Scottish Commission on Social Security minutes: February 2019

Minutes from the meeting of the SCoSS, on 21 and 22 February 2019.

Attendees and apologies

Day 1


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


  • None

In attendance:

  • Adam Briggs, Acting Lead Secretary
  • John Fagan, Acting Deputy Secretary
  • Peter Hodul, Acting Secretariat Support Officer
  • Stephen O’Neill, Incoming Acting Lead Secretary (observing)
  • Jim Murray, Scottish Government iTECS (for agenda item 5)
  • Susan Robertson, Scottish Government iTECS (for agenda item 5)

Day 2


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

Apologies: None

In Attendance:

  • Adam Briggs, Acting Lead Secretary
  • John Fagan, Acting Deputy Secretary
  • Peter Hodul, Acting Secretariat Support Officer
  • Nicola Davidson, Young Carer Grant Policy Lead (for agenda item 9)
  • Stephen O’Neill, Charter Lead (by phone, for agenda item 10)
  • Ellen Searle, Young Carer Grant Team Leader (for agenda item 9)

Items and actions

1. Welcome and introductions

The Chair welcomed the members of the Scottish Commission on Social Security (SCoSS) and the Secretariat to the inaugural meeting.

Members of the SCoSS Board and Secretariat introduced themselves.  Each highlighted their initial thinking on priorities for the Body. The acting Secretariat staff then outlined their roles supporting the Board and how the role of the Secretariat differed from the role of the Sponsor Team. 

Members of SCoSS expressed their determination to make the work of the Commission a success in contributing towards the building of a fair and just Scotland with a robust social security system fit for the 21st century, with a strong accent on human rights, inclusiveness and balanced management of opportunities and risks.

2. Introductions to the SCoSS

Adam Briggs provided background on the role of  SCoSS, as defined in the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018. He explained independent expert scrutiny, which sorts of regulations were within and outwith the scope of SCoSS and described functions relating to SCoSS’s reporting on the Charter.

The Board noted that it was for SCoSS to determine when to report to Ministers and Parliament on the Charter.

The Board discussed the super-affirmative legislative procedure and at what stage SCoSS’s role featured in the scrutiny process. The Board considered the super-affirmative regulations which would require SCoSS scrutiny and agreed that clarity on timelines would be important to know in order to inform the work plan.

Action: SCoSS to determine whether reporting and commenting will be done in line with the principles of the Charter or only in line with specific policy objectives and deliverables.

Action: SCoSS to get clarification on application of super-affirmative procedure; Acting Secretariat to liaise with Scottish Government Legal Directorate and seek advice for SCoSS.

Action: Acting Secretariat to find out about anticipated timelines for regulations that will come to SCoSS.

3. The big picture

Members discussed the approach to corporate and business plans. They considered that strategic frameworks, clarity of scrutiny landscape, the role of SCoSS, timelines, stakeholder engagement, format of reports and holding Scottish Ministers to account might be included in them.

Members suggested the following principles for how they wanted to work:

  • no duplication
  • always add value
  • collaboration whilst retaining independence
  • importance of effective Secretariat support
  • openness to consultation
  • partnership working
  • realism about individual capacity
  • evidence to be given as a Commission, not as individuals
  • uniformity of language and identity
  • awareness of unique role

The Board members proposed to create a scrutiny framework that would outline methodically how they would carry out their scrutiny function.  

The Board discussed key stakeholders within the scrutiny landscape and others with whom SCoSS would need to forge relationships. 

The Board discussed the need to develop an engagement strategy. This would be scheduled for discussion at a later meeting.   

The Corporate Plan would unavoidably need to reflect timelines set by SG Ministers but would not be entirely dictated by this in all respects. It was felt important to assert and underline our independence wherever possible. 

The group discussed external engagement, agreeing that the Chair should speak on behalf of SCoSS at some public appearances but members could represent SCoSS too. A standard template was to be developed to help prioritise public engagements. Regular phone catch ups were to be arranged between the Chair and Acting Secretariat and an events calendar developed.

Action: Updated work plan to reflect discussions during the meeting and future ‘Wave 2’ timescales, to be announced by the Scottish Government at the end of the month. The plan should also include suggested SCoSS meeting dates.

Action: SCoSS members to develop a scrutiny framework. To be scheduled for the next meeting.

Action: A draft Risk Register to be developed by the Acting Secretariat and shared with members. Discussion to be scheduled for a later meeting.

Action: Register of interests (what possible conflicts of interests could occur) to be developed.

Action: Scottish Government to share the draft SCoSS budget with SCoSS to aid discussion of  affordability and prioritisation, for the next meeting.

Action: Acting Secretariat to do some initial work on stakeholder mapping.

Action: Acting Secretariat to provide a map of devolved social security engagement structures (advisory groups, programme boards, stakeholder reference groups).

Action: Acting Secretariat to arrange an early meeting with David Wallace, Chief Executive of Social Security Scotland.

4. Website and IT

Susan Robertson and Jim Murray gave a presentation on the IT options available to SCoSS members.

Action: Chair and Members to send their IT requirements (and any further questions they may have on the topic) to the Acting Secretariat, who will liaise with the Scottish Government’s iTECS team to take forward by 28 February.

5. Corporate documentation

The Board noted the corporate documentation required for a new advisory non-departmental public body and the associated timescales.

The Board queried whether accessibility and inclusive communication was mentioned in the model publication scheme, and whether the code of conduct was available in accessible formats.

Action: Acting Secretariat to see if there is a reference in the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 to the SCoSS having to create a Framework Document.

Action: Acting Secretariat to establish whether the model publication scheme, and code of conduct were in accessible formats.

Action: Acting Secretariat to circulate the Model Code of Conduct.

6. Wash up/ preparation for day 2

The members considered it would be useful to have a briefing note for the informal meeting with the Social Security Committee.

Action: Acting Secretariat to produce a briefing note for Dr Witcher and Ms Paterson for their informal meeting with the Social Security Committee on 28 February.


7. Welcome and introductions

8. Young Carer Grant

Officials introduced the Young Carer Grant (YCG). They highlighted the policy objectives, stakeholder input to YCG and the results of the consultation which closed on 10 December. The main themes arising from the consultation were age criteria, eligibility criteria and definition of care.

Members underlined the importance of their scrutiny being based on draft regulations that had been revised in light of any consultation exercises and which were as near final a version as possible. Information on when they could expect to receive this was requested.

It would also be helpful to see the analysis of draft consultation responses.

Action: Chair to confirm with Deputy Director Ann McVie, the process for developing regulations, the stage at which they would be formally referred to SCoSS and how that would be done

Action: Acting Secretariat to request from Young Carer Grant officials a time-line for referral of near-final draft regulations to SCoSS, and a link to the draft of the regulations that was the basis for the consultation exercise

9. Charter

Stephen O’Neil presented the Charter to members. He highlighted the over-arching ambition to achieve a fair social security system in Scotland and described the process through which the Charter had been developed.  

The Charter was statutorily to be reviewed every five years.

The Board discussed what measurements would be used to evaluate the Charter.

Action: Acting Secretariat to provide further information for the next meeting on the development of the Charter measurement framework, identifying how the SCoSS can have access to monitoring resources.

Action: Acting Secretariat to produce a paper for the next meeting on how different parts of the Scottish Government (including Social Security Scotland) will combine data to develop an overarching monitoring framework for the Charter.

Action: Secretariat to circulate the Social Security Scotland Corporate Plan to members.

10. Next steps

The group discussed action points and agenda items for the next meeting.

Action: Induction around inclusive communications to be developed and scheduled (for Members and Secretariat, particularly the incoming permanent staff).

Action: Acting Secretariat to approach Social Security Scotland about the possibility of SCoSS visiting the Dundee headquarters as part of next board meeting (1 or 2 April) by 8 March.

Action: Acting Secretariat to explore options for SCoSS to get legal advice to ensure recommendations are made within legal competence, for next Board meeting.

Date of the next meeting: Monday 1 and Tuesday 2 April 2019.




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

Scottish Commission on Social Security

Back to top