Publication - Minutes

Agency Operations Reference Group minutes: December 2017

Published: 15 Mar 2018
Date of meeting: 13 Dec 2017
Date of next meeting: 7 Mar 2018
Location: Spectrum House, Edinburgh

Minutes of the meeting of the Agency Operations Reference Group held on 13 December 2017.

15 Mar 2018
Agency Operations Reference Group minutes: December 2017

Attendees and apologies


  • Miriam Craven, Scottish Government (Chair)
  • Sally Dyson, SCVO
  • Cathy Macphail, DWP
  • Grant McDougall, Skills Development Scotland
  • Robert McGregor, COSLA
  • Kirsty McKechnie, CPAG
  • Michael McMahon, Disability Agenda Scotland
  • Tony McMahon, MacMillan
  • Phyl Meyer, Inclusion Scotland
  • Andrew Montgomery, MacMillan
  • Elaine Paterson, Scottish Government (Secretariat)
  • Ian Pope, PCS Scotland
  • Annabelle Ridley, Citizens Advice Scotland
  • Roddy Samson, NHS Scotland
  • Bill Scott, Inclusion Scotland
  • Andrew Strong, The ALLIANCE
  • Polly Tolley, Citizens Advice Scotland

In attendance

  • Karen Adams, Scottish Government
  • Bryan Goodfellow, Scottish Government (presenter)
  • Angela Keane, Scottish Government (presenter)
  • Jane Kerr, Scottish Government
  • Graeme Lockhart, Scottish Government (presenter)
  • Ally Macphail, Scottish Government
  • Tracy McIntyre, Scottish Government
  • Gerry Wilson, Scottish Government (presenter)


  • Kate Burton, NHS Scotland
  • John Downie, SCVO
  • Anne Lavery, Citizens Advice Scotland
  • Jamie Sinclair, Building Connections
  • Harvey Tilley, ILF Scotland

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Chair thanked everyone for attending. It was noted that the minutes from the last meeting were agreed and actions cleared.

Members were also thanked for their continued input and support into these meetings which is influencing the approach we take. For example, following the session in September on creating the right environment for agency buildings two workshops on accessibly have been planned. The first took place earlier in December, the results of which are being fed into the planning and design of the agency’s central buildings.

Update on social security

The Chair updated members on the progress in planning for local delivery, which has seen initial meetings being held with all 32 Local Authorities and with a number of stakeholder organisations. Discussions have focused on making initial introductions and providing an update on social security and the role of local delivery. These meetings have been of great use in aiding understanding of the current landscape and approach organisations are taking in delivering services. Positive feedback has been gained from the meetings with people keen to make sure existing services and the new agency work together to deliver positive outcomes for people accessing services.

Progress has also been made on the joint delivery agreement with COSLA. The document will provide a framework for when the new social security agency is located in council buildings. This agreement has been endorsed by the Minister for Social Security and COSLA Leaders. An announcement on the agreement is due later in the month (The Agreement was published on 22 December and is available on this webpage along with an accompanying news release).

It was noted that the Social Security (Scotland) Bill is continuing through its process. Stage 1 will close on 19 December 2017 and stage 2 commence in January, where amendments will be discussed and agreed.

With regards to operational delivery; work is underway to make sure people receive a seamless support between the agency’s main offices and the local delivery. Thought is also being given to what locations each benefit will be delivered from and the organisations that we need to engage with to inform them of the changes being introduced.

The programme of activity intended to raise awareness of social security benefits is also continuing. Current activity includes meeting with COSLA and other organisations to develop a targeted approach to help increase the take-up of benefits.

Recruiting a diverse workforce

Scottish Government representatives delivered a session on the aim to employ a diverse workforce in the agency that will reflect the spectrum of Scottish society. To deliver this it is important that the recruitment process is as accessible as possible and opportunities are available to everyone. The Scottish Government is therefore engaging with various employment and disability groups to understand the issues and barriers people face to civil service employment. Members’ advice was also sought on the following questions:

  • What are the issues and barriers that stop people from applying for civil service jobs and how can they be removed?
  • What are the essential things the agency should be focusing on in our recruitment process?

A Group discussion followed with the main messages being raised summarised at Annex A. This included the need to make people aware that adaptations can be made and people will be supported in their employment. Creating the right culture, recruiting to the values of the agency and providing a narrative of how the role will contribute to wider society were also suggested as being useful in making the posts attractive. To help reach a varied audience engagement with organisations that support specific communities should be made.

These suggestions will be taken into account when designing the agency’s approach to recruitment. Additionally it was agreed that progress on recruitment will be feedback at a later Group meeting and further consultation sought.

Designing services for social security

Scottish Government officials updated the Group on progress of the digital offerings for social security. A digital where appropriate approach is being taken, that means people will be given a choice in how they wish to engage with the agency, including through on-line, by telephone and face to face contact. It is the aim to make digital services as accessible as possible and help cut down on duplicate applications and requests. Additionally in supporting backroom functions the systems being developed will look to streamline processes and increase efficiency.

In delivering systems the objective is to have one system that will support the 11 benefits being devolved and have capacity to take on more, if needed. The strategy is to learn from other government and commercial solutions and where possible re-use existing systems before buying and building new ones. As a result an agreement has recently been given to use DWP’s Corporate Payment System (CPS) as an interim payment solution until capacity is built within Scotland. Security is also being embedded into the design of the systems from the start and the Scottish Government’s Cloud Hosting policy being adopted to provide flexibility and scale.

Throughout the development work people remain central and at the heart of the design process. Therefore to help understand their needs and in turn the capability and technology needed user research is being undertaken. This involves running a number of workshops with people who will use services both as a member of public and as staff. For example, when considering the overall service for disability benefits over 100 insights have been gathered from people, including through the Experience Panels and from citizens and health professionals including GPs, Welfare Rights Officers and social workers. The initial messages coming from this user research includes how the process of applying for benefits makes people feel, the uncertainty they face and not knowing where to go for support. The outcomes from the research are being used to build up user journeys and provide insight into people’s requirements. These are then used to feed into and influence the development and design of the services being created.

Following the update a number of points were highlighted by members including the importance of ensuring the accessibility of digital services for all users, including staff, and to learn from the experience of other projects, such as Universal Credit.

Next steps

Ahead of the next meeting members were asked to review the Groups Terms of Reference. It was also agreed that the next meeting will include a session from Scottish Government’s Agency Implementations’ Operations team. A slot on how the Agency can learn from the outcomes from the recent Building Connections project was also suggested. (These outcomes are available on the Glasgow Centre for Population Health website.)

CPAG agreed to host the next meeting at their premises in Glasgow on 7 March 2018.


  1. All Reference Group members to review Group’s Terms of Reference ahead of the next meeting scheduled for March 2018 (the terms of reference are available on the Agency Operations Reference Group webpage).

Annex A.pdf

2 page PDF
138.8 kB