Scottish Commission on Social Security minutes: October 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the SCoSS on 29 October 2020.

This document is part of a collection

Attendees and apologies


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


  • Sharon McIntyre after agenda item 3

Declarations of interest: None

In Attendance:

  • Nicole Fraser - SCoSS Administrative Officer
  • Fiona Lodge – SCoSS Deputy Secretary
  • Terry Shevlin - SCoSS Lead Secretary

In Attendance for agenda item 3:

  • Hannah Graham – Scottish Government, Scottish Child Payment, Policy Team Leader

In Attendance for agenda item 4:

  • David George – Scottish Government, Disability Benefits Team, Leader

In Attendance for agenda item 5:

  • Kate Thomson-McDermott – Scottish Government, Head of Carer, Benefits Unit
  • Graeme Buchanan – Scottish Government, Migration Strategy, Lead

In Attendance for agenda item 6:

  • Marta Kuzma, Senior Auditor, Audit Scotland
  • Tarryn Wilson-Jones, Audit Manager, Audit Scotland

Items and actions

1. Welcome and apologies

2. Minutes of the previous Meeting

The minutes of the September board meeting were agreed.

Action – Secretariat to publish the September board meeting minutes on the SCoSS webpage.

3. Scottish Child Payment draft regulations briefing

Hannah Graham discussed further, amending draft regulations on Scottish Child Payment (SCP) that are due to be referred to SCoSS for scrutiny. Members highlighted the exceptionally tight timescale for SCoSS to report and noted that it may not be possible to do so fully by the expected deadline. 

Members requested that the Scottish Government provide a note explaining the payment cycle for SCP claimants who have a further child.

Action – Secretariat to request further information on the payment cycle for Scottish Child Payment from Scottish Government officials.

4. The Disability Assistance for Children and Young People draft regulations

David George apologised for the delay in the Scottish Government referring further draft regulations on Child Disability Payment to SCoSS – noting that timescales for scrutiny were very tight – and responded to members’ questions about various provisions. He noted a number of areas where members suggested that the wording of the further draft regulations could perhaps be amended, and committed to discussing these suggestions with Scottish Government colleagues.

Members requested a further written briefing on the provisions relating to visual impairment. Members also asked to see, for information, draft regulations being prepared by the Scottish Government that would not be scrutinised by SCoSS, but whose content may be relevant to SCoSS’s scrutiny of the Child Disability Payment.

The Chair noted that it was important to agree as soon as possible the deadlines for SCoSS’s scrutiny.

Action – Secretariat to request further information from Scottish Government officials on the visual impairment provisions of the further Disability Assistance for Children and Young People draft regulations, and other proposed regulations that may inform SCoSS’s scrutiny. 

5. Case transfer briefing

Kate Thomson-McDermott and Graeme Buchanan presented a briefing paper on the case transfer process for those clients moving from Disability Living Allowance for Children to Child Disability Payment. It was noted that, while draft regulations on case transfer would be referred very soon to SCoSS for scrutiny, the Scottish Government was not required formally to do so under the Social Security (Scotland) Act. Members therefore asked how SCoSS’s scrutiny could best add value given the expected very restricted timescales and given the other draft regulations that SCoSS is currently considering. 

Officials answered members’ questions on the case transfer briefing paper and highlighted particular areas where SCoSS’s input would likely be requested on the draft regulations. Members agreed that it would aid their scrutiny if officials provided further background information on the Scottish Government’s thinking to date. Officials said that SCoSS would likely be asked to report on the draft regulations by the second week in November at the latest. It may also be possible for SCoSS to provide, in the spring of 2021, any observations that could inform the Scottish Government’s development of other relevant draft regulations relating to case transfers.

Action – Secretariat to ask Scottish Government officials for further information on case transfers, to inform SCoSS’s scrutiny of future draft regulations.

Following officials’ departure, Members discussed who would be SCoSS’s lead drafter for each set of draft regulations that has been, or will be, referred to SCoSS. Members also agreed to invite stakeholders’ written views on relevant provisions of the further Disability Assistance for Children and Young People draft regulations.

Action – Members agreed the lead reporter on draft regulations that will be or have been referred to SCoSS: Judith Paterson on Child Disability Payment; Mark Simpson on case transfer; all Members on Scottish Child Payment; and Sally Witcher on uprating.

Action – Secretariat to invite stakeholders’ written views on the Disability Assistance for Children and Young People draft regulations. 

6. Audit Scotland audit plan

Marta Kuzma presented Audit Scotland’s 2019-20 audit plan for SCoSS. Members noted that this was a proportionate approach given SCoSS’s size and budget. Marta said that a meeting would be required in December for the Board to review the final set of accounts and confirm it is content for SCoSS’s accountable officer to sign.

The Chair noted her expectation that, in future years, the audit process would be made clearer and more streamlined. Audit Scotland officials agreed that it would be worthwhile to reflect on the audit and discuss early in 2021 whether and how processes could be improved.

Action – Secretariat to identify a suitable time after the December board meeting for the accountable officer to sign off SCoSS’s 2019-20 annual accounts.

Action – Secretariat to set up a meeting with Audit Scotland early in 2021 to consider the scope for improving the audit process.

7. SCoSS budget update

Members discussed a paper by the Secretariat that invited members to give initial consideration to identifying potential savings in SCoSS’s budget for 2020-21. The paper noted that final decisions were not needed until December. Members identified some possible savings but agreed to consider the matter in full at the December board meeting.

Action – Secretariat to prepare a revised budget paper for the December board meeting.

8. Lived experience committee

In Sharon’s absence Members agreed to defer, until the December board meeting, consideration of a paper she had produced on better involving people with lived experience of social security in SCoSS’s work. In the interim, Members agreed to provide feedback on the paper by correspondence.

Action – Sharon McIntyre to present a lived experience paper at the December board meeting. Secretariat to invite comments by correspondence in the meantime.

9. Charter expectations

The Board considered a paper on how SCoSS could discharge its statutory responsibility to consider reporting on whether the expectations in the Social Security Charter are being met if it receives evidence suggesting that expectations are frequently not being fulfilled. Members agreed that it would be helpful if a draft statement on this matter could be provided for consideration at a future board meeting. An agreed statement could then be conveyed to relevant stakeholders to set out SCoSS’s position.

Action – Sally Witcher and Sharon McIntyre to draft a statement on how SCoSS could discharge its statutory responsibility to consider reporting on whether the expectations in the Social Security Charter are being met, if it receives evidence suggesting that expectations are frequently not being fulfilled.

10. Rolling Actions

Members noted the rolling action record.

11. Work Plan

Members noted SCoSS’s work plan.

12. Any other business

Members discussed their availability in December in relation to the Audit Scotland report referred to at item 6.

Action - Secretariat to ask Members for their availability in December for a meeting on the independent auditor’s report.

Members thanked Nicole for her service, in advance of her moving to a new post within the Scottish Government.

Date of the next board meeting: Wednesday 9 December 2020.

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