Developing the Social Security Charter: co-design process

Report on the process used for development of the Scottish Social Security Charter.

This document is part of a collection

Executive Summary

The Scottish Government is getting new powers to deliver some social security benefits. Provision for delivering these benefits is set out in the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018[1]. These benefits will be delivered by Social Security Scotland (the Agency).

The Act required a charter for social security to be co-designed with people who had experience of social security and stakeholder organisations. The charter was required to reflect the Human Rights based approach to social security as well as the eight social security principles which are set out in Section 1 of the Act (see Annex A for a list of the principles).

Co-design work took place over six months from June 2018 to December 2018, the result was a draft charter which was laid before the Scottish Parliament in January 2019.

This report describes the co-design process by which the considered thoughts, views and opinions of people with lived experience of social security and stakeholders were brought together to produce a comprehensive, evidence led, robust manifestation of the meaning of the eight principles in the Act.

Who was involved?

People with experience of social security including:

  • 34 diverse people (the Core Group) worked together in a series of workshops
  • 26 diverse people took part in focus groups and interviews
  • 462 Social Security Experience Panel members responded to a survey

A wide group of stakeholders - meaning professionals who represent the interests of and work on behalf of social security clients (see appendix B)
Social Security Scotland staff

The work was planned, facilitated and overseen by Scottish Government researchers and policy officials.

How did co-design happen?

We undertook detailed, intensive and iterative research work and charter drafting work. The research resulted in a charter content checklist and the drafting element resulted in the draft charter.

Input to the draft charter and the checklist was gathered from:

  • Seven day-long workshops with the Core Group including one joint workshop with the core group and stakeholders.
  • Seven deliberative[2] focus groups and six individual interviews with people with experience of social security.
  • A survey of Experience Panels members.
  • A Social Security Scotland staff focus group.
  • Two stakeholder workshops and a series of individual meetings.
  • A debate in the Scottish parliament.

What is in the Charter and why?

The content of the Charter is based on a list of statements that represent what the principles in the Act mean in practice to people with lived experience of social security and stakeholders. We have called this list the Charter Content Checklist (see Annex E). The drafting of the charter has turned this list into a set of commitments that when delivered will give us a human rights based social security system that will encompass dignity and respect for all.

The content checklist will also be used as the basis for a measurement framework against which the implementation of the charter will be monitored.

The draft charter has a 4 page introduction and four substantive sections. The draft Charter will be available to view on the Social Security Committee pages of the Scottish Parliament website in February 2019[3].

Charter front page

The title on the front page is 'Our Charter' with the following tag- line.

"What you can expect from the Scottish Government and Social Security Scotland"

The introduction has seven very brief sections in plain language which participants have used to set the scene for the substantive sections.

Introduction- setting out the background to the changes to social security in Scotland and the eight principles from the Act.

What is Our Charter? Participants included a brief overview to explain what the charter is in plain language.

Who created Our Charter? This section sets out who was involved with the co-design of the charter.

Who is the 'Our' in Our Charter? This section explains that the Charter is important to everyone in Scotland.

Who makes sure that Our Charter is being delivered? Participants included in this section the process for making sure the Charter commitments are delivered and who would be overseeing and scrutinising this.

What is the difference between the Scottish Government, Social Security Scotland and the Scottish Parliament? Contains explanations of each of these and their role should be included.

Who should you speak to if you don't think the commitments in Our Charter are being delivered? Finally, participants included a section that clearly states who people should get in touch with if they have a problem.

All the four substantive sections of the Charter are phrased as a list of commitments saying who will be responsible for delivering them.

A People's Service

"We are here to make sure you get everything you are entitled to."

This section clearly states the roles and responsibilities of Social Security Scotland staff in the process, and the roles and responsibilities of the clients. Participants included commitments for staff to be knowledgeable, kind and flexible, and for clients to give staff feedback to help them develop a better service.

Processes that Work

"We will design services with the people who use them."

The list of commitments under this heading are mostly the responsibility of Social Security Scotland who will design and deliver the processes. Participants included commitments that processes should be designed with people who use them, that they should be flexible, adaptable and inclusive, and simple and clear.

A Learning System

"We will encourage feedback and empower people to deliver the best service possible."

The list of commitments in this section are based around participants' suggestions for the culture of the new system. They focus on: the involvement of clients, the need to own up to mistakes and to learn from them, to build trust and to support their staff, and further commitments to accessibility.

A Better Future

"We will use new powers to invest in the people of Scotland – making a positive difference to all of our lives."

In this section the 'we' in 'we will' is specifically the Scottish Government. The tag-line reflects what participants feel the role the government should play.

This not only captures the role of government but also encapsulates the necessity of positioning social security as important to all people in Scotland.

Next steps

The Charter is being laid before Parliament at the same time as this report is published. After the parliamentary process we will design a measurement framework that will be used to ensure the charter is being delivered in practice.

The measurement framework will be designed to ensure that all aspects of the principles described by people with lived experience of social security are closely and robustly monitored, and the learning from this is used to improve the system.

The same groups of people that have been involved in developing the charter will also input to the development of a measurement framework. Information collected under the measurement framework will be made publicly available through annual Government Social Research publications.


The Scottish Social Security Charter has been co-designed. The process has brought together the considered thoughts, views and ideas of people with lived experience of social security and stakeholders. The people with lived experience that worked on the Charter have been guided by experts in a carefully formulated programme of capacity building and co-design.

The Core Group and other Experience Panel members were the basis of all the charter co-design work. The process was difficult for this group; for many their conditions make it hard for them to travel, be in a noisy room with many people, take part in discussions, and digest a large amount of complex information in a short time period. Nevertheless this group not only undertook these tasks they did them well and the quality of their input is manifest in the draft charter.

The result of this work is a draft charter that expresses what the principles in the Act mean to a wide range of people with experience of social security and who needs to do what to ensure that the vision of a system based on human rights is delivered.


Email: Julie Guy

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