Scottish Commission on Social Security minutes: April 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the SCoSS on 12 April 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Dr Sally Witcher (Chair)
  • Sharon McIntyre (Member) (until agenda item 3)
  • Judith Paterson (Member)
  • Dr Mark Simpson (Member)


  • none

In attendance: 

  • Shona Forrester, SCoSS Interim Lead Secretary
  • Fiona Lodge, SCoSS Deputy Secretary

For agenda item 2:

  • Ella Devlin, Scottish Fiscal Commission Economic and Fiscal Analyst
  • Claire Murdoch, Scottish Fiscal Commission Head of Social Security and Public Funding

For agenda item 3:

  • Ian Davidsony, Scottish Government Deputy Director of Social Security Policy
  • Marta Kuzma, Audit Scotland Auditor
  • Helen Russell, Audit Scotland Senior Audit Manager

Items and actions

Welcome and declarations of interest 

The Chair welcomed the Members and Secretariat.  There were no declarations of interest.

Adult Disability Payment

Members considered discussion points for the introductory meeting with Scottish Fiscal Commission officials.

The Chair then welcomed Claire Murdoch and Ella Devlin to the meeting.  Claire gave an introduction to the Scottish Fiscal Commission and its functions, particularly in relation to Adult Disability Payment.  Members and officials discussed scope for collaboration in order to improve their respective scrutiny processes and considered how, once firmed up, to best set out the ways they work together in the interests of transparency.

Claire and Ella agreed to come back to a future SCoSS Board meeting to discuss Adult Disability Payment and that a meeting with the two bodies Commissioners should be beneficial.


  • Secretariat to invite Scottish Fiscal Commission officials to a future SCoSS Board meeting to discuss Adult Disability Payment
  • SCoSS to confirm if the Scottish Fiscal Commission’s checklist on Child Disability Payment is a useful interpretation of the changes made, and to provide feedback on the Adult Disability Payment checklist once shared to give an opinion on whether Scottish Fiscal Commission officials interpreted the policy implications of the draft regulations correctly and where there may be crossovers in the work of both bodies
  • SCoSS to supply Scottish Fiscal Commission officials with SCoSS’s scrutiny framework document
  • SCoSS to update Scottish Fiscal Commission officials by mid-May on progress with the draft Adult Disability Payment regulations
  • SCoSS and the Scottish Fiscal Commission to consider how best to set out the ways they work together and information sharing, in the interests of transparency
  • SCoSS and the Scottish Fiscal Commission to consider a joint meeting between the two Commissions

Following the officials’ departure, Members discussed their approach to the Adult Disability Payment scrutiny process and agreed to have an ad hoc meeting at the end of April. 


  • Secretariat to arrange the Adult Disability Payment meeting for Members in the last week in April
  • Sally and Judith to meet as soon as possible to discuss the format and agenda for the meeting on Adult Disability Payment in the last week in April

Strategic approach to Charter

Members discussed the paper prepared by Sally and Sharon that set out a strategic approach to SCoSS’s role in relation to the Social Security Charter.

Members considered the crossovers in the Charter and SCoSS’s scrutiny framework. 


  • Sally to draft a paper detailing crossovers between Charter evaluation and the existing SCoSS scrutiny framework and share with members

The Board agreed that a bank of information for Members would be helpful to store and refer back to information sources.


  • Secretariat to develop a sitemap for the SCoSS Library on Connect where information and evidence relating to the Charter can be stored

Members considered the resources needed for researching specific pieces of work and considered the different ways of procuring those resources.


  • Judith to check with SSAC Secretariat where they source researchers from

Members discussed a checklist for evidence of Charter commitments not being met and what the criteria for that might be.


  • Sally and Sharon to develop a statement on SCoSS’s role and criteria for deciding whether there is frequent evidence that Charter commitments are not being met, for the May Board meeting

Members explored different Charter commitments and potential areas to focus on..

The Board agreed that, in principle and subject to further discussion, SCoSS should aim to produce a report on one or a theme of Charter commitments later in 2021.


  • SCoSS to explore producing a report on one or a cluster of Charter commitments during the second half of 2021
  • SCoSS to routinely review Scottish Government’s annual progress report after publication
  • SCoSS to consider an exploratory event and/ or consultation exercise to focus on themes for a Charter report
  • Secretariat to liaise with Social Security Committee clerks to arrange for the Chair to meet with the Convenor once appointed

Annual report and accounts

The Chair welcomed Helen Russell and Marta Kuzma from Audit Scotland and Ian Davidson, SCoSS’s Accountable Officer to the meeting. Marta took the Board through the key parts of the audit plan. She noted that no new audit risks had been identified for the 2020-21 audit. The audit timetable was discussed. Ian noted that Scottish Government programme finance colleagues had confirmed the financial statements would be provided by the deadline in June.

Members then discussed the performance report. The Board agreed to provide comments on it by the end of April.


  • Secretariat to circulate the draft performance report to members for comments by the end of April
  • Secretariat to schedule review of draft materials for Board sign-off before they are to be submitted to Audit Scotland by 14 June
  • Secretariat to issue any ‘for action’ emails individually for tasks and flagged with due dates. Calendar reminders also to be issued as a 1 week reminder for due dates

Informal requests for information

Members discussed the paper produced by the Chair on an approach to responding to informal requests from officials for advice on matters that are not, or only indirectly, relevant to SCoSS’s remit. Members considered the criteria for assessing whether to respond to informal requests. They then came to a view in light of those on whether to respond to informal requests recently received. 


  • members to comment on the draft strategy for the policy evaluation of disability benefits by the end of May

Continuous improvement

Following Member’s completion of surveys on performance and members’ appraisals, the Board agreed to schedule an ad hoc meeting to agree action on the continuous improvement.


  • Secretariat to schedule an ‘away day’ afternoon for Members to discuss continuous improvement

Minutes of the previous meeting

The Board agreed to take this agenda item by correspondence and to respond with any comments by the end of April.


  • Secretariat to circulate the March minutes to Members for any comments by the end of April

Rolling actions

The Board agreed to take this agenda item by correspondence and to respond with any comments by the end of April.


  • Secretariat to circulate the rolling actions paper to Members for any comments by the end of April

Work plan

The Board agreed to take this agenda item by correspondence and to respond with any comments by the end of April.


  • Secretariat to circulate the work plan paper to Members for any comments by the end of April

Any other business

Secretariat updated Members on the progress of the new website.

The Chair updated Members on action to progress the recruitment of a fifth Board Member.  

The Chair requested that members send to the Secretariat for inclusion in the regular members’ update any information they come across that would be useful for others to see. 


  • members to send any information relevant to the other Members to the Secretariat for inclusion in Members Update emails

Date of the next board meeting: 18 and 19 May 2021.

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