Ill Health and Disability Benefits Stakeholder Reference Group: December 2017

Minutes from the December 2017 meeting of the Ill Health and Disability Benefits Stakeholder Reference Group.

Attendees and apologies


  • Jeane Freeman MSP, Minister for Social Security
  • Claire McDermott, Chair, Scottish Government
  • Donna Burnett, NHS Public Health Practitioner
  • Dr Neil MacRitchie, BMA
  • Ed Pybus, CPAG
  • Graham Watt, University of Glasgow
  • Jim Hume, National Rural Mental Health Forum
  • Richard Gass, Rights Advice Scotland
  • Yvette Burgess, CCPS
  • Michael McMahon, DAS
  • Rob Gowans, Citizens Advice Scotland
  • Dr Mini Mishra, Scottish Government
  • Caroline Keir, Castlerockedinvar Housing Association
  • Emilia Crichton, Director of Public Health
  • Gerard McFeely, Occupational Therapy, NHS Lothian
  • Dean Pemberton, Scottish Government
  • Thomas Grant, Scottish Government
  • Ellen Ferrington Michaelis, Scottish Government
  • Louise Whyte, Scottish Government


  • Rachael McGruer, Scottish Government
  • Ross Trotter, Scottish Government
  • Pat McAuley, Scottish Government
  • Nicola Dickie, CoSLA
  • Beth Hall, CoSLA
  • Catherine Henry, Scottish Government
  • Ruari Sutherland, Scottish Government
  • Leila Akhoundova, Scottish Government
  • Kate Burton, NHS Income and Welfare Reform
  • Bill Scott, Inclusion Scotland

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

1. The Chair welcomed the group and Ms Jeane Freeman, Minister for Social Security, to the meeting. She also introduced Michael McMahon, who is replacing Layla Theiner from DAS as well as Thomas Grant and Ellen Ferrington Michaelis who have both joined the Ill Health and Disability Benefit Team.

The Minister for Social Security, Ms Jeane Freeman

2. Ms Freeman thanked members for their time. She provided an update on the progress of the Social Security (Scotland) Bill, including key Scottish Government amendments that would be tabled at Stage 2. The Minister opened up the discussion to take questions from members.

3. EP asked whether the SG would consider introducing the option of making an application for appeal at the same time as a request for a redetermination. The Minister advised that it is important that individuals know the outcome of the decision before deciding on whether to make an appeal as this would frame what grounds an appeal could be made on.

4. There was some discussion about ensuring that, in developing new approaches to disability benefits in Scotland, rurality is considered. JH offered the assistance of the Rural Mental Health forum and, the Minister thanked JH for the offer recognising the opportunity to sense check products and requested that officials follow this up.

5. There was some discussion about the necessity for a scrutiny body in Scotland. The Minister advised that she has always been clear that this would be necessary and it is therefore something she has asked the Expert Advisory Group to provide advice on. She also confirmed that it was her intention to table a Stage 2 amendment to create an independent scrutiny body. There was some discussion on the need for advocacy. The Minister recognised the importance of advocacy and confirmed that she intended to bring forward a Stage 2 amendment.

6. The group also discussed whether the Scottish Government would take action to measure unmet need when the benefits transfer. The Minister confirmed that everyone who is entitled to benefits should receive them. She provided an update on the work underway to improve uptake in Scotland. Members remained concerned that regardless of attempts to improve uptake there may still be unmet need in Scotland – they considered that the Scottish Government should take action to identify this. The Minister considered that this was unlikely to be a priority but asked officials to consider the issue. The Minister thanked the Group for their work on award duration and asked for an update. RG, the workstream lead provided an update on the key recommendations.

7. The Minister thanked members for their time and departed the meeting.  

Minutes and SG update

8. Minutes from the previous meeting were agreed. Members had received a written SG update with the papers. No comments were received.

9. The Chair discussed the 4 action points (AP) from the previous meetings:

  • AP1: international Comparison of Disability Benefits Paper. No comments received
  • AP2: durations of Awards Paper. No comments received
  • AP3: experience Panels Research Plan. No comments received
  • AP4: financial Advisors in GP surgeries. At the last meeting DB invited member of the group to discuss the advice services review her. The chair then discussed the 3 actions that remain outstanding on the action log:

Action 2017/21 We have yet to secure a Social Work Scotland representative. Note: Nicola Dickie has emailed Andrew Gillies (Social Work Scotland) inviting him to join the group- awaiting reply.
Action 2017/12 The data around the benefits Take up campaign is not yet available and so we cannot circulate the figures on that.
Action 2017/42 To ask the group how they would like the meetings to be run/formatted in future. This will be discussed at agenda item 4.

Workshop: the role, remit and format of the IHDBSRG

10. Prior to the meeting, an options paper outlining proposals for the groups future role and remit had been circulated to members. Members were asked to give prior consideration to allow more detailed discussion to take place at the meeting. To help obtain views from across the group, members were split into smaller groups and, with facilitation from Scottish Government, options, comments and views were obtained and recorded. Collated feedback and discussion outcomes will be issued separately to group members.

Review of advice services

11. This review was started following discussions with stakeholders that highlighted on-going concerns about a lack of coherence in public sector funding of advice services. Scottish Government recognised, as one these public funders of advice services, it has a responsibility to ensure coherence in its own approach to specifying and funding advice services, and where appropriate coordination and alignment with the approaches taken by other public funders.

12. We hope to develop a policy that will improve coherence, efficiency and quality in our approach to specifying and funding advice services whilst:

  • achieving greater value for money, reach and quality of advice services
  • improving the delivery of Ministerial obligations and strategic commitments
  • providing improved services for customers, particularly those most in need of help and support

13. Scottish Government recognises the critical role of advice services in helping people to understand their rights and to seek solutions in a range of areas such as money and debt, housing and homelessness, social security and consumer issues. For the purpose of this review we are defining advice services as those services that provide independent advice to individuals on:

  • money solutions to provide financial stability (including income maximisation, social security, debt and financial capability advice and advice on reducing household costs such as fuel costs)
  • understanding and exercising their statutory rights, including how to seek recourse if those rights are not upheld.

14. Anyone on the group who would like to discuss the Review in more detail should contact Donna at

AOB and agenda for next meeting

15. Dates and location of next meeting to be confirmed when feedback has been collated from the discussions on the role and remit of the group.



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