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Community development is a vital part of effective public health. Let’s use it in our response to COVID-19

23 September 2020

Responding to the publication of the 2020-21 Programme for Government, Colin Ross of the CLD Standards Council Scotland argues that we must use the challenge posed by the pandemic as an opportunity to engage, connect, educate and empower

The Community Learning and Development Standards Council (CLDSC) is the professional body for practitioners in youth work, community development and adult learning.

So we are delighted with the statement in the Scottish Government’s 2020-21 Programme for Government that, “Our experience during COVID-19 school closures reinforced the vital role played by community learning and development in supporting young people and families – a role that will become ever more important in our recovery year.”

This resonates strongly with what CLDSC members have been telling us.

Also very positive from our perspective is the commitment to “develop a lifelong learning strategy that ensures youth and adult learning are integrated within our wider education and skills system”.

There’s a recognition that the issues faced by young people and adults with few or no qualifications have been exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19, further compounding the impact of poverty, and of the need for partnerships between colleges, the Open University and community-based organisations.

We see these commitments as key to the Scottish Government’s aim of ensuring that “rather than return to business as usual, we use this moment to create the fairer, greener and wealthier country that we all want to see”.

CLD practitioners working to engage, educate, connect and empower people and communities are at the forefront of the move from delivering services to people towards a system where people, their families and communities, civic society and government at all levels work together to create better outcomes.

And there lies the opportunity and the challenge. Take public health for example. The Programme states unarguably that “as we adjust to living with the virus we must now embed a world-class public health system for the future”, and that “we will focus on the determinants of health inequalities, and drive forward our efforts to improve mental health and wellbeing”.

From the WHO to The Lancet, commentators have been highlighting the need for community development as an essential part of effective public health; and there is a wealth of good work in Scotland that shows this in practice. Can we join up work across sectors, and shift resources where required, to make this a central and consistent part of the public health response across the country?

The CLDSC has a particular focus on one aspect of the joining-up needed across public services. We believe that the impact of adult learning, community development and youth work practitioners is multiplied when they work in an integrated way.

So, from our perspective a challenge posed by the Programme for Government is to ensure that the new Lifelong Learning Strategy engages individuals, families and communities as real partners, and that it supports and is supported by strategies for community empowerment.

There are similar opportunities and challenges across the Programme. If they are to be met, they require a commitment from all of us, at every level, to look afresh at how we work and how resources are prioritised.

Colin Ross is Policy and Practice Development Officer at the CLD Standards Council Scotland

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About the author

Colin Ross works in Policy and Practice Development at CLD Standards Council Scotland

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Our view on the Programme for Government

Positive pledges on youth jobs and climate, more ambition needed on family support and poverty

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2020-21 Programme for Government

The First Minister announced the 2020-21 Programme for Government on 1 September

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