As a campaigning organisation, we fight for the rights of people with sight loss. Our priorities are to:

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1 Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) Scotland response Public Procurement: A Consultation on Changes to the Public Procurement Rules in Scotland A focused response Procurement reform may sound dry and distant but the rules surrounding public contracts touch people's lives. They can make a significant difference to blind and partially sighted people in terms of goods and services and the accessibility of buildings and technology as well as employment. RNIB Scotland appreciates the wide-ranging nature of the Scottish Government's 63-question consultation on changes to Scotland's procurement rules. The larger part of the draft regulations are beyond our organisation s remit. However, as Scotland s largest organisation of blind and partially sighted people, we welcome the opportunity to respond to this consultation and have focused our response on questions 1 and 5 of the consultation questionnaire to raise the issues of accessibility and employability. Context - about us As a campaigning organisation, we fight for the rights of people with sight loss. Our priorities are to: Stop people losing their sight unnecessarily Support independent living for blind and partially sighted people Create a society that is inclusive of blind and partially sighted people's interests and needs. The number of registered blind and partially sighted people in Scotland now stands at around 34,500. However, registration is voluntary and research indicates that as few as 23-38% of eligible people are actually registered. There are around 188,000 people in Scotland with significant sight loss and the number of Scottish people with sight loss could almost double to 400,000 between now and 2030 due to our ageing population and the persistently poor health that continues to disadvantage many of our communities.

2 Questions Q1 What are your views about what should be included in this Statutory Guidance? Please explain your answer. The 188,000 people who live with sight loss in Scotland face a constant battle to achieve access to information, online services, digital products, manufactured goods and indeed, often, public buildings. This problem persists despite legislation such as the Equality Act We know from evidence in the USA and elsewhere that procurement rules which require accessibility for disabled people have been instrumental in improving access to many goods and services. This aspect of accessibility is not expressly mentioned in the consultation document itself. We would like to underline our support for the strengthened accessibility requirements contained in Article 42 (Technical specifications) of Directive 2014/24/EU. In particular, within the new Directive's Article "The technical specifications as defined in point 1 of Annex VII shall be set out in the procurement documents. The technical specification shall lay down the characteristics required of a works, service or supply" - the key word is shall. Together with European colleagues, we welcome the shift from the previous may to shall and urge the Scottish Government to maintain this change in the final Scottish rules. We are also welcomed the last paragraph of Article "Where mandatory accessibility requirements are adopted by a legal act of the Union, technical specifications shall, as far as accessibility criteria for persons with disabilities or design for all users are concerned, be defined by reference thereto." We strongly believe that the Government should draw up clear guidelines regarding the application of the Directive s revised accessibility criteria for persons with disabilities. These should 1

3 include specific and narrow parameters for when the Directive wording except in duly justified cases applies. It is our understanding that the except in duly justified cases caveat, which appears in the fourth paragraph of Article 42.1, is intended to be used only under very exceptional circumstances, and should not centre on financial considerations. RNIB Scotland has long campaigned for the adoption of such mandatory standards. In 2011 the European Commission promised an EU Accessibility Act in We are still waiting and we urge the Scottish Government to support our calls for such an Act. Q5 Is there still a case for reserving contracts for supported businesses in Scotland? Yes x No There are an estimated 8,500 people of working age in Scotland who are blind or partially sighted. But people with sight loss are amongst the most disadvantaged groups in society when it comes to employment. While the employment rate of disabled people in general continues to increase, the position of blind and partially sighted people has remained almost static (29 per cent of blind and partially sighted people in employment compared to 76 per cent in the general population). Even in good times the unemployment rate is more than twothirds. In times of economic downturn, blind and partially sighted people face an even more disproportionate disadvantage. For almost a decade RNIB Scotland has campaigned to ask Scottish politicians at all levels to actively support blind and partially sighted people, and others with disabilities, by applying Article 19 of the Directive 2004/18/EC on public procurement. In 2008 RNIB Scotland published Article 19 Making It Work for People with Sight Loss: A guide to how the European Union s Article 19 directive offers an opportunity for public sector procurement to engage with supported businesses. 2

4 We further underlined these opportunities in our manifestos for the Scottish Parliament elections in 2011, the Scottish local government elections in 2012 and the European elections in Article 19 of the outgoing Procurement Directive allows reserved contracts where most, at least 50 per cent, of the employees are disabled or disadvantaged workers. As the Scottish Government consultation document notes, the new Directive 2014/24/EU on procurement will weaken the existing provision. It allows tenders from companies where at least 30 per cent of the employees are disabled or disadvantaged workers. It may increase competition for reserved contracts. This makes it all the more important to maximise use of reserved contracts. A vibrant and innovative supported business sector can play a key role in generating employment opportunities for blind and partially sighted workers. At a recent Scottish Council on Visual Impairment (SCOVI) conference three young visually impaired people making presentations on their experiences of looking for their first job cited the value of being able to get a temporary position within the Royal Strathclyde Blindcraft Industries (RSBI) City Building Glasgow as a valuable stepping stone into work. It is Scottish Government policy that opportunities should be given to disabled people to enter the labour market and that every public body should reserve at least one contract for supported businesses. However, information derived from E Question for written answer to the Commission Rule 117; Catherine Stihler (S&D); Subject: Reserved contracts highlights the opportunities missed for using reserved contracts. 3

5 The top five Member States in terms of use of reserved contracts over were: France (1105); Spain (905); United Kingdom (UK) (570); Slovenia (218); Italy (194). France has made consistent use of Article 19 across the period. There are peaks of use in Spain which issued 602 of its total of 905 reserved contracts in The UK issued 374 of its total of 570 reserved contracts in 2006 and 140 in Use of reserved contracts has since declined sharply to a total of 56 for with only seven reserved contracts issued in There were changes in the use of such contracts over the period. In 2012 the top five countries in terms of use of reserved contract were: France (242); Slovenia (91); Poland (71); Denmark (71); Italy (43). France, Slovenia and Italy were among the top five users of reserved contracts since Poland issued a total of 130 reserved contracts since 2006 and the 2012 figure of 71 marks a steady increase. In Denmark 75 reserved contracts have been issued since 2006, 71 in 2012, an uptake of use perhaps marking a policy shift. It appears that no reserved contracts have been used in Estonia, Latvia, Malta, Portugal, and Sweden. The annexed table places countries by the number of reserved contracts used. On sheltered workshops RNIB Scotland recommends: That the final form of the new Scottish public procurement rules restores the wording of Article 19 of the current 4

6 Procurement Directive which allows reserved contracts where most, at least 50 per cent, of the employees are disabled or disadvantaged workers. This would not undermine the spirit of the Directive but would have the welcome effect of increasing opportunities for people who often face complex barriers to finding or keeping work. That the Scottish Government increases its use of reserved contracts. Although reserved contracts and sheltered workshops are not the sole answer to disabled employment, they offer valuable opportunities that should not be overlooked. For more information please contact: James Adams Manager: Public and External Affairs RNIB Scotland Hillside Crescent Edinburgh EH7 5EA Mobile:

7 ANNEX The table below places countries by the number of reserved contracts used Total France Spain United Kingdom Slovenia Italy Netherlands Poland Czech Republic Denmark Germany Belgium Greece Lithuania Bulgaria Austria Hungary Romania Ireland Slovakia Cyprus Luxembourg 4 4 Finland 1 1 Total

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