The Scottish Government has produced a face covering exemption card, to support those who are unable to wear one to feel more confident and safe when accessing public spaces and using public services.
The Scottish Government was the first of the devolved administrations to produce guidance on the use of face coverings – recognising exemptions where people are unable to, or it would be inappropriate to, wear a face covering. These include exemptions due to health conditions or disabilities, or for those providing care for someone with a health condition or disability, or if a face covering cannot be applied and worn in the proper manner safely and consistently.
The current exemption policy was developed in consultation with a disabled people’s organisation and the initial message received was that the onus should be placed on society to be accepting and understanding of exemptions, rather than for the individual to prove their exemption.
However, following further consultation with a range of equality stakeholders, it was determined that a card be created to provide people who are exempt with a tool to help them feel comfortable to actively participate in society without fear.
Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, Shirley Anne Somerville, said:
“Everyone who can do so is legally obliged to wear a face covering where it is mandated by law. But there are some people who cannot, due to health conditions, disabilities or other special circumstances where a face covering may cause difficulty or distress.
“Discrimination against people in this situation is unacceptable and will not be tolerated, therefore we have developed this card in conjunction with a range of equality stakeholders as something which can clearly communicate to others if you are exempt from the regulations.”
The face covering exemption card is branded with the Healthier Scotland and NHS Scotland logos under the FACTS for a Safer Scotland campaign.
A physical card can be requested from Disability Equality Scotland to wear on a lanyard or hold in a wallet, while a digital card is also available to be displayed on a phone, tablet or other device.
Paisley’s MSP, George Adam, is also very supportive of this new initiative and said:
“Wearing a mask or another face covering while out and about is of paramount importance right now so it goes without saying that we should all be wearing one if we can.
“However as noted by my colleague above, there are occasions when those with health conditions or disabilities cannot wear one so no one should have to face persecution or discrimination from members of the public under these circumstances.
“This new card scheme will hopefully go long way towards helping those exempt from wearing a face covering feel more at ease when shopping or going about their daily activities, and with any luck will equally serve as a reminder to us all to be more considerate and kind moving forward.
“These are undoubtedly challenging and difficult times, but harassing others will not make the current climate any more manageable.
“I know many people in Paisley unable to wear a mask will be grateful that the Scottish Government have taken this step.”
Morven Brooks, Chief Executive Officer of Disability Equality Scotland, said:
“Since face coverings became mandatory, we have been inundated with calls from our members, many of whom cannot wear face coverings for a variety of health reasons.
“The launch of the Scottish Government exemption card will help disabled people to feel more comfortable and confident to go about their daily lives free from fear of harassment and abuse.”
Joseph Carter, Head of Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation Scotland, said:
“We are pleased that a Government backed exemption card has been created and we hope this will ensure no one faces any more prejudice during this very stressful time.”
Physical and digital cards are available to request online from 29 October at www.exempt.scot or via a free helpline on 0800 121 6240.