Publication - Minutes

Scottish Commission on Social Security minutes: April 2020

Date of meeting: 7 Apr 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the SCoSS on 7 April 2020.

Scottish Commission on Social Security minutes: April 2020

Items and actions

1. Welcome and apologies, declarations of interest

Present

  • Dr Sally Witcher (Chair)
  • Sharon McIntyre (Member) (from agenda item 3)
  •  Judith Paterson (Member)
  • Dr Mark Simpson (Member)

Apologies

None

In Attendance

  • Nicole Fraser - SCoSS Administrative Officer
  • Fiona Lodge - SCoSS Deputy Secretary (minutes)
  • Terry Shevlin - SCoSS Lead Secretary

Declarations of interest

None

2. Minutes of the previous meetings

The minutes of the January Board meetings were agreed subject to minor amendment. The minutes of the February Board meeting were agreed.

Action – Secretariat to amend the January minutes then publish them on the SCoSS webpage along with the February minutes.

3. Continuity planning

Members discussed a paper by the Secretariat on SCoSS’s continuity planning and short-term work programme in light of COVID-19. The discussion was informed by a letter from the Cabinet Secretary that set out some of the implications of COVID-19 for the delivery of social security benefits and SCoSS’s ongoing work.

Members considered the impact that COVID-19 could have on SCoSS’s statutory duties due to the delays to the draft regulations timetable and that there may be particular implications for the Social Security Charter. The Board agreed to write to the Cabinet Secretary, Social Security Committee and Chief Executive of Social Security Scotland along these lines, stressing that, while SCoSS could add value through investigation and reporting, SCoSS had no wish to generate unnecessary additional work for the Scottish Government or for Social Security Scotland. Members agreed that they would consider SCoSS’s potential future work in light of responses received.

Members discussed the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act and its potential implications for SCoSS, and considered each item within SCoSS’s existing work plan, with a view to considering which should be prioritised and which could be postponed or done differently. Members also considered how SCoSS’s working practices may be affected by COVID.

Action – Chair to respond to the Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People’s letter by setting out potential short term roles for SCoSS in light of COVID-19. The letter will also ask for clarity on the Scottish Government’s approach to ensuring that Charter commitments, social security principles and human rights obligations continue to be met.

Action – Chair to write to the Convener of the Social Security Committee, setting out potential short term roles for SCoSS in light of COVID-19.

Action – Chair to write to the Chief Executive of Social Security Scotland to ask for clarity on the agency’s approach to ensuring that Charter commitments, social security principles and human rights obligations continue to be met; ask for management information relating to the Charter; and to ask how the impact of COVID-19 on the Social Security Charter’s commitments is being assessed.

Action – Members to consider whether COVID-19 may affect the realisation of the expectations contained within the Social Security Charter.

Secretariat informed Members that the Scottish Government is likely to refer draft regulations on child winter heating assistance to SCoSS in May 2020.

Action – Secretariat to ask Scottish Government officials to clarify the relationship between proposed new draft regulations on child winter heating assistance, and relevant provisions within the draft Disability Assistance for Children and Young People regulations, including who will be the intended recipients of child winter heating assistance.

Secretariat informed the Board that the Social Security Committee had asked questions about SCoSS’s scrutiny report on the draft Disability Assistance for Children and Young People regulations.

Action – Secretariat to circulate questions from the Social Security Committee on SCoSS’s scrutiny report on the draft Disability Assistance for Children and Young People regulations.

Action – Secretariat to ask the Social Security Committee clerk to allow SCoSS a short extension to the deadline, to enable us to respond to the questions after SCoSS’s May board meeting.

The Board agreed to suspend publication of SCoSS’s business plan, to allow members to better assess the impact COVID-19 may have on SCoSS’s priorities, objectives and forward planning.

Action – Members to consider at the May Board meeting a timetable for publication of the SCoSS business plan, in conjunction with the risk register, to ensure alignment between the two documents.

Members discussed a paper that Sharon McIntyre was to present as part of a wider exercise to allow SCoSS to capture the views of people with lived experience in its work. Due to pressures of work, Members agreed that this would come to the June Board meeting.

Action – Sharon McIntyre to present a paper on lived experience at the June Board meeting. Secretariat updated the Board on the progress being made on developing SCoSS’s independent website. Members noted the significant delays in completing this work and that this issue may require to be escalated to senior Scottish Government officials in due course.

Action – Secretariat to ask Members to suggest stakeholders who may be willing to support SCoSS with user testing for its new website.

Members considered the potential practical implications of COVID-19 for members’ and Secretariat’s availability, and for SCoSS’s working practices, including that SCoSS would not be able to hold face to face meetings for the foreseeable future.

Action – Secretariat to arrange for the May Board meeting to be held over two half days, using Skype.

4. Continuity planning: communications

Members discussed continuity planning with the particular intention of keeping stakeholders informed about SCoSS’s short–term work plan in light of COVID-19. The Board agreed to publish the letters that the Chair will write under item 3 above, as a means of ensuring effective communication and would issue a tweet to raise awareness.

Action – Secretariat to publicise relevant correspondence between SCoSS and the Cabinet Secretary/ Social Security Committee/ the Social Security Committee, in order to keep stakeholders informed about SCoSS’s response to COVID-19.

5. Improving SCoSS’s scrutiny process

Members considered a paper by Secretariat inviting the Board to consider how it could continue to improve its scrutiny processes. The paper comprised a draft checklist that could be adopted to inform SCoSS’s scrutiny of draft regulations referred by the Scottish Government, and an invitation to Members to reflect on the process for writing SCoSS’s report on the draft Disability Assistance for Children and Young People regulations.

Members agreed the draft checklist and provided feedback on scrutiny processes, highlighting challenges, possible improvements and what had worked well.

Action – Secretariat to revise a paper on improving SCoSS’s scrutiny processes in light of Member’s comments.

6. Rolling actions record

Members noted the actions presented in the paper.

 Date of the next meeting – 12 and 13 May 2020 by Skype for a half day each day.

Contact

Email : info@socialsecuritycommission.scot 

Post:
Scottish Commission on Social Security
c/o Secretariat
Area 2C South (Mail Point 6)
Victoria Quay
The Shore
Edinburgh
EH6 6QQ