Publication - Minutes

Agency Operations Reference Group minutes: June 2017

Published: 17 Aug 2017
Date of meeting: 28 Jun 2017
Location: 5 Atlantic Quay, Glasgow

Minutes from the first meeting of the Agency Operations Reference Group in June 2017.

17 Aug 2017
Agency Operations Reference Group minutes: June 2017

Attendees and apologies


  • Miriam Craven, Scottish Government (Chair)
  • Kate Burton, NHS Scotland
  • Sharon Kelly, Skills Development Scotland
  • Anne Lavery, Citizens Advice Scotland
  • Ally MacPhail, Scottish Government
  • Cathy MacPhail, DWP
  • Elaine Paterson, Scottish Government (Secretariat)
  • Judith Paterson, CPAG
  • Ian Pope, PCS Scotland
  • Bill Scott, Inclusion Scotland
  • Jamie Sinclair, Building Connections
  • Andrew Strong, The ALLIANCE
  • Harvey Tilley, ILF Scotland
  • John Wood, COSLA


  • Tony Martin, MacMillan

Items and actions

Welcome and Introductions

Members introduced themselves and explained their interests. The Chair thanked everyone for agreeing to be part of the Group and explained that due to the wide remit and different focus of meetings, there will be flexibility for members to select what meetings they want to participate in and that new members may join as work progresses.

Update on Social Security

The Chair delivered a presentation on the Scottish Government’s vision and principles for social security and the areas that the Agency Implementation team are working on.

It was highlighted that the Group’s aim is to share knowledge and experience in delivery of services to help shape the services of the new social security agency, identify areas of partnership working through possible co-location and raise awareness of the agency and its operations.

While the operations of the agency are still being developed local delivery agency staff will provide pre-claims advice on the benefits the agency delivers, including helping people through the process and completion of forms. To deliver the best outcomes for people this will include providing information on and referrals to other support that a person may be entitled to. It was recognised that agency staff will not replace or have the knowledge of professionals such as Welfare Advice workers, who will remain experts in their areas and provide independent advice sought by people. The aim is for the agency to work alongside advice workers and organisations delivering related services to provide a seamless service for people. To do so members are asked to start thinking about the agency in their daily business and identify opportunities on how it can work with their operations.

An update on the Scottish Government’s development of the agency’s operations was provided, this included the continuing work on IT systems, design of application forms and that thought will be given to the language used by the agency. Experience Panels, that involve people with direct, personal experience of the benefits being devolved, will be heavily involved in helping develop these products. Members were advised that the Scottish Government has also commissioned research into use of IT and digital services, how the pre-claims process will work and is funding a post in COSLA to help work with local authorities on the agency’s local presence. Additionally the Agency Implementation team is also recruiting staff.

A discussion followed this update with members highlighting that focus should be on people’s relationship with the agency, then from this starting point consideration given to methods of engagement, such as face-to-face, digital, telephone.

Members also signalled their eagerness to provide practical input into the Group and, where appropriate, lead on discrete areas of work. However, further thought to this is required including the level of resources and support that would be required and if these could be provided by the Scottish Government. To help with this and give an understanding of the demand for face-to-face services and likely requirements of people using them, a picture of who will require the service and the numbers of people involved is required.

Additionally due to the wide span of operations it was suggested meetings could be thematic based or additional workstreams established to focus discussions and actions. Members could attend depending on their interest and expertise, with also new members joining where appropriate.

Note: Due to video conference technicalities and prior commitments Kate Burton and John Downie left the meeting during this discussion.

Review of Terms of Reference

The draft terms of reference were agreed with a few amendments suggested. This included the Group having the opportunity to feed into what areas of work it covers, such as the role of the agency’s local staff and its implications on the wider sector.

It was also suggested, where appropriate, the Group should have the facility to make recommendations and take forward discrete areas of work, with support for resources being considered.

What Does Local Mean?

The Group held a discussion centring on what local could mean to people and the impact this could have on delivery. Overall it was agreed that local means different things to different people. Importantly, it needs to be accessible, which can be dependent on where people live and when services are available. Even then, due to its transient nature, what’s local can change as people’s circumstances change. For example the time someone is available may vary due to caring responsibilities and what’s local in the summer may be harder to reach in winter conditions.

During the discussion the following points were also raised -

  • It’s what people are connected to whether culturally or through existing relationships with those with common interests
  • It’s where and what people can get to from where they are. Geographically it could be someone’s home, their street, community or town. At a minimum it should be at local authority level
  • It can be virtual through on-line communities people connect with and those that are of interest to them.
  • It can be different for staff whether they are front line, middle or senior management.

To help meet the challenges of delivering local service it was highlighted -

  • An understanding of and being led by communities is important, including taking into account the needs of rural and urban locations and being aware of territorial issues
  • Warm handovers of referrals and strong partnerships between organisations can help reach people where local services are more remote and aide people’s experiences of services. It was also suggested services could work together and combine visits
  • Outreach offerings such as mobile services and home visits can help meet the various demands of being local.
  • Thought should be given to where resources are placed as some areas may need more staffing.
  • Staffing levels should be resourced correctly, relevant training and support provided and staff empowered to make decisions.


The Chair thanked everyone for attending and advised members will be contacted shortly with details of the next meeting.


  1. Members to forward any research documents or operating models on delivering services locally that might be relevant to the work of the Group.
  2. Scottish Government to consider next steps and themes for meetings.
  3. Scottish Government to update Terms of Reference following discussion.
  4. Scottish Government to arrange further meeting in September.