Publication - FOI/EIR release

Disability benefits papers submitted to Social Security Programme Board meeting: FOI release

Published: 3 Dec 2018

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Published:
3 Dec 2018
Disability benefits papers submitted to Social Security Programme Board meeting: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/18/03113  
Date received: 25 October 2018  
Date responded: 22 November 2018
 
Information requested
 
You asked for the "Disability benefits strategic outline case" and "Disability benefits strategic outline case slides" papers submitted to the Social Security Programme Board meeting 10.
 
Response
 
You requested the Disability Benefits Strategic Outline Case and Disability Benefits Strategic Outline Case Slides, as set out in the table of papers previously provided to you under review of FOI/18/ 01709. These papers related specifically to the Assessments element of the disability benefits, and are provided accordingly.
 
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because exemptions under section 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views) and section 28(1) of FOISA (Relations within the UK) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why these exemptions applies are explained below.
 
Reasons for not providing information
 
An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test
An exemption under section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank exchange of views) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. This exemption recognises the need for Ministers and officials to have a private space within which to discuss and explore options before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank discussions at the Social Security Programme Board will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, particularly because these discussions are still ongoing and policy is still being formulated.
 
This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing Ministers and officials a private space within which to explore and refine the Government’s position on Social Security until the Government as a whole can adopt a position that is sound and likely to be effective. This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, so that good decisions can be taken. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between officials, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process, which would not be in the public interest.
 
An exemption under section 28(1) of FOISA (Relations within the UK) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially relations between administrations in the UK. This exemption recognises that individual administrations may need to consider specific needs that may involve frank discussion of other administration’s operations, while also maintaining appropriate relations for long term cooperation without prejudice. Disclosing the content examining current processes is likely to jeopardise the relationship between the Scottish Government and other administrations.
 
This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing internal considerations in Scottish Government policy development to remain as part of internal workings, without prejudicing the Government’s position vis a vis other administrations when there is an ongoing need to work across governments to support the development and provision of Social Security, and ultimately to safeguard the needs of people receiving assistance from different administrations. This element of ongoing service and support could be damaged by disclosure, which would not be in the public interest.

Section 38(1)(b) – applicant has asked for personal data of a third party
An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to a small amount of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, ie names of civil servants below Senior Civil Service, and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Article 5(1) of the General Data Protection Regulation and in section 34(1) of the Data Protection Act 2018. This exemption is not subject to the ‘public interest test’, so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.
 
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Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit 
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000 

The Scottish Government 
St Andrew's House 
Regent Road 
Edinburgh 
EH1 3DG