Designing the Social Security Charter: report on the first stage of work

This report outlines approach and findings from the first stage of work undertaken with clients and stakeholder organisations to design the new social security charter.

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3. Working with people with experience of social security: the people

3.1 People with experience of social security

The first group of people the Act states need to be consulted on preparing the charter are those with a physical or mental condition that have experience of the benefits that will be devolved [3] .

Scottish Government officials considered that meaningful input from these people could only be achieved through both a wide or broad approach to cover as many experiences and perspectives as possible and an in-depth approach with a smaller group of people. This was important to allow time for people to learn about the process, to have a number of discussions, and to allow several drafts of the charter to be considered and developed.

Officials considered a number of options for how to cover the depth and breadth needed, consulted stakeholders and people with experience of social security and decided on the following model for engaging people with lived experience:

  • Recruit and undertake capacity building [4] with a 'core group' of volunteers for in-depth work
  • Facilitate individual sessions with people or groups who do not wish to, or are unable to join the core group
  • Run a survey of all 2,400 people registered with the Social Security Experience Panels

3.1.1 Core group

Scottish Government officials agreed that the core group should be made up of approximately 30 people. This was large enough to make sure a range of experience and perspectives were represented and yet small enough to get together on several occasions for in-depth work.

The most appropriate starting point for finding volunteers for the core group was the Social Security Experience Panels, set up in 2017. These were established to ensure that the design of the new social security system in Scotland is shaped by the experiences, needs and priorities of those who will use it. Over 2,400 people have joined the panels.

All panel members were invited to note interest if they would like to be involved with helping to design the charter. Around 300 were interested and they were asked for some demographic information about themselves that would allow analysts to select a diverse group.

A number of factors were considered in selecting the group, including the requirements set out in the Act and aiming for a representation of:

  • A range of the benefits which are being devolved
  • People who are disabled with a physical condition
  • People who have a mental health condition
  • People who have a learning disability
  • People who have a sensory condition
  • Carers
  • A range of other protected characteristics including race, LGBT people, age and gender
  • People who live in rural and urban locations

The core group is made up of 30 people with a mixture of experiences and perspectives. Many are disabled, many have experience of several benefits and have a range of different health conditions. However, due to a range of factors, some protected characteristics are less well represented on the core group.

There is a balance of men and women, people from urban and rural areas are represented, as are LGBT people. However, people under 25 are not represented in the core group, and all the volunteers are white British. Officials are working with stakeholder organisations to ensure that these gaps are addressed – details of how this will be achieved are below.

Exact numbers relating to people's demographic information cannot be set out as due to the size of the core group publishing these details could disclose sensitive information. It is also important to note that some of the groups mentioned above may be represented in the core group but have chosen not to disclose this information.

3.1.2 Beyond the core group

Officials are currently undertaking work to engage with groups who are not well represented on the core group. This includes people from minority ethnic groups, young people, transgender people, refugees and asylum seekers, pregnant women/ new parents and Gypsy/ Traveller communities. Officials will meet with people from these groups in a series of workshops, and representatives will then be invited to join the core group to contribute to the charter design process.

The final element of the experienced people input to the drafting of the charter is a survey which will include all 2,400 members of the Experience Panels. This survey will be sent out in October 2018. The survey ensures that all Experience Panels members will have the opportunity to comment on what is most important to them so that this can be reflected in the charter.

3.2 Stakeholders

The Act states that, in producing the charter, Scottish Ministers have to consult with those who work with or represent people whose household income is lower because a member of the household has one or more of the protected characteristics as set out in the Equality Act 2010 (The Act: Part 1, Section 16).

Scottish Government officials understand the importance of including these stakeholders organisations, and a separate stakeholder group, chaired by Dr Sally Witcher, and composed of 27 organisations, has been convened (see Annex B for a full list).

The stakeholder group added value by providing feedback, advice and proposals to both officials and the core group for consideration. The stakeholder group has so far met once on 17 August and will be convened again as more findings emerge from the core group. Key stakeholders with a strong interest in particular principles will also have the opportunity to discuss the content of the charter in more detail.


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