Publication - Minutes

Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group minutes: November 2019

Published: 30 Apr 2020
Date of meeting: 14 Nov 2019

Minutes of the meeting of the Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group, which took place on 14 November 2019.

Published:
30 Apr 2020
Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group minutes: November 2019

Attendees and apologies

Attendees

  • Jim McCormick (Chair) (JMcC)
  • Tressa Burke (Deputy Chair) (TB)
  • Fiona Collie (FC)
  • Jatin Haria (JH)
  • Lucinda Godfrey (LG)
  • Angela O’Hagan (AO’H)
  • Andrew Strong (AS)
  • Etienne d’Aboville (Ed’A)
  • Frank Reilly (FR)
  • Carol Tannahill (CT)
  • Alan McDevitt (AMcD)
  • Ed Pybus (EP)
  • Carolyn Lochhead (CL)
  • Bill Scott (BS)

Apologies

  • Sarah Hammond (SH)
  • Ewan MacDonald (EMacD)
  • Shaben Begum (SB)

In Attendance

  • Shirley-Anne Somerville (Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People) (The Cabinet Secretary)
  • Nicola McBain (Social Security Scotland) (NMcB)
  • Kate Thomson-McDermott (Scottish Government) (KTM)
  • Ellen Searle (Scottish Government) (ES)
  • Nathan Gale (Scottish Government) (NG)
  • Claire McDermott (Scottish Government) (CMcD)

Secretariat

  • David Hilber (DH)
  • Kirsty Milligan (KM)

Items and actions

Welcome and Introductions

JMcC welcomed everyone to the meeting, especially the Cabinet Secretary, the new members of the group, and the new group secretariat. He explained the group is now two and a half years through its four year remit.

He reflected that the relationship between the group and government officials feels improved, as exemplified by the group receiving early information from officials to focus their discussion. This has led to the group having a clearer understanding of its remit and a clear understanding of social security: an anchor in an uncertain world.

He explained that the theme of recent advice was connecting social security to wider support; that social security should act as a catalyst to improved lives more generally.

He finished by confirming that the group is a trusting but challenging space, which must be maintained to ensure quality advice is provided.

The Cabinet Secretary agreed the group must remain a trusting and challenging space, and thanked the group for its clear impact. She reflected that the pace of change of social security in Scotland is significant, which only makes what the Government has achieved and hopes to achieve, even more remarkable. She highlighted that the upcoming case transfer will be especially challenging as exemplified by the difficulties faced by DWP. Because of this, a safe and secure transition to the new system must remain the Government’s top priority.

The Cabinet Secretary reiterated that the group is making a genuine difference to Scottish social security policy, but reminded the group that she cannot always accept all of their advice. However, she affirmed she will always provide frank explanations when she cannot.

The Cabinet Secretary explained that Disability Assistance for Working Age People - DAWAP (as currently named) - needs more detail and suggested the group work to determine the best way to make change. She finished by noting that there are limitations to what can be achieved in the short term due to time and budget restraints. Significant change in the short term risks creating a two-tier system in the UK, so we must focus on what is achievable, but there is scope for broader changes in the future, which we must not lose sight of.

JMcC finished this portion of the meeting by pointing out that Brexit and the general election in Dec 2019 only add further uncertainty to the policy landscape, so the group must remain clear and focused on what is possible.

Questions and answers with the Cabinet Secretary

After opening statements, the Cabinet Secretary took questions from the group.

 JMcC thanked the Cabinet Secretary for her time and responses to the groups questions.

DACBEAG12/241119/Action 1
Secretariat to ask group if they would like further engagement with SG officials on EQIAs and facilitate meetings if so
Action for: Secretariat Action by: end of Dec 2019

Presentation on the Agency Consultation on Mainstreaming Equality Outcomes

NB then provided a presentation on the current equalities monitoring strategy of Social Security Scotland (the agency) and explained the consultation on the strategy is now open.

https://consult.gov.scot/social-security/social-security-mainstreaming-equality/

Importantly, the five draft outcomes of the plan are:

  • Social Security Scotland will deliver a seamless service that is inclusive and where our clients are able to access the support they need.
  • Social Security Scotland will have a culture built on inclusivity where differences are supported, our people feel valued and they have opportunities to reach their full potential.
  • Social Security Scotland will be an employer of choice and through our recruitment process we will look to build a workforce that is representative of the population of Scotland.
  • Social Security Scotland uses the equality data (evidence) collected from clients, our people and other sources to respond to feedback and continually improve the service provided to all clients.
  • Social Security Scotland’s service is delivered through having established partnerships with relevant public sector, third sector and community bodies providing clients person centred advice no matter their circumstances

JH asked if there was a legal requirement to report on these outcomes and NB explained that there was no legal requirement, but the agency would report on them anyway. JH welcomed the agencies voluntary reporting, but highlighted that a lack of a legal requirement makes it difficult to hold the agency to account.

TB asked how the assessment process is taking equalities into account. She explained that trauma can, for example, change people’s abilities to pass tests. NB agreed she could provide further details in this matter.

JMcC explained that robust data is so important to tracking equalities and determining where improvements need to be made. The voluntary nature of equalities data makes it much harder to collect, so progress must be made in that regard.

DACBEAG12/241119/Action 2
Secretariat to request further details from NB on this issue and provide feedback to the group
Action for: Secretariat Action by: end of Dec 2019

DAWAP policy advice requests

NG and CMcD then talked through the paper NG had prepared and previously distributed to the group which aimed to focus the groups discussion on where their advice would be most helpful in regards to DAWAP. J

McC asked if this Christmas deadline would be the last chance to provide advice. CMcD answered that, for day one, yes this was it. Time tabling of the programme is happening imminently as is the drafting of the regulations. She also stressed that the larger the changes the group suggested in the short term, the more difficult they would be to implement.

JMcC highlighted that other literature from SG officials could be helpful in drafting its advice.

Questions and answers with SG Officials

The group then asked NG and CMcD questions on their paper to help focus their advice. CMcD concluded by explaining that SG are considering what would happen if there was a large spike of applications for DAWAP on the first day and working on options to manage this. She suggested SG may come back to DACBEAG for guidance on how this can best be handled. 

Group Work – Advice Development

The group then split into two subgroups to discuss the advice requested and develop conclusions. CMcD and NG each joined one of the groups to answer any follow up questions.

Reflections

The last part of the meeting was used to reflect on the day and begin firming up the advice.

The group agreed on a sign off panel for this advice note: BS, CL, and FC volunteered.

 The group decided it would not formally respond to the agency consultation on equalities monitoring but that individual members would respond in their own professional capacities.

The group decided it would take a case by case approach to deciding whether or not to reply to the Cabinet Secretary’s decision not to accept recommendations.

The group asked if the Secretariat could find out where the SG was with outstanding responses.

DACBEAG12/241119/Action 4
Secretariat to determine what responses are outstanding and feedback progress to the group.
Action for: Secretariat Action by: end of Dec 2019

AOB

None

Next Group meeting will take place in February in Glasgow (time and date tbc).

Thanks and close.

Action Log

Details Action for Action by
Ask group if they would like further engagement with SG officials on EQIAs and facilitate meetings if so Secretariat End of Dec 2019
Request further details from NB on how equalities are feeding into assessment process and feedback to the group Secretariat End of Dec 2019
Determine what other literature might be helpful and source it for the group Secretariat End of Dec 2019
Secretariat to determine what responses are outstanding and feedback progress to the group Secretariat End of Dec 2019

Contact

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

Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group