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Agency Operations Reference Group: terms of reference

Published: 15 Mar 2018

Terms of reference for the Agency Operations Reference Group.

15 Mar 2018
Agency Operations Reference Group: terms of reference


In line with the Scottish approach to Government, this Agency Operations Reference Group ("the Group") will bring together experts and practitioners, who have a knowledge and understanding in delivering effective services to people across Scotland, to help inform decisions Scottish Ministers will take on the delivery operations of the Scottish social security agency.

In developing social security services in Scotland the Scottish Government want to take an ambitious and innovative approach. The Group will therefore consider fresh ideas on how to deliver services differently to provide a person centred approach, with the agency present where people already visit and embedded into communities to become a familiar and valued partner in the public sector.


In response to views expressed by the people of Scotland, including through the consultation on social security, Scottish Ministers have determined that the new social security agency will:

have an efficient centralised function as well as providing locally accessible face-to-face pre-claims advice and support, co-located, where possible, in places that people already visit. This approach aims to provide both a consistency of service across Scotland, irrespective of where an individual lives, and a more responsive service.

The key areas for the Group's consideration are therefore:

Practicalities of delivering services – including challenges and good practices, identifying what constitutes good services both locally and nationally, how to deliver a consistent standard of service across various locations, difficulties faced by mobile working staff, delivering to urban and rural communities and setting up of effective agreements between partner organisations where services are co-located.

Co-location opportunities – identify possible options for the agency to co-locate in places that people regularly use. This includes highlighting successful models that co-locate community and public services and reach people who would benefit from the agency's services, suggestions of new approaches that could be taken and organisations to approach on co-location opportunities.

Responsive service – consider the different needs of the people and communities the agency will deliver to and what impact this will have on its local presence such as how accessible services need to be, establishing effective referral processes onto partner organisations, different methods of communications needed.

Agency Operations – consider the methods of communication offered by the agency in meeting the different requirements of people using services, processes for complaints, redeterminations and appeals and role of locally based agency staff.

Agency as a community partner – identify how the agency's services can be embedded with existing support to provide the best outcomes for people. Consider what characteristics the agency needs to develop in order to become a valued and trusted partner in the community.

The design of these services will also be influenced by views expressed through the Experience Panels, whose volunteers include people with lived experience of the benefits being devolved to Scotland.


In addressing this scope of work, where appropriate, the Group will have opportunities to make recommendations to the Scottish Government and lead on discrete areas of work, where support for resources will be considered.

Recommendations from the Group will be considered in conjunction with the wider programme, including the outcomes from work with Experience Panels and the reference and advisory Groups established to help develop and shape the Scottish Government's approach to social security. An illustration of the relationship between the Group and other stakeholder groups is shown in the Social security stakeholder groups diagram.


As part of the Scotland Act 2016 new social security powers are being devolved to Scotland. This includes 11 social security benefits that primarily help disabled people, carers, pensioners and people on low incomes. (A full list of the benefits being devolved can be found on the Social Security Policy page.)

Transferring these benefits requires a large-scale programme of transition, implementation and, where appropriate, reform. When completed it will see the newly created Scottish social security system running in tandem with that of the UK's system. The Scottish Government's priority throughout this work is to ensure the safe and secure transition of 11 benefits for the 1.4 million people who rely on them.

In establishing the new system the Scottish Government's vision is that social security is important to all of us and able to support each of us when we need it. Decisions on policy and delivery in this area will be guided by a set of principles to ensure people are treated with dignity and respect. (Details of the principles are available on the Social Security principles factsheet.)

In delivery of devolved benefits an extensive consultation and detailed analysis exercise was completed to reach the decision by Scottish Ministers that 10 of the 11 devolved benefits will be delivered by a Scottish Government executive agency that will be directly accountable to Scottish Ministers. The delivery of the remaining benefit, Discretionary Housing Payments, will continue to be administered by local authorities.

In April 2017 the Minister for Social Security announced that the new social security agency will have centralised functions delivered through a main office, or offices, and also provide a local presence, where possible, located in places people already visit to provide one-to-one support if required. In doing so the agency will aim to provide a consistency of service across Scotland, irrespective of where someone lives, respect people's views and be sensitive and responsive to their different needs and requirements.

The first benefits the agency will deliver are increased Carer's Allowance from summer 2018 and Best Start Grant and Funeral Expense Assistance by summer 2019.


  • The Group will meet around four times a year, i.e. every three months. It is expected the Group will run until 2021.
  • The Scottish Government will organise, chair and provide secretariat at meetings.
  • Members will have the opportunity to shape the agenda for each meeting, with a standing agenda item for updates on the work of the Social Security Directorate. The agenda will also reflect social security milestones.
  • Any matters that need to be decided on outwith the schedule of meetings may be dealt with by correspondence.
  • Meetings will provide an open and safe space in which members can feel free to discuss and air ideas and concepts.
  • Meetings will take place in accessible locations. If members are able to offer accommodation within their own organisations this would be appreciated. Otherwise suitable Scottish Government accommodation will be used.
  • A review of the Group will be conducted after the first six months to ensure that the remit and membership remain fit for purpose. In addition the Group will have the opportunity to formally consider and review its remit and terms of reference as necessary throughout the life of the Group. A degree of flexibility within the remit will be required as the Group progresses with their programme of work.
  • The minutes of meetings and Terms of Reference for the Group will be published on the Agency Operations Reference Group page on the Scottish Government website.


Members are invited to participate based on their direct practical experience of delivering localised services as well as for their knowledge and understanding of the communities and people who services will be provided for. Meetings will be attended by named members. Any substitutes attending should be notified to the Chair in advance of the meeting.

Members are asked to feedback and share the relevant outcomes from the Group to their organisation and wider partners to help build an understanding of the agency and its activities.

Additionally Group members are expected to declare any conflict of interest that may arise in the course of discussions and not discuss or share any confidential information outside of the Group.

The full membership list, together with the organisations and interests that they represent is listed in Annex A.

Annex A

Name Organisation Representing Nominated alternate
Miriam Craven (Chair) Scottish Government Scottish Government
Andrew Strong The ALLIANCE Health and social care organisations and people who are disabled, living with long term conditions or providing unpaid care Lucy Mulvagh
Jamie Sinclair Building Connections Building Connections and Local Capacity programme. Advising on models of collaborative working across, and within, the public and third sectors.
Sarah Hammond/Julie Podet Citizens Advice Scotland/ Citizens Advice Bureau Experience of delivery of an independent advice network in areas such as welfare reform through both national and local channels.
Robert McGregor COSLA Local Authorities. Experience of local delivery including welfare rights and the Scottish Welfare fund. John Wood
Kirsty McKechnie Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland Low-income families in Scotland. Welfare rights projects include advice on children and families, students and advising black and minority ethnic communities.
Cathy Macphail Department for Work and Pensions UK Government. Experience of delivery of welfare and pension benefits through both national and local services.
Michael McMahon Disability Agenda Scotland Some of Scotland's major disability organisations, many of whom have experience in operational delivery of services.
Harvey Tilley Independent Living Fund (ILF) Scotland Experience of delivery of ILF programme to disabled people through national and local delivery.
Bill Scott Inclusion Scotland Disabled people's organisations, disabled persons, carers and non-disabled people who have an interest in this area.
Andrew Montgomery MacMillan Experience of delivery of advice on welfare benefits through national and local channels. Tony Martin
Kate Burton NHS Scotland NHS Scotland Boards and frontline workers including midwives. Roddy Samson
Ian Pope Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union Scotland Union members in across the civil service and government agencies.
John Downie Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) Scotland's charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises
David Coyne Skills Development Scotland (SDS) Experience of national and local delivery Sharon Kelly