Information

Minimum Income Guarantee Steering Group meeting minutes: March 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 28 March 2022.


Attendees and apologies

Expert Group members

  • Russell Gunson (chair) (IPPR)
  • Chris Birt (Joseph Rowntree Foundation)
  • Tressa Burke (Glasgow Disability Alliance)
  • Fiona Collie (Carers Scotland)
  • Mubin Haq (abrdn Financial Fairness Trust)
  • Peter Kelly (Poverty Alliance)
  • Eireann McAuley (STUC)
  • Gerry McCartney (CBI Steering Group)
  • Ed Pybus (CPAG); Satwat Rehman (One Parent Families Scotland)
  • Vonnie Sandlan (Children 1st)
  • Bill Scott (Poverty and Inequality Commission)
  • Rachel Statham (IPPR)
  • Andy White (CBI Steering Group)

Observers

  • Saleem Hassan (joining secretariat 1/4/22)
  • Elaine Moir (SG)
  • Kathleen Robertson (SG)
  • Ruth Steele (SG)
  • Philip Whyte (IPPR)

Secretariat

  • Nicola Cowan
  • Chris Loh
  • Nicola Radley

Items and actions

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.

Meeting papers

Papers from the meeting of the group on 28 March 2022.

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