from custody, or those with criminal convictions. Their delivery plans are still yet to be implemented.  

National Performance Framework 2018 (NPF)

Under the Community Empowerment Scotland (2015) Act, Part 1 ‘National Outcomes’, the Scottish Government are required to determine ‘national outcomes’ for Scotland, which ‘must have regard to the reduction of inequalities of outcomes which result from socio-economic disadvantage.’ The National Outcomes are developed through consultation with appropriate bodies, which includes the public, practitioners and experts, and promotes Scotland’s commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The Framework outlines the purpose of the Government’s work, ‘to focus on creating a more successful country with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish through increased wellbeing, and sustainable and inclusive economic growth’; which consequently shape the National Outcomes. The National Outcomes inform the Government’s broad policy aims and goals in eleven policy fields:

To find out more information on National Performance Framework, including its progress and performance, visit their website

Delivering for Today, Investing for Tomorrow: The Government’s Programme for Scotland 2018-19

In September 2018, the Scottish Government published Delivering for Today, Investing for Tomorrow: The Government’s Programme for Scotland programme (Scottish Government, 2018), which outlines their plan of action for the period, 2018 to 2019. It builds upon its predecessor, A Nation with Ambition: the Government’s Programme for Scotland 2017-2018. The programme is informed by the 2018 National Performance Framework: National Outcomes (see above for more information). The programme embodies the Government’s continued commitment to tackling inequalities and poverty, and ensuring equality of opportunity for Scottish children and young people. 

The programme contains broad policies that affect all Scottish citizens, but also outlines policies affect young people’s lives specifically:

  • the economy: achieve equality of opportunity in employment for young people, and provide opportunities for young people to develop skills not prevent them from being NEET; 
  • education: provisions to close the attainment gap between the least and most disadvantaged children and young people, develop a school- and teacher-led education system, and a commitment to widening access to university through free tuition and bursaries;
  • tackling poverty: through the implementation of the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan (for more information see above).
  • youth mental health services: achieve better mental health outcomes for young people (for more information see ‘Mental health’, in article on ‘Access to quality services’, section titled ‘Health care’).
  • youth justice system: expand the current ‘whole systems approach’ (for more information see ‘Youth justice system’, in article on ‘Inclusive programmes for young people’, section ‘Programmes specific for vulnerable young people’).
  • the culture strategy: for more information see section on ‘Current debates and reforms’.  
  • children and young people’s rights: the government will incorporate the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into domestic law.