Scottish Commission on Social Security minutes: August 2019

Minutes from the meeting of the SCoSS, on 14 August 2019.

Attendees and apologies


  • Dr Sally Witcher (Chair)
  • Sharon McIntyre
  • Judith Paterson
  • Dr Mark Simpson


  • None

In attendance:

  • Vana Anastasiadou, Communities Analysis Division, Scottish Government  (for agenda item 3)
  • Nicole Fraser, SCoSS Administrative Officer
  • Julija Harrasova, Communities Analysis Division, Scottish Government (for agenda item 3)
  • Fiona Lodge, SCoSS Deputy Secretary (minutes)
  • Veronica Smith, Cross-cutting Policy Officer, Scottish Government (for agenda item 3)
  • Terry Shevlin, SCoSS Lead Secretary
  • James Wilson, Disability Benefits Team Leader, Scottish Government (for agenda item 8)
  • Jonathan Wright, Principal Research Officer, Scottish Government (for agenda item 9)

Items and actions

1.    Welcome and apologies, declarations of interest

Declarations of interest: none

2.    Minutes and rolling action sheet

Members signed off several sets of minutes and would supply comments on remaining drafts to be finalised.

Action: Members to send comments on outstanding draft minutes.

Action: Secretariat to circulate revised draft minutes for consideration at future board meeting.  

Members did not have time to consider the rolling actions record (i.e. action points agreed before the August meeting) and agreed that these would be circulated and updated by correspondence after the meeting. 

3.     Uprating briefing

Veronica Smith gave a presentation on uprating benefits. She informed members that the Scottish Government would provide SCoSS with an ‘uprating measures analytical report’ in early September. She highlighted the timeline for parliamentary and SCoSS consideration of the report and the separate draft regulations on uprating that would follow later in the year. 

Julija Harrasova and Vana Anastasiadou gave a presentation on the technical details of uprating, highlighting the different measures that could be considered.

Members confirmed the process that would be followed for developing their response to the analytical report, working to a deadline of 3 October. It was suggested that this might form part of the formal report on draft regulations, subject to later discussion.

Action: Secretariat to schedule discussion of the uprating measures report as the main item for the September Board agenda and to invite Scottish Government officials to attend.

4.    SCoSS protocol with Scottish Government

Members discussed a draft protocol with the Scottish Government setting out the information SCoSS requires to scrutinise draft regulations. The protocol is also designed to ensure a shared understanding of the key processes and principles underpinning the SCoSS’s scrutiny. Members considered that developing this, and a more general information pack for anyone engaging with SCoSS, would be helpful.

Members felt that it would be important for the protocol also to include what Scottish Government officials might need from the SCoSS, recognising that this is a two-way relationship. It was therefore agreed to ask Scottish Government officials to confirm the information that would be useful to them in attending Board meetings. 

Action: Secretariat to produce a revised version of the draft protocol with the Scottish Government, and prepare a draft general briefing pack. 

Action: Secretariat and the Chair to discuss the revised draft protocol with Scottish Government officials. 

Action: Secretariat to schedule a further version of the protocol for sign-off at a future SCoSS meeting. 

5.    Stakeholder engagement

Members discussed the proposed approach to developing a  stakeholder engagement strategy. Members agreed to identify stakeholders with a generic interest in SCoSS’s work and to identify relevant stakeholders for specific pieces of work. They began the process of identifying generic key stakeholders.  

Action: Secretariat and the Chair to write-up discussion and prepare the next stage of the process on stakeholder engagement. 

Action: Secretariat to clarify the status of Scottish Government experience groups/insight panels.

Members agreed that criteria should be established to help inform decisions on whether to accept invitations to attend or speak at external conferences or events, to help promote consistency.

Action: Secretariat to draft criteria for Commissioners’ attendance at conferences.

Action: Secretariat to update Board regularly on members’ days used to date.

6.    Standing orders

Members considered a paper on Standing Orders drafted by the Secretariat. The Board agreed that it should adopt Standing Orders to govern its procedures. The Board did not have sufficient time to consider the paper in full. However, members agreed in principle that, in the event of some members not being available for a Board meeting, this should not hold up essential business. Further, should the Chair be unavailable for a Board meeting other members would agree who should chair the meeting in question. Any member could otherwise deputise for the Chair depending on members’ availability. There was not felt to be a need to appoint a Deputy Chair, given the small size of the Commission.

Action: Members to provide further comments on draft Standing Orders by correspondence. 

Action: Secretariat to provide revised draft Standing Orders for consideration at a future Board meeting.

7.    Corporate and business plan 

In light of advice from the Scottish Government’s Public Bodies Unit, members agreed that the SCoSS would produce a business plan and a forward looking section for inclusion in its future annual reports. SCoSS would not produce a Corporate Plan. Members agreed this was disproportionate and unnecessary, given the size and nature of the Commission and its business.

Action: Secretariat and Sharon McIntyre to prepare an initial draft business plan, for consideration at a future Board meeting.

8.    Disability Assistance consultation

James Wilson gave a presentation on the Disability Assistance consultation responses. This provided a recap of the consultation process and highlighted some emerging themes arising from the results of the consultation. Members discussed and noted the report. 

9.    Social Security Charter

Jonathan Wright gave a presentation on evaluating social security benefits and the proposed approach to reporting on the “A Better Future” section (part 4) of the Social Security Charter. He suggested that this was hard to measure and that reporting would take the form of a narrative of government action carried out.

In discussion, members highlighted the different nature of expectations contained in that section, and different approaches to measurement that might therefore be required. They felt that it was important that reports on this important section were rooted in hard evidence and that there was a need and the potential to develop ways to achieve this. The Board expressed an interest in pursuing this further. Members considered how they might support the development of an approach to measuring delivery against expectations in part 4 so that they could carry out their statutory duty of reporting if there was evidence that those expectations were not being fulfilled. In particular, this will be a suitable subject for engagement with stakeholders.

Action: Secretariat to consider how the Board could continue to be briefed on activity being undertaken by or on behalf of the Scottish Government or Social Security Scotland that may be relevant to gauging whether expectations set out in the Charter are being met. 

Action: Secretariat to consider more generally opportunities for the SCoSS to undertake engagement with stakeholders on items for the work plan. 

10.    Work plan/future agendas

Members discussed the Board’s meeting schedule for 2020. Members agreed in principle to move to meeting every six weeks, to allow more time for meeting preparation and follow up.

Action: Secretariat to consider the meeting cycle for 2020 and bring back to Commissioners for their consideration.

Members considered items for future Board agendas.

Action: Secretariat to add regular financial reporting to the work plan.

11.    Any other business/recap

No other business was raised.

Date of the next meeting: Tuesday 10 September.




Scottish Commission on Social Security
c/o Secretariat
Area 2C South (Mail Point 6)
Victoria Quay
The Shore

Scottish Commission on Social Security

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