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Minimum Income Guarantee Expert Group: March 2022 minutes and meeting papers

Minutes and papers from the Minimum Income Guarantee Expert Group meeting on 28 March 2022.


Minutes and papers

Minutes

Welcome and introductions

Russell Gunson welcomed everyone to the meeting and led introductions.

The minutes of the last meeting were approved, with one amendment to make to the list of attendees.

Updates from workstreams

Mr Gunson gave a brief overview of the workstream meetings that have taken place since the last expert group meeting.

The group was reminded that a planned workstream on evaluation and piloting is due to begin in year one. This workstream will start once the five initial workstreams begin to produce outputs. This is to ensure that evaluation and piloting are considered from the outset. Mr Gunson agreed that a separate discussion with relevant group members will take place when the evaluation workstream commences.

MIGSG4 / Action 1: Discussion to take place between chair and relevant members on commencement of the evaluation and piloting workstream

Action for: Secretariat, chair, evaluation workstream members.

Action by: Before next steering group meeting.

Equalities workstream update

Ruth Steele gave an update on the equalities workstream on behalf of the co-leads, acknowledging the work carried out by Eilidh Dickson in producing most of the written output for this workstream.

This workstream had held an introductory meeting plus two full meetings. Work was divided into overlapping phases with the co-leads currently in a scoping phase which marked the beginning of the living document that the workstream had agreed to produce. Some areas for desk based analysis had been identified. The workstream will then move into a workshop phase which will run from June to September 2022. Ideas for six equalities workshops have been identified, which will be open to all Expert Group members. This will be followed by a research and accountability phase.

Group members recognised the enormity of the task, and acknowledged that it was not possible to cover every possible circumstance. However, the work as planned will ensure that decisions made can be justified from an equalities point of view, and ensure that equalities issues are demonstrably considered throughout the process.

Level workstream update

Rachel Statham gave an update on the level workstream. Key to progressing this workstream will be a session, to be arranged, with Loughborough University on Minimum Income Standards (MIS). Once a date is set for this session with the level workstream members, it will be opened up to the rest of the Expert Group.

The workstream will be looking what a decent income would look across varying circumstances such as different household compositions, rurality and more. Another key area is the Scottish Government priority families and identifying where their incomes are falling below the MIS. The workstream will also consider those with additional costs associated with care and disability.

There was a discussion around simplicity versus responsiveness of a MIG, and the need for the system to not be so complex that it puts people off claiming. It was noted that an additional level of complexity was potentially added by taking account of additional costs incurred by people with disabilities or caring responsibilities, when these are already, nominally, met through existing welfare benefits. In discussion it was agreed that these additional costs should be looked at, with due consideration given to existing welfare benefits.

MIGSG4 / Action 2: Set up a session to explore Minimum Income Standard (MIS) with level workstream co-leads and open this to the wider Expert Group

Action for: Secretariat, level workstream members.

Action by: as soon as possible.

Social security workstream update

Vonnie Sandlan gave an update on the social security workstream. A paper has been circulated but not yet been signed off by all workstream members. The workstream will explore whether a MIG will primarily be a social security payment, or whether social security will be one of the levers in a suite of interventions. The workstream’s work will be set in the context of first principles around the delivery of a MIG. The workstream aim to set out recommendations that are ambitious and achievable, and will be transparent about how decisions are justified, taking on board the workplan from the equalities workstream. The workstream’s thinking had been shaped by the perspective given by the Commission on Social Security’s recent work.

In discussion it was noted that decisions will need to be taken about the treatment of unearned income and wealth for purposes of eligibility for MIG.

Work workstream update

Peter Kelly gave the work update, highlighting the complexities encountered, as had other workstreams. The workstream has set out a series of questions to address, and will start by conducting a literature review, acknowledging that there was a significant amount of existing research around work and how it interacts with social security and basic income schemes.

The workstream will address the impact MIG will have on labour market, pay and conditions, for example, temporary work, flexible hours and pay. The workstream will examine whether a MIG would disincentivise work.

Co-leads have also started to consider engagement with unions, and have already had an initial discussion with creative unions. Engagement with employers will also need to be considered. There were questions about MIG’s potential impact on collective bargaining and pay negotiations. It will be important to ensure that MIG aligns with Fair Work practices. Consideration will also need to be given to the workforce that will deliver the MIG itself.

It was noted that the hospitality and creative sectors are particularly interested in MIG, and that the nature of work in these sectors may provide opportunity to test how a MIG would operate in complex circumstances, e.g. where individuals’ income fluctuates above and below MIS.

Public opinion workstream update

Chris Birt gave the public opinion workstream update. The work has been split into two parts. The first will be around the design and delivery of the MIG itself, which was likely to start later once there were firmer proposals to test. The second will be around public attitudes to a more generous social security system; this would start first, as there was existing research to draw upon, and no need to know design specifics of a MIG.

It was questioned whether there was any need to test public opinion around conditionality and options for a contributory scheme, as these were not likely to form part of the group’s recommendations around a MIG, whether public opinion favoured them or not.

In discussion, the workstream’s role in managing expectation about a MIG as a ‘silver bullet’ was covered, and consideration was given to the participatory methods that may be used.

Ruth Steele gave an update on the lived experience panel tender. The invitation to tender would be issued within the next few working days, and would be live for four weeks. Following a two week period to assess the bids, a contractor would be appointed in mid-May.

Overlaps and themes

Russell Gunson referred to the paper which highlights key themes and overlaps.

In addition to those themes in the paper, several workstreams are looking at groups with additional costs and those furthest away from the Minimum Income Standard. Another emerging theme was simplicity versus tailored support (and therefore more complexity).

There was agreement that commissioning research should be coordinated to avoid duplication and gaps. Given the many overlaps and interlinks, the workstreams will need to work together and good communication will be key.

The design of a MIG was also a recurring theme, and within that, the need to separately articulate what could be done with current powers and what will need additional powers.

Current concerns about the rising cost of living demonstrates the need for a simple MIG for all that will not put people off claiming.

Planning for the interim report

Russell Gunson set out a proposal for the content of the group’s interim report:

  • what is a Minimum Income Guarantee? Explained accessibly
  • what are the societal benefits of a Minimum Income Guarantee?
  • set out the work of the Expert Group so far
  • next steps – recommendations for initial small steps

He highlighted that ways of working collaboratively on the report would need to be developed, and that timing of any commissioning to feed into the interim report should be considered.

Members were broadly in agreement with the proposed outline and had a number of comments, including:

  • there should be clarity about which interventions were considered part of a MIG or steps towards a MIG; for example, the IPPR report of March 2021 suggested that increases in Scottish Child Payment would be steps towards a MIG; similarly, should mitigation of the benefit cap be considered as a step towards MIG?
  • the group should be mindful of the wider context into which the report will be published later this year, i.e. there will be many people facing immediate need due to the cost of living crisis. Therefore the report should aim to set out early achievable steps, targeted to those most in need, and should not set unrealistic expectations around what MIG can achieve
  • MIG should be framed around Covid recovery
  • the MIG foundation principles should form a part of the report, but may need to be framed differently for a wider audience
  • some consideration would have to be given to the role of services in achieving a MIG

AOB

There was no other business.

Private reflections

Group members took the remainder of the meeting for private discussion with no observers or secretariat present.

Summary of actions

MIGSG4 / Action 1: Discussion to take place between chair and relevant members on commencement of the evaluation and piloting workstream

Action for: Secretariat, chair, evaluation workstream members.

Action by: Before next steering group meeting.

MIGSG4 / Action 2: Set up a session to explore Minimum Income Standard (MIS) with level workstream co-leads and open this to the wider Expert Group

Action for: Secretariat, level workstream members.

Action by: as soon as possible.

Equalities Workstream Report

Name of work stream: Equalities

Date of report: 28 March 2022

Report completed by (name, role): Ruth Steele, Head of Social Security Futures Unit, Scottish Government

Workstream Scope: The co-leads agreed that the MIG Equalities workstream will create a living document with a repository of questions and answers, which can be mainstreamed across all of the MIG workstreams. The document will evolve through the lifetime of the Expert Group, with a view to producing a full EQIA document to sit alongside the final report and recommendations.

Overall work stream timescales. The workstream will span the lifecycle of the expert group. Work has been broken down into phases to support policy development. The phases are detailed in the paper attached.

Will this work stream be producing advice / recommendations / a report – if so when is this expected?

A draft of the living document is attached, this will continue to develop as evidence is gathered and issues are fleshed out and recommendations emerge from the other workstreams.

It is anticipated that the final output will be a full EQIA of the recommendations in the final report of the Expert Group.

Key highlights since last update to the group.

The paper attached sets out a phased workplan which includes:

  • scoping phase (Feb – June 2022)
  • workshop phase (June – December 2022)
  • research phase (March - Autumn 2022)
  • accountability phase (January 2023-Final report)

Key actions for next two months (or until the next Expert Group meeting):

  • to refine the living document
  • agree membership of the workstream – secretariat to facilitate inviting new members
  • develop scope of desk based literature evidence review
  • start work on prioritising and planning workshop sessions (facilitated by secretariat)

Risks: The group have set an ambitious work plan which has resource implications for both members and the secretariat.

Additional comments (if required) Working on a shared document in Google Docs worked really well with the group, although there were some access problems.

Level Workstream Report

Name of work stream: MIG Level

Date of report: 28 March 2022

Report completed by (name, role): Ruth Steele, Head of Social Security Futures Unit, Scottish Government

Workstream Scope: The co-leads agreed that the workstream will provide to the main group a set of recommendations on setting, updating and uprating the level of a Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG) in Scotland.

Overall work stream timescales and outputs. Findings will be presented in the interim report of the Expert group in the autumn.

Key highlights since last update to the group

Key discussion points at the meeting included:

  • a MIS centred approach would support consideration of household composition
  • how to account for additional costs of caring and disability
  • cross over with the equalities, work and social security workstreams were identified
  • building in an anti-destitution floor
  • focus on priority families

Key actions for next two months (or until the next Expert Group meeting): 

  • session with Loughborough team on the MIS. This will be open to the full expert group
  • work to establish if the MIS is applicable in Scotland and in rural geographies – likely literature review, potentially by abrdn Financial Fairness
  • looking at the work by JRF to breakdown the component parts and looking at barriers to achieving a MIS

Risks: timing and resource may impact on deliverability.

Additional comments (if required): The Loughborough presentation had been planned to form part of the first full meeting but was unfortunately delayed. 

Social Security Workstream Report

Name of work stream: Social Security

Date of report: 28 March 2022

Report completed by (name, role): Nicola Radley, MIG Secretariat, Scottish Government

Workstream scope: To consider the role of social security in delivering MIG, the interactions between MIG and social security and tax credits, including assessment for MIG, deliverability for people who are both in and out of work, individual vs household payments, and take up.

Overall work stream timescales: The workstream is expected to have interim outputs, proposals or recommendations for inclusion in the interim report in autumn 2022

Will this work stream be producing advice / recommendations / a report – if so when is this expected?

A draft paper [to follow] is being developed covering the themes and workplan for the workstream. This will continue to develop as evidence is gathered, issues to focus on are agreed and fleshed out, and recommendations are drawn up.

Key highlights since last update to the group

The workstream had a broad ranging discussion on the issues set out in the scope. It was agreed that there is an existing body of evidence and research which could usefully be utilised to inform the development of a workplan. The workstream’s draft working paper captures the key questions and issues as discussed.

Key actions for next two months (or until the next Expert Group meeting): develop and agree the terms of reference for a literature review. This will likely be commissions from Scottish Government researchers. The secretariat will facilitate and provide timelines for this.

The literature review will inform next steps.

Potential to involve others, e.g. SG officials working on UC Split Payments.

Risks: the workplan is in the very early stages, timing may be an issue.

Work Workstream Report

Name of work stream: Work

Date of report: 28 March 2022

Report completed by (name, role): Ruth Steele, Head of Social Security Futures Unit, Scottish Government

Workstream scope: To consider the role of work in delivering a Minimum Income Guarantee, the interactions between a MIG and work considering pay, employers, fluctuating and insecure work, incentives and barriers and other issues as identified.

Overall work stream timescales: The workstream is expected to have interim outputs, proposals or recommendations for inclusion in the interim report in autumn 2022

Key highlights since last update to the group: The workstream had a broad ranging discussion on the issues set out in the scope. It was agreed that there is an existing body of evidence and research which could usefully be utilised to inform the development of a workplan. The paper attached captures the key questions and issues as discussed.

Key actions for next two months (or until the next Expert Group meeting): develop and agree the terms of reference for a literature review. This will likely be commissions from Scottish Government researchers. The secretariat will facilitate and provide timelines for this work.

The literature review will inform next steps.

Potential to involve additional organisations in information sessions to further develop thinking.

Risks: The workplan is in the very early stages, timing may be an issue.

Public Opinion Workstream

Name of work stream: Public Opinion

Date of report: 28 March 2022

Report completed by (name, role): Nicola Radley, MIG Secretariat, Scottish Government

Workstream Scope: The co-leads agreed that the MIG Public Opinion workstream will need to gather insight and produce recommendations based on two broad categories:

  • public opinion on the design and properties of a MIG, principally from people potentially eligible for it
  • public opinion on the wider principal of a MIG

Overall work stream timescales. The workstream will span the lifecycle of the expert group. Initial findings as available will be fed into the interim report, but timings for the group’s work will be dependent on lead in times for any polling / research, and on decisions around when to poll as there are currently no firm proposals to test.

Will this work stream be producing advice / recommendations / a report – if so when is this expected?

A draft of an insight initiation paper is attached. This will continue to develop as evidence is gathered, issues to focus on are agreed and fleshed out, and recommendations are developed.

Key highlights since last update to the group:

The paper attached sets out the thinking so far of the group, which includes:

  • testing public opinion on the proposal itself – what type of questions to ask, how detailed, who to ask
  • explore general public attitudes to more generous social security
  • explore the best way to ‘frame’ MIG proposals

Key actions for next two months (or until the next Expert Group meeting):

  • to refine the insight initiation paper and agree on priorities, the order of work, and the optimum time to initiate the agreed work
  • agree who to involve and identify who could carry out the work

Risks Polling / research has resource implications – need to strike the right balance at this early stage when there are only general themes / concepts to test.

Overlaps and Themes

At the December meeting of the Expert Group, we set out our proposed workplan, which contained a section on key ways of workstream working. We fully anticipated that the work of the workstreams can and likely would overlap. Now we have commenced workstream working in earnest, we can see that is the case. Following on from the workstream updates at the March Expert Group meeting, it would be timely to have a whole group discussion to identify overlapping themes and agree the most efficient and / or collaborative way to take those ‘crossover’ issues forward.

Overlapping themes

The following themes have emerged in more than one workstream. There may be other themes which overlap. The purpose of the discussion at the March Expert Group meeting is to identify further themes, expand on the themes already identified, ensure there is no planned duplication of work, and identify opportunities for cross workstream working and commissioning.

  • design of a MIG: Has been discussed by the Social Security, Work and Public Opinion workstreams. Discussions in the work and social security worstreams focussed the relationship between social security, implementation of a MIG and the role of work, in particular the relationship between pay, hours worked and cliff edges in the social security system:
  • the public opinion workstream discussed the role of engagement - whether it is to help design what a MIG might look like, and/or to build consensus around a set of propositions
  • all three workstream talked about going back to the principles – what should the MIG be, what is it not
  • groups with additional costs: Has been discussed by the Equalities, Level and Social Security workstreams. All three workstreams talked about the available evidence in relation to additional costs and how this relates to current benefit levels
  • the level and social security workstreams discussed the purpose of existing benefits, i.e. income replacement such as UC or non means tested such as child disability payment and the interactions with a potential MIG
  • groups currently furthest away from a MIS: Has been discussed by the Equalities, Level and Social Security workstreams. The discussions here focussed on barriers to accessing benefits and gaps in the current social security systems.Workstreams have discussed the desirability of commissioning research to explore the demographics of groups furthest from a MIS – is there an opportunity here for cross-workstream co-ordination?
  • flexibility: has been discussed at the Level, Social Security and Work workstream. The discussions weighed up a flexible system that responded to a household or individuals changing circumstances constructively, and the impact that the uncertainty created by “flexible” systems such as UC

Cross workstream sessions

There have been, or are upcoming, some sessions which are or will be valuable to multiple workstreams:

  • commission on Social Security gave a presentation with discussion to all available members on 11 March, on their ways of working and recommendations around Guaranteed Decent Income
  • Loughborough University’s Centre for Research in Social Policy will be a holding a session for the whole group on the applicability of their Minimum Income Standard to Scotland
  • IPPO will be running a session for the whole group which will allow the group to explore policy and research issues and link in to academia

Interim Report Planning

The purpose of this paper is to facilitate discussion on planning for the group’s interim report at the Expert Group meeting of 28th March 2022.

Timeline

The five currently active workstreams – equalities, level, social security, work and public opinion - are all working towards having interim outputs, proposals or recommendations for inclusion in the interim report in autumn 2022. Workstreams will meet at least once between the March and June Expert Group meetings, once before the end of June and again following the end of the holiday period with a view to their first draft recommendations / reports by August. They will continue to develop recommendations to be incorporated into the first draft of the Expert Group’s first report, with a draft to be produced by September, and with the report aiming to be finalised during the autumn.

In parallel, the chair, secretariat and group members will be working together to produce, to the same timescale, the overarching content of the report.

The aim and content of the report

The aim of the interim report will be to update on the work of our expert group so far and place a marker down for future work over its second year. The interim report also has the opportunity to outline the potential ‘prize’ delivered by a MIG (to our various audiences – political, policy, close and supportive stakeholders, more distant stakeholders, general public etc.), to outline accessible language to describe a MIG and its benefits, and to contribute to developing a groundswell of support for delivering a MIG in Scotland. It could also outline any early steps we have settled upon as a group towards delivering a MIG in Scotland.

The following high-level structure gives an outline of what the interim report could cover, for discussion:

  • outline an accessible way of describing what a MIG is (based on public-facing work between now and autumn)
  • outline the high-level elements of a MIG (based on foundation principles)
  • explore the potential benefits of a MIG and why now is an opportune time to consider a MIG. This could include benefits around wellbeing, the economy and its significant potential for narrowing inequalities (based on work between now and autumn)
  • narrative around the work the Expert Group has carried out so far
    • workstreams
    • emerging themes that cross over workstreams
    • future plans – including planned workstreams for year two – cost, paying for a MIG, existing powers, future powers, piloting, and implementation, plus the continuation of the equalities and public opinion workstreams
  • early steps towards a MIG. This section could take the form of recommendations or a wider discussion section (depending on strength of early-step recommendations by autumn)
    • recommendations of early steps towards a MIG. Consideration would need to be given to what is implementable and achievable
    • recommendations about the direction of the continued work of the group

Ways of working

The workstreams will produce reports that feed into thinking for the interim report. These will need to be woven together with a consistent central / overarching narrative. We will need to make decisions in relation to who will be responsible for producing drafts of the various sections of the report ensuring that we have effective mechanisms in place to allow group members to review and indicate their agreement with the proposed content. Decision making on the content will be as far as possible by consensus, or by majority if consensus is not reached, with the chair having the final say if necessary. Collaborative working on the interim report could be done via a secure and reliable online platform. The secretariat can help to identify potential ways of effective collaborative working.

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