Ill Health and Disability Benefits Stakeholder Reference Group: August 2020

Minutes from the August 2020 meeting of the Ill Health and Disability Benefits Stakeholder Reference Group.

Attendees and apologies


  • Claire McDermott, Chair, Scottish Government
  • Bill Scott, Inclusion Scotland
  • Cate Vallis, RNIB
  • Donna Burnett, NHS
  • Ed Pybus, CPAG
  • Rob Gowans, Citizens Advice Scotland
  • Gill Young, Castle Rock Edinvar
  • Patricia Moultrie, GP Committee of the BMA
  • Richard Gass, Rights Advice Scotland

In attendance:

  • Heather Mole, Secretariat, Scottish Government
  • Alasdair Smith, Commissioner from the Scottish Fiscal Commission
  • Braden Tinline, Scottish Government
  • Claire Mellor, Scottish Fiscal Commission
  • David Ulph, Scottish Fiscal Commission 
  • Deborah McLean, Scottish Government
  • Ella Devlin, Scottish Fiscal Commission
  • Haakon Wiken, Scottish Government
  • Jana Eyssel, Scottish Government
  • Julie Cruden, Scottish Government
  • Laura Tooey, Scottish Government
  • Llewelyn Parkinson, Scottish Government
  • Martin Moodie, Scottish Government
  • Shonagh Martin, Scottish Government


  • Duncan McIntyre, Chair of Learning Disability Practice Network
  • Emilia Crighton, NHS
  • Gerard McFeely, NHS
  • Hannah Ross, COSLA
  • Jim Hume, Support in Mind Scotland
  • Kate Burton, NHS
  • Yvette Burgess, Coalition of Care and support Providers in Scotland
  • Dr Mini Mishra, Scottish Government

Items and actions


Chair, Claire McDermott (CM), welcomed members to the 19th meeting of the Ill Health and Disability Benefits Stakeholder Reference Group.

Minutes, Scottish Government Update and Update on the Expedited Bill

Members signed off the minutes from the December meeting and the June meeting of the group. These will be published on the Scottish Government website.

CM confirmed that all actions from the previous meeting have been completed. CM thanked members for their written submissions on Appointees and Suspensions. CM also thanked members for their feedback on DWP contingency measures.

Members did not have any comments on the Scottish Government (SG) Update paper. CM clarified that this can be shared more widely within member organisations.

Update on the Expedited Bill

CM thanked members for their engagement on the policy requirements for appointees and suspension of benefits. This will help to inform the legal provisions required in the Social Security Administration and Tribunal Membership Bill.

As a result of the groups and wider stakeholder feedback, various stage 2 amendments to the Bill are being considered. This includes appointee safeguarding principles to underpin guidance, periodic reviews and the right to independent dispute resolution. Additional safeguarding measure for adults with capacity that would allow for third party certification of agreement to an appointments proposed by SAMH, are also now being considered.

Provisions on the suspension of assistance and the non-payment of assistance are being considered. These provisions are being developed to ensure they are used in situations where stakeholders have said that it is desirable to enable them to temporarily stop payment of assistance, to ensure consistency and coherence with the current UK social security system, and to strengthen and improve client’s rights.

CM noted that as amendments are still in development, detailed information could not be provided. CM will write to the group as soon as possible setting out the detail of these amendments.

ACTION: CM to write to the group setting out detail of the amendments being made to the Expedited Bill.

End to end decision making and consultations walk through

The Programme team presented on the end to end journey on decision making and consultations, talking the group through the user journey and a series of scenarios that illustrate the proposed design for both Decision Making and Consultations. Members were given the opportunity to ask questions after the presentation.

Julie Cruden (JC) requested that members review and provide feedback on the decision report. She asked that feedback is provided by answering the questions in the decision report feedback pack that would be issued to the group after the meeting by 2 September.

Bill Scott (BS) noted concern about the reliance on online tools. For many people the use of online tools would be an improvement, however; the Scottish Household Survey shows that in 2018, 27% of disabled people did not use the internet. 31% of households with an income of under £10,000 per year, also had no access to the internet. These groups are often the people in receipt of benefits. Officials reassured members that clients will also have the option to use paper forms and use the telephone.

Ed Pybus (EP) asked what work was being done to ensure that the online tools being used internally were accessible. Officials explained that accessibility is a priority when building online tools and they have been working closely with the Digital Accessibility Team to ensure this. The first tool developed, the appointment booking tool has been tested to ensure that it can be used with screen readers etc. It has also been tested to ensure that it is straightforward enough to be used by people with minimal digital skills. The tools will also be tested by disabled people to ensure that they work for them.

Members asked what the definitions of formal and informal supporting information are. Officials clarified that informal supporting information includes information from Local Authorities, Health Sector or Third Sector Organisations. Clients will only require one form of formal supporting information. Informal information includes information provided by a carer or a family member. The policy encourages equal consideration of formal and informal information as a family member or carer may know the clients condition better and will be more aware of the support they need.

Members asked how eligibility criteria such as residency, age and past period of entitlement would be taken into account in the decision making process. This is something being considered at the moment. Various scenarios are being taken into account, such as receiving information early on in the process that makes someone ineligible. Officials need to consider whether a determination should be made early before the client completes stage 2 of the application process. Officials welcomed any thoughts or feedback on this issue. Members would like clients to be signposted to the correct benefit if, for example, they are the wrong age or to the correct agency if they do not live in Scotland. Officials clarified that this is something that will be done however they are also considering edge cases, for example, if someone doesn’t live in the UK and how this should be handled.

Members asked how the Decision Making Guidance would be used in the decision making process and if there will be a way of recording its use so that there is an audit trail. Officials explained that work on this will be done in the near future. Officials will consider how a Case Manager will use all the information they have including the application received and the supporting information and how they will make their decision.

Programme officials thanked the members for their feedback which will be incorporated into the development of the processes.

ACTION: Members to provide feedback by answering the questions in the decision report feedback pack by 02 September.

Third Party Policy

Laura Tooey (LT) provided an update on the Third Party Policy. LT explained that the policy is for clients who need assistance with their applications and awards. The policy is now in place and, due to Covid and an increase in applications, interim guidance was put in place for Client Advisors. Feedback on the interim guidance will be used to improve the full guidance. LT will circulate the policy and confirm whether the interim guidance can be shared with the group.

EP noted that he gave training specific to Covid-19 and welfare advice recently. At this training, Advisors reported problems with implicit consent, however he was unsure how recent these issues are. EP will share any case studies he receives with LT.

ACTION: LT to share Third Party Policy and guidance with the group.

AOB and close

Jana Eyssel (JE) followed up on her request for Assistance with Decision Making Guidance (DMG) and the Medical Guidance (MG). She is setting up a working group that will run in September to review DMG chapters, provide input into the medical guidance and provide written feedback. Members should email JE if they would like to be a part of the working group.

Martin Moodie (MM) explained that they are looking to create a tool that can be used by Case Managers and practitioners to gain insight into health conditions and medications. MM asked members what resources their organisation direct clients to when clients are looking for more information about their condition or medication.

CM thanked members for attending the meeting and closed.

ACTION: Members to get in touch with JE if they would like to participate in the working group for the DMG.


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