Poverty and Inequality Commission: framework document

Framework document between the Scottish Government and the Poverty and Equality Commission.

Legal origins of powers and duties

The Commission was established by section 8 of the Act on 1 July 2019. The Commission does not carry out its functions on behalf of the Crown.

Ministerial responsibilities

The Scottish Ministers are ultimately accountable to the Scottish Parliament for the activities of the Commission and its use of resources. They are not, however, responsible for day to day operational matters. Their responsibilities include:

  • agreeing the Commission’s strategic aims and objectives as part of their strategic plan;
  • providing the Commission with such staff and resources as required to carry out its functions and to pay remuneration and expenses to members, and participants in committees, to an amount determined by the Scottish Ministers;
  • carrying out responsibilities specified in the Act, such as appointments to the Commission and approving the terms and conditions of the Chair and members of the Commission.

Commission Member responsibilities

Members of the Commission, including the Chair, are non-executives appointed by the Scottish Ministers in line with the Code of Practice for Ministerial Public Appointments in Scotland. The role of Members is to provide direction, support and guidance to ensure the body delivers and is committed to delivering its functions effectively and efficiently and in accordance with the aims, policies and priorities identified within the Act. Individual Members, under the leadership of the Chair, have the following responsibilities, including, but not limited to:

  • taking forward the strategic aims and objectives for the Commission as agreed by the Scottish Ministers;
  • promoting the efficient, economic and effective use of staff and other resources by the Commission consistent with the principles of Best Value, including, where appropriate, participation in shared services arrangements, in line with the principles set out in the Scottish Public Finance Manual (“SPFM”) and Managing Public Money;
  • ensuring that effective arrangements are in place to provide assurance on risk management (including in respect of personnel, physical and cyber risks/threats/hazards), governance and internal control;
  • ensuring that Members receive and review regular financial information concerning the management and performance of the Commission and are informed in a timely manner about any concerns regarding the activities of the Commission;
  • demonstrating high standards of corporate governance at all times, including openness and transparency in its decision making;
  • working closely with colleagues to reach agreement on the areas of interest and how the Commission may influence the wider discussions on poverty and inequality;
  • bringing your unique experience, perspective and knowledge to Commission discussions;
  • Representing the agreed views of the Commission in public forums where appropriate.

Further guidance on how Members should discharge their duties is provided in appointment letters and in On Board – A Guide for Members of Statutory Boards.

The Chair’s responsibilities

The Chair is accountable to the Scottish Ministers and, in common with any individual with responsibility for devolved functions, may also be held to account by the Scottish Parliament. Communications between the Commission and the Scottish Ministers should normally be through the Chair. The Chair is responsible for ensuring that the Commission’s policies and actions support the Scottish Ministers’ wider strategic policies and that its affairs are conducted with probity. The Chair will report directly to the lead Minister, the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government. In leading the Commission the Chair must ensure that:

  • they, together with Commission Members, receive appropriate induction training, including on financial management and reporting requirements and, as appropriate, on any differences that may exist between private, third and public sector practice;
  • Members are fully briefed on terms of appointment, duties, rights and responsibilities;
  • there is a code of conduct for Members in place, approved by Scottish Ministers;
  • annual reviews are conducted with Members, ensuring the ongoing effectiveness of members and that the skills and knowledge represented continue to meet the needs of the Commission;
  • the work of the Commission is subject to regular self-assessment, that the Commission is working effectively with clear vision and by working closely with Members make sure the new body’s objectives are delivered successfully;
  • in discussion with Members, the Commission’s work plan is set and tasks are allocated to the secretariat and Members;
  • they play a key role in advising Scottish Ministers and ensuring effective scrutiny of Scottish Government progress to reduce poverty and inequality whilst also considering the impacts of actions by others on poverty and inequality in Scotland, providing constructive challenge as appropriate.
  • succession planning takes place to ensure that the Commission is diverse and effective, and the Scottish Ministers are advised of the Commission’s needs as and when vacancies arise.

Portfolio Accountable Officer responsibilities

The Principal Accountable Officer for the Scottish Administration will designate the Director General of Education, Communities and Justice, as the Portfolio Accountable Officer for the Scottish Government portfolio budget for the Commission. The responsibilities of a Portfolio Accountable Officer are set out in detail in the Memorandum to Accountable Officers for Parts of the Scottish Administration. They are personally answerable to the Scottish Parliament for ensuring that:

  • the financial and other management controls applied by the Scottish Government are appropriate and sufficient to safeguard public funds and, more generally, that those being applied by the Commission conform to the requirements both of propriety and of good financial management;
  • the key roles and responsibilities which underpin the relationship between the Scottish Government and the Commission are set out in a framework document – and that this document is regularly reviewed at least every two to three years;
  • effective relationships are in place at Director and Deputy Director level between the Scottish Government and the Commission in accordance with the strategic engagement principles;
  • there is effective continuous assessment and appraisal of the performance of the Chair of the Commission, in line with the requirements of the Code of Practice for Ministerial Public Appointments in Scotland. 

Scottish Government Director and Deputy Director responsibilities

The Deputy Director for Social Justice and Regeneration Division has responsibility for overseeing the relationship between the Scottish Government and the Commission. They will ensure high performance and an effective relationship which supports the alignments of the Commission’s business to the Scottish Government’s National Performance Framework. They will work closely with the Commission Chair and be answerable to the Portfolio Accountable Officer for maintaining and developing positive relationships with the Commission characterised by openness, trust, respect and mutual support. They will be supported by a sponsor unit in discharging these functions.

The Chief Social Policy Adviser shall be responsible for assessing the performance of the Commission’s Chair at least annually.

Secretariat support staff responsibilities

Scottish Ministers will provide staff resources to assist the Commission to undertake its functions. Specific responsibilities of secretariat support staff include;

  • Dealing with the everyday administrative matters relating to the Commission and providing day to day support;
  • Acting as an initial point of contact and ensuring effective relationships with the Scottish Government sponsor unit;
  • Ensuring the Commission adheres, where appropriate to Scottish Government policies;
  • Liaising with stakeholders and facilitating relationships across the Scottish Government and government departments;

Preparing board papers and reports as required.

Sponsor unit responsibilities

The Scottish Government sponsor unit for the Commission is the Social Justice Strategy Unit. It is the first point of contact for the Commission in dealing with the Scottish Government. The unit, under the direction of the Deputy Director, is the primary source of advice to the Scottish Ministers on the discharge of their responsibilities in respect of the Commission and, alongside the Chief Social Policy Adviser, undertakes the responsibilities of the Portfolio Accountable Officer on their behalf. 

Specific responsibilities include:

  • discharging sponsorship responsibilities in line with the principles and framework set out in the document Strategic Engagement between the Scottish Government and Scotland’s NDPBs and ensuring that sponsorship is suitably flexible, proportionate and responsive to the needs of the Scottish Ministers and the Commission;
  • ensuring that appointments to the Commission are made timeously and in accordance with the Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments to Public Bodies in Scotland;
  • proportionate monitoring of the Commission’s activities through an adequate and timely flow of appropriate information, agreed with the Commission, on performance, budgeting, control and risk management;
  • addressing in a timely manner any significant problems arising in the Commission, alerting the Portfolio Accountable Officer and the responsible Minister where considered appropriate;
  • ensuring that the objectives of the Commission and the risks to them are properly and appropriately taken into account in the Scottish Government’s risk assessment and management systems;
  • informing the Commission of relevant Scottish Government policy in a timely manner.
Office of the Chief Social Policy Adviser responsibilities

The Office of the Chief Social Policy Adviser, a division within the Scottish Government, will hold the Commission’s budget and have responsibility for the recruitment, retention and motivation of the Commission secretariat. 

The Office of the Chief Social Policy Adviser’s responsibility toward the secretariat is to ensure that:

  • HR policies, practices and systems comply with employment and equality legislation, and standards expected of public sector employers;
  • the level and structure of the secretariat, including grading and staff numbers, are appropriate to its functions and the requirements of economy, efficiency and effectiveness (subject to the Scottish Government Pay Policy for Staff Pay Remits);
  • the performance of the secretariat at all levels is satisfactorily appraised and the Commission’s performance measurement systems are reviewed from time to time;
  • the secretariat are encouraged to acquire the appropriate professional, management and other expertise necessary to achieve the Commission’s objectives;
  • proper consultation with secretariat takes place on key issues affecting them;
  • adequate grievance and disciplinary procedures are in place;
  • effective whistle-blowing policy and procedures consistent with the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 are in place;

Audit requirements

The Commission is expected to maintain robust records of budget spend in order to facilitate completion of Scottish Government accounts.

The Scottish Government will require routine access to details of expenditure made by the Commission in line with the budget allocated – these provisions are further set out in ‘Budget Management’ below.

The Commission will be subject to Scottish Government internal audit. In addition, the Auditor general may conduct an external audit of accounts to which you are subject. The Commission must provide necessary information, as required, to facilitate audits of this nature.

These requirements are in accordance with the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards and the Internal Audit section of the SPFM.

Legal and other advice

If a need for advice is identified, the Commission should approach the sponsor unit in the first instance. The Scottish Government Legal Department (SGLD) will not provide legal advice direct to the Commission.

In instances where the sponsor unit is not able to provide sufficient guidance, or the advice sought conflicts with the needs of Scottish Ministers, the Commission will be required to seek its own independent advice. SGLD may be able to assist in obtaining that advice through the legal services framework.

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