Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group minutes: February 2018

Minutes of the meeting of the Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group, which took place on 1 February 2018.

SW welcomed everyone to the meeting. She was chairing the meeting in her role as Deputy Chair, as JMcC had an unavoidable diary clash. She also passed on the Minister for Social Security’s apologies for being unable to attend, but indicated that the Minister was keen to hold a separate session with the Group later in February.

SW proposed that after each agenda item the Group would summarise issues to raise with the Minister and any implications for the Workplan.

She raised the Minister’s proposal, as set out in her letter, that a more iterative way of working be established, with officials bringing proposals at an early stage of development. She highlighted the possible implications for confidentiality and the importance of maintaining Ministerial trust. The Group welcomed this proposed new way of working.

Actions from last meeting

DACBEAG5/010218/Paper 1: Action Tracker

There were no corrections to the minute of the last meeting.

NR highlighted outstanding actions. It was suggested that there should be ongoing action around evaluation and continuous improvement. It was suggested that the proposed work on the Charter and the scrutiny body might be relevant to evaluation methods and evaluation could be picked up under the workplan agenda item.

Agency Recruitment (Ally Macphail / David Wallace)

DW explained his particular role as Head of the Agency Implementation, which would mean leading the overall operation of the agency once ‘live’. Staff numbers for agency operation had grown over the last year to about 50 people. These people would transfer and become part of the new agency.

The creation of the agency along with user process and design were embedded in the programme. The agency will become operational when it delivers its first services, i.e. Carer’s Allowance Supplement, in the Summer of this year. It will be an Executive Agency, i.e. still part of the Scottish Government, rather than an NDPB, ensuring clear lines of accountability to Ministers and Parliament.

Two key strands of work were underway, one on the agency buildings and another on recruitment. On buildings, there would be a ‘hub and spoke’ model, with Headquarters in Dundee and another operations centre in Glasgow. Work was underway to look at the physical location of the agency buildings. Conversations had taken place with individual Group members about what makes a good building, particularly in terms of accessibility. The aim was for the buildings to feel part of the communities that they will serve.

DW confirmed, as was set out at the last meeting, that agency employees will be civil servants and therefore recruitment would be in accordance with civil service standards of fair and open competition.

AM said that the Group’s feedback from the last meeting was useful, and had provided information about process, and about candidates reflecting wider society. Since the last meeting, job profiles had been finalised and officials were now looking to consult on language. He would welcome input from anyone from the Group who was interested in being involved in the process. The COSOP process did not apply to the first round of staff being recruited to administer Carer’s Allowance Supplement and Best Start Grant, as there are no equivalent DWP jobs to consider.

Plans were underway to run an external campaign which was targeted at the Dundee market, which had been researched. Although recruitment had to follow civil service competency based protocols, they were keen to speak to people to demystify the roles and the nature of the recruitment process. Vacancies would be advertised for a 3-4 week window and interviews would be in Dundee. Stakeholder representation on interview panels, for example to avoid unconscious bias, was being looked at. A reserve list of potentially appointable candidates who were not appointed this time would be held for the further recruitment rounds.

Group members raised a number of issues:

  • Have links been made with the local Fairness Commissions, which had looked at approaches to tackling poverty? It was noted that Dundee Fairness Commission had discussed that the dignity and respect values of the agency were of utmost importance and should be prioritised. AM confirmed that there have been links and also emphasised the need to look not only at supporting people through the recruitment process and into work, but beyond this to support in the workplace itself. DW said that he welcomed input from the Fairness Commissions on recruitment and beyond, and that work had been done with the Experience Panels on the name and branding of the agency, acknowledging the importance of getting the language and approach right.

  • How many vacancies will there be, and how many candidates will be placed on a reserve list? It was also suggested that candidates should be made fully aware of what the situation is regarding reserve lists. AM replied that for the first round in March there will be 80-90 posts, with a similar number being recruited again later in the year. They were in discussion with the Scottish Government about how reserve lists should operate, but the intention was that all candidates who pass the threshold required for competency based recruitment would be held. DW confirmed that there would be 290 staff by the end of wave 1. The larger numbers who will make up the full complement of agency staff will be recruited when the wave 2 benefits, including PIP, are transferred.

  • There was a query on how many of the posts would be part time / flexible – thinking about carers, disabled people, people with childcare commitments, fluctuating conditions etc as employees. AM said that 80-90 was the full time equivalent number of posts, and that there was great flexibility within that. DW said that dialogue had been taking place with civil service unions, and that consideration was also being given to the location of the building, e.g. to ensure it was easily accessible throughout the day by public transport.

  • Group members asked whether targets had been considered for protected characteristics. AM said this had been considered, and the intention was to use the first round to test out how well Scottish Government profiling works. This will be evaluated after the first round, with the introduction of targets not ruled out. It was noted that the Irish National Disability Authority do set targets which had been raised since its establishment, and this model would be kept in mind. AM said that recruitment of an intern through the Inclusion Scotland scheme was already being looked at, and that supported interviews had been put in place during a recent recruitment round of Modern Apprentices. The Group commented that the approach to targets tied in with the theme of continual evaluation already discussed.

  • Clarification was sought on internal vs external recruitment and what the range of job types will be. AM said that the internal (Scottish Government) process had been shortened, moving more quickly onto the external process. The job types were: contact centre staff; operational / data entry staff; and first line managers.

  • The Group commented on the short timeframe from recruitment to operational delivery, with a number of processes to put in place. DW said that Carer’s Allowance Supplement had been deliberately chosen as the go live product, as it is a passported benefit, which people either qualify for or not, and in that respect would be more straightforward than some other benefits and require minimal processing. The Group felt that there would, however, still be need for the facility to make contact. DW provided assurances that this would be in place. The Carers Benefit Advisory Group had been looking at Carer’s Allowance Supplement particularly from a comms perspective, and were of the view that it was not straightforward to communicate. They were keen to have contact arrangements in place well in advance due to the anticipated volume of queries it will generate.

AM asked the Group to support and help design a longer term a process that is accessible. He also asked the Group to consider and advise on targets if appropriate as part of that process.

SW wanted to be clear where this Group could add particular value, and raised the need to avoid duplication of effort and to distinguish between what we might each do as part of our day jobs from our role on the Group.

DW said he and his colleagues would make sure the Group were kept up to date. AM clarified that they would welcome advice and guidance from the Group on what is reasonable and proportionate for the agency to operate effectively and fairly.

Group members felt there were a number of areas they could add value, as they were able to give a 360 degree perspective from a wide range of people, providing a ‘safe space’. They also felt they were able to advise on dealing with differing views; supporting people to flourish in roles; balancing perspectives; connecting with people who are not from a rights based background, and may not know the language; they could also give a view on how any EQIAs were being carried out, and how other standards and codes of practice were being upheld. They were clear that the Group does not have accountability for decisions.

SW said there was a clear indication of what the Group could do, and suggested identifying individuals with particularly relevant skills/ knowledge to form a mini ‘workstream’ / main points of contact with lead officials. This Group could undertake ‘deep dive’ type work, looking at things in more granular detail, e.g. job description wording. They would report back to the group and proactively identify emerging issues to bring to it.

LG, EdA and JH volunteered to form this Group [DN: JMcG was not present for this part of the meeting but later identified that he would like to be involved – particularly in light of the Values Based Recruitment Toolkit developed by SSSC].

DW indicated that evaluation of outcomes would be around summer time. What followed that would have dependencies on the next wave of benefits. SW suggested the Group should timetable receiving a report back from officials on the learning from the first round of recruitment, with a view to advising on implications for the next phase, bearing in mind the importance of targets and evaluation, as previously raised.

DACBEAG5/010218/Action 1: The individual Group members identified to work on agency recruitment and operations to hold an initial meeting with the chair, deputy chair and secretary to discuss their input and briefing needs.
Action for: LG, EdA, JH, JMcG, SW, JMcC, NR.
Action by: asap following meeting.

DACBEAG5/010218/Action 2: Liaise with officials to be clear where they and the Minister want the Group’s input and identify areas where the Group can add value around agency recruitment and operations.
Action for: LG, EdA, JH, JMcG – with input from whole Group where appropriate.
Action by: asap following meeting and ongoing.

DACBEAG5/010218/Action 3: Respond to officials’ report back on learning from first round of recruitment.
Action for: LG, EdA, JH, JMcG – with input from whole Group.
Action by: Following report back at the August meeting.

The actions above would also be noted for addition to the workplan.

Charter – update on workstream (Sally Witcher)

SW gave an update. She and JMcC had spoken with the lead charter official on 31st January. Officials were viewing the development of the charter as a research rather than policy exercise. Officials planned to discuss charter development with the Minister. There was a need to identify the Group’s potential roles, whether advisory regarding content or process, or as part of a means of delivering the process, e.g. by convening events for external stakeholders. The charter would be issued in time for the first benefit going live, i.e. by October.

A draft research plan was being developed and would be available in 2-3 weeks’ time, following clearance by the Minister. A Group workstream on the charter could start by looking at this. Officials were clear that they wished to apply co-production / co-design in the development of the charter, possibly by establishing a small Experience Panel ongoing group, and would welcome the Group’s advice on this.

The Group briefly discussed the structure needed to achieve co-production, including models such as the DRILL (Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning) programme. They also reflected on their recent advice to Ministers on the risks associated with using Experience Panels in isolation. They noted that there was an intention to use other groups too in the development of the charter, and commented that stakeholder relations would have to be handled carefully. They were aware of existing relevant work in this area, for example, the Alliance’s work on seldom heard groups and the existence of other Charters. It would be important to consider how the Charter would be scrutinised and evaluated.

Group members were still in favour of running a workstream on the charter, as discussed at the last meeting. Several members expressed a potential interest in being involved, dependent upon the nature of the input required from the Group, which will be clarified following officials’ discussions with the Minister. Potential input from some non-Group members was also discussed. This would have to be done on a clear and transparent basis, as had been the case with the scrutiny and assessment workstreams. It was felt to be entirely appropriate for workstreams to convene meetings involving and collaborating with expert external stakeholders. It was further agreed that SW would be the lead contact for this work.

DACBEAG5/010218/Action 4: Obtain early sight of the charter research plan and seek clarity on officials / the Minister’s ask re the Group’s input.
Action for: Secretariat, SW
Action by: end February

DACBEAG5/010218/Action 5: Convey information to Group members and identify suitable members to form charter workstream.
Action for: Secretariat, SW, Group members
Action by: mid March

DACBEAG5/010218/Action 6: Consider the convening of non-Group members whose expertise would add value to the charter workstream. Ensure the basis of their involvement is clear and transparent.
Action for: Secretariat, SW, identified workstream members
Action by: end March

The workplan would be amended to reflect these actions. Group members also identified the following points relating to the charter which should be flagged when they met the Minister:

  • The charter’s readiness for 1st wave benefits, i.e. tightness of time for developing the Charter.
  • That it must be written within 6 months of the Bill being enacted.

Assessment Workstream update (Tressa Burke)

TB gave an update. The full workstream met on 14th December. It has been identified that the workstream needs timeframes from Scottish Government and information on the progress of the Discovery work. A written update from Scottish Government officials at that meeting indicated that an Options Appraisal was being undertaken at that time. That work had now been completed and submitted to the Minister, and the Group has requested sight of that for comment. The Minister had indicated that both officials and the workstream should narrow their focus to look at specific immediate issues. A Terms of Reference for the workstream had also been prepared.

A further work planning meeting with a smaller group took place on 29th January, which was attended by a policy official. In line with the letter from the Minister setting out new iterative ways of working, the workstream now planned to work with officials in this manner.

Although in future the workstream should have early sight of work under development, it will also comment on completed pieces of work, e.g. Duration of Awards and the Options Appraisal.

It was clear that the Minister wanted advice on the key pieces of evidence / sources of information that could be drawn upon to promote high quality stage 1 decision making, how these should be prioritised and how the data could be obtained/ accessed. It was therefore decided to spend the next part of the meeting discussing this topic, to form the basis of an advice note to Ministers. Issues raised in this discussion can be found in ANNEX A to this note.

SW suggested that an advice note was prepared based on the issues raised, and that Group members should email TB with further thoughts.

DACBEAG5/010218/Action 7: Prepare advice note to Ministers from the assessment workstream on sources of information, with further input from assessment workstream members.
Action for: TB, Group members, assessment workstream members
Action by: Complete following assessment workstream meeting on 22 Feb. [DN: agreed following meeting].

Stage 2 Bill update

DACBEAG5/010218/Paper 2: SG Stage 2 Amendments

This item was for update only, as the situation with amendments was ongoing / evolving. Items raised in amendments could be cross referenced to the Group’s issues log.

The Group noted the following points:

  • JP welcomed that the Group’s scrutiny recommendations had been received and reflected positively. However she had asked for clarification around proposals that some regulations would be out of scope, whereas in the Group’s recommendations none would be.
  • Scrutiny interim arrangements – the Group discussed the intention not to set up an interim body but to use existing groups, including potentially this one, and the issues of capacity and expertise raised by that.
  • Uprating – it was noted that there was no reference to Carers Allowance.
  • Short term assistance (this will be in regulations not the Bill) would mean the link with Carers Allowance would be lost, and during redetermination carers would have no income.
  • The amendments on overpayments were welcomed by the Group.
  • The Group felt the definition of a ‘reasonable person’ may need to be strengthened, as this should be based on individual’s circumstances not a specific benchmark.
  • It was noted that appointees were not provided for through primary legislation amendments.
  • Right to advocacy – there is a risk that people with learning disability whose right to advocacy is currently captured under mental health legislation will lose that right when (correctly) learning disability is removed from that legislation.

The Group discussed the difficulty of separating out which issues should be raised by the Group and which were for their own individual organisations. It was seen as crucial that the Group maintain an advisory rather than lobbying role. They had a role in sharing issues that others might not be aware of, but not in pushing issues where arguments have already been well-rehearsed. However the Group may revisit points that have already been made elsewhere, where they have value to add on, e.g. principles and future-proofing.

The Group saw their role as testing out whether proposals uphold dignity and respect. Where principles are not being upheld, they would see it as their job to point this out and make positive suggestions. They also saw their role as being forward looking, for example in considering how the new system can contribute to the wellbeing of the country.

Of the issues raised, the following were identified to raise at the Ministerial meeting:

  • scrutiny
  • carers issues

Workplan / ways of working

DACBEAG5/010218/ Paper 3: New Workplan draft
DACBEAG5/010218/ Paper 4: Issues Log

The workplan circulated was in draft format for discussion. New items had to some extent been based on Secretariat conversations with officials about where they felt the Group’s work could add value. Issues from earlier items discussed in this meeting would now be added to it.

Carer’s Allowance Supplement

This will be the first benefit to go live, and we had formerly agreed that the Group would provide advice on this by the end of this month. However, the Carers Benefits Advisory Group has already been carrying out work and we would need to see where we can add value. It was agreed that conversation should take place with programme officials, particularly around timelines and the processes and structures that need to be in place for its launch. FC, LG and JP identified themselves to have that conversation, and also to lead on the item on carers’ issues when meeting the Minister.

DACBEAG5/010218/Action 8: The individual Group members identified to work on Carer’s Allowance Supplement to meet programme officials.
Action for: FC, LG, JP
Action by: Make initial contact early Feb


The Group acknowledged the importance of evaluation, as previously raised, and wanted to see it mainstreamed so it was factored into every discussion. The Group need to be asking for everything they look at whether evaluation is built in. They were also aware that their own performance should be evaluated and wanted to do some work around this before the 18 month review of the Group due to take place in October. The approach to evaluation of the whole programme also needed to be considered as an item in its own right. It was suggested that the Group could have a workstream or short piece of work on evaluation, although we are not an evaluation group. It was agreed to invite people responsible for evaluation of the programme to next meeting, and ask them to also report on academic work being carried out.

DACBEAG5/010218/Action 9: Invite officials responsible for programme evaluation to next Group meeting, and consider development of a workstream.
Action for: Secretariat
Action by: Next meeting

Ways of working

The Group welcomed the Minister’s letter of 29th January saying she would like to use a more iterative discussion process in the development of recommendations.

It was agreed that the Group could have a number of ways of working:

  • short sharp ‘sprint’ workstreams
  • long, ongoing workstreams
  • task and finish groups
  • individual Group members taking on responsibility for leading on an area where they have particular expertise
  • more immediate advice arising from discussion of an agenda item

The Group agreed that they would like to undertake some self-review, in the summer, possibly at the August meeting.

A number of other steers on how we prioritise and approach areas of work had also been identified during the course of the meeting, including the avoidance of duplication, a focus on consistency with principles and future-proofing, clarification of the Group’s unique role/ offer and distinctions between members’ role on the Group and their day-jobs. It was further agreed that our agendas should generally include one or two items for more immediate advice.

DACBEAG5/010218/Action 10: Plan self-review / team building for August meeting or separate date in summer.
Action for: Secretariat, chair, deputy chair
Action by: next meeting


NR updated the Group. Recruitment for a full time Modern Apprentice was underway. However, the Group strongly felt that with workstreams and new iterative ways of working the Group needed some additional policy officer level support, with an additional 0.5 FTE being suggested as about the appropriate level. This was no reflection on NR who had done an excellent job. The resource implications of the scrutiny workstream were cited as an example of a very intense period of working that would not have been sustainable in the long term. Group members also considered their personal and organisational resource implications associated with carrying out work for the Group.

DACBEAG5/010218/Action 11: Discuss Group resourcing with officials / Minister
Action for: Chair
Action by: early Feb


There were some concerns that a meeting in February with the Minister might be difficult for some members to attend due to short notice. It was agreed to explore whether the date for meeting the Minister could be in March, if this would mean more Group members could attend. Consideration would have to be given to handling of any time sensitive issues affected by moving this back.

The next meeting of the Group will be on Thursday 26 April in Glasgow (Glasgow Caledonian University tbc)

Thanks and Close

Attendees and apologies


  • Sally Witcher (chair) (SW)
  • Shaben Begum (SBe)
  • Tressa Burke (TB)
  • Fiona Collie (FC)
  • Chris Creegan (CC)
  • Etienne d’Aboville (Ed’A)
  • Lucinda Godfrey (LG)
  • Jatin Haria (JH)
  • Jim McGoldrick (JMcG) (pm only)
  • Ewan MacDonald (EMacD)
  • Angela O’Hagan (AO’H)
  • Judith Paterson (JP)
  • Frank Reilly (FR)
  • Carol Tannahill (CT)
  • Billy Watson (BW)


  • Sandra Black (SBl)
  • Sarah Hammond (SH)
  • Jim McCormick (JMcC)
  • Alan McDevitt (AMcD)
  • Ian Welsh (IW)

In attendance / guest speakers

  • Ally Macphail (Scottish Government) (AM)
  • David Wallace (Scottish Government) (DW)


  • Nicola Radley (NR)
  • David Taggart (DT)


Email: ceu@gov.scot
Telephone: 0300 244 4000

Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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