Publication - Research and analysis

Developing the Social Security Charter: co-design process

Published: 9 Jan 2019

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

Developing the Social Security Charter: co-design process
3. The Charter: How did people contribute?

3. The Charter: How did people contribute?


The Act requires the Charter to be developed in consultation with people with lived experience of social security. Ministers subsequently committed to a leading role for this group. The co-design process was carried out over six months from June 2018 to December 2018 and had two distinct elements; an evidence based research element which resulted in a charter content checklist and a drafting and design element which resulted in the charter that was presented to the Scottish Parliament in January 2019.

Both elements were detailed, intensive, and iterative. They included all the groups of people set out in Chapter 2. This chapter is a summary of how the roles explained above were undertaken, the work that took place and how we achieved the resulting documents described in Chapter 4.

Summary of all activity

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[11] focus groups and six individual interviews with people with experience of social security beyond the core group;
  • a survey of Experience Panels members;
  • a Social Security Scotland staff focus group;
  • two stakeholder workshops and a series of one to one meetings; and
  • a debate in the Scottish parliament.

There is a timeline of activity in Annex F.

The process that led to the Charter Content Checklist

The first version of a charter content checklist was produced in Core Group Workshops 1, 2 & 3 and the first stakeholder workshop. This checklist contained statements that represented what people thought the principles in the Act mean in practice. The details of this process and the first list are set out in the interim report[12]. For convenience a brief summary is set out here.

Workshops 1, 2 & 3 consisted of extensive capacity building[13] and facilitated discussion using research questions. This activity focussed on the meaning and importance of the eight principles in the Act to participants in the workshops.

The capacity building took the form of information giving with question and answer sessions, the full list of such sessions is in Annex D. The discussions were based on research questions designed to ensure that we could systematically collect information from all participants. The full list of questions is also in Annex D. All the information from these sessions was scribed and analysed to produce a checklist of statements that reflect the meaning of the principles to the core group and stakeholders.

The later research after the interim report added to and refined the content checklist. This work is detailed here and included Workshop 4 (the first half), the focus groups and individual interviews and the survey of all Experience Panel members mentioned above.

Workshop 4

Workshop 4 was split into two sessions. In the first half we worked on the content checklist (the second half is described below).

In all the workshops from Workshop 2 onwards we presented analysis of the earlier workshop back to the group for confirmation. In Workshop 4 this was the early content checklist which reflected the analysis of the material collected at previous workshops. We asked the core group to confirm whether or not we had understood their points of view and to add aspects that they may have thought about over the intervening period.

Focus groups and individual interviews

The focus groups and the interviews with people beyond the core group both took the same deliberative approach. We began by undertaking an intensive capacity building session. This included giving people the information they needed to understand the devolution of the benefits, the principles in the Act, the charter development process, and how the Core Group had produced the content checklist. Participants were given time to ask questions throughout.

We then went through the checklist item by item and asked the participants to consider the statements in the list and to discuss their meaning to them and their importance.

We then prioritised the content checklist items by using a list for each section and by asking people to identify their top three. Finally, we asked them to consider the principles and the content checklist and to tell us anything they thought was missing from their point of view. In this way we added important points to the list.

This process also enabled testing of the words the core group had used to express themselves. As we facilitated consideration of and discussions around each statement we asked for alternative words or phrases the participants might use themselves to express the meaning of the statement.

This research work collected additional rich information on a wider range of views, opinions and considerations. These were analysed and used to add to and refine the list to ensure that the full range of meanings of the principles were reflected.

The survey of Experience Panel members

The survey was undertaken in parallel with focus groups and interviews. The findings from the survey enabled us to both prioritise and add to the list.

The survey participants were asked to choose the most important statements to them from the list and add anything they believed was missing from the list. These choices were summed together to identify the statements that were most important to the highest number of respondents.

Checklist conclusion

This activity produced a comprehensive, evidence led, robust manifestation of the meaning of the eight principles in the Act to a very wide range of people with lived experience of social security. As such it formed a checklist against which the content in the charter was tested. It will also feature in the next steps as the basis for a measurement framework against which the implementation of the charter will be monitored.

Drafting the charter

The content checklist formed an evidence based list of what should be in the charter. This was then translated into a form of words that comprehensively said who should do what to ensure the new system fulfilled the aspirations in the Act. We worked iteratively in an intensive round of engagement to draft and refine the charter, which included; Workshops 4 (second half) 5, 6 & 7; individual sessions with stakeholders; a further stakeholder workshop; and we also took account of MSP's views as expressed in the debate in the Scottish Parliament.

Workshops 4 (second half), 5, 6 & 7

Workshops 4 (the second half), 5, 6 & 7 all explored ideas for the formats and the specific wording that should be used to reflect the broad content that had been developed by the core group.

These workshops were different to the other work. Information was given and collected as in the previous workshops, however in the drafting workshops the information was acted on and discussed in real time.

In Workshop 4 we asked the core group how they thought the content checklist statements generated from the research should be reflected as more specific commitments or outcomes in the charter. We asked what words they would use to make sure that someone reading the document clearly understood who should do what to ensure the statements, and, by extension, the social security principles were achieved in practice.

The information collected at the workshop was used by officials to write comprehensive plain English content for the charter. Officials also undertook a sense check of the content to ensure the imperatives of the Act were covered.

In Workshop 5 the content was presented back to the core group and they discussed and commented extensively on it. At the same workshop a communications official and graphic designer collected ideas from the core group about the design of the charter.

Officials used the core group comments to redraft the content. At the same time the graphic designer used the information she had gathered to set up a template using Social Security Scotland and Scottish Government branding. The content was then put into the template and became the first draft charter.

There were then two more iterations. At Workshop 6 we collected a round of comments on the draft charter. These were incorporated in the draft and the final draft of the charter was then taken back for comment in Workshop 7 by the core group and stakeholders. The final comments were then incorporated.

Social Security Scotland Staff input

Eight members of delivery and management staff from Social Security Scotland also attended a focus group, facilitated by researchers. We talked them through the charter development process and an early draft of the charter and asked three questions:

  • What are your overall impressions of the draft charter?
  • To what extent is this deliverable from your point of view?
  • What, if anything, is missing from the draft?

We collected and recorded their answers.

Disabled and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group

Key members of the Expert Advisory Group met to discuss and give advice on the draft charter. The group discussed a late draft of the charter and gave advice on:

  • the structure and balance of the draft charter;
  • the content of the charter including the language used;
  • the look and feel; and
  • inclusive communication.

Scottish Parliament Debate

Mid-way through the charter development process a debate was held in the Scottish Parliament. During the debate, MSPs expressed their support for the on-going co-design process and made some suggestions on what should be included in the Charter. As such MSPs who contributed were considered to be an important voice in the co-design process and their suggestions were taken into account by other participants.


Email: Julie Guy