Publication - Minutes

Scottish Commission on Social Security minutes: September 2020

Published: 9 Nov 2020
Date of meeting: 29 Sep 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the SCoSS on 29 and 30 September 2020.

Published:
9 Nov 2020
Scottish Commission on Social Security minutes: September 2020

Attendees and apologies

Present:

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

Apologies:

  • Judith Paterson (Member)

In attendance:

  • Nicole Fraser - SCoSS Administrative Officer
  • Terry Shevlin - SCoSS Lead Secretary

Declarations of interest:

None.

In attendance for agenda item 3:

  • Bruce Sutherland – Scottish Government, Mainstreaming Policy

Items and actions

Welcome and apologies

Minutes of the previous meeting

The minutes of the August board meeting were agreed subject to minor changes being made.

Action

  • Secretariat to publish the final August board meeting minutes on the SCoSS webpage

Equalities

Bruce Sutherland gave a presentation on the Scottish Government’s approach to undertaking equality impact assessments and answered questions from members on possible implications for SCoSS. The Board then discussed, in private, a paper from the Secretariat on how SCoSS’s work could be informed by its obligations under the Public Sector Equality Duty as set out in the Equality Act 2010.

Various possible actions that SCoSS could take were discussed including reviewing the risk register to ensure a strong equalities focus and actively considering how engagement with people with lived experience could strengthen understanding and awareness of equalities issues. Members agreed that SCoSS should undertake an in-depth development session on equalities issues arising from the paper before considering how individual pieces of work could be progressed.

Action:

  • Secretariat and Chair to devise a development session for the Board on how SCoSS could best meet its obligations under the Equality Act 2010

Draft interim report

Members considered a revised draft of the SCoSS interim report and, subject to various changes being made, agreed to publish the report.

Action:

  • Secretariat to finalise and take steps to publish the SCoSS interim report as soon as possible

SCoSS Board Meeting

Date: 30 September 2020
Time: 13:00 – 15.25
Venue: by Skype video

Present:

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

Apologies:

  • None

In attendance:

  • Nicole Fraser - SCoSS Administrative Officer;
  • Terry Shevlin - SCoSS Lead Secretary.
  • In attendance for agenda number 5:
  • David George – Scottish Government, Disability Benefits Team Leader

Declarations of interest:

  • None

Child Disability Payment draft regulations briefing

David George discussed revised draft regulations on Child Disability Payment that the Scottish Government is likely to refer to SCoSS for scrutiny.

In response to questions from members, it was confirmed that the draft regulations would be referred to SCoSS under section 97 of the Social Security (Scotland) Act, SCoSS having previously considered and reported on draft regulations about Child Disability Payment. Further, while SCoSS’s views will likely be sought on specific sections of the draft regulations, the Scottish Government will welcome comments on any aspect.

Members noted that the timescales for SCoSS to report on the draft regulations would again be very tight. While acknowledging the exceptional pressure on Scottish Government officials at the current time, members highlighted the need to ensure the quality of reports was not unduly compromised by unrealistic timelines. The Chair welcomed the commitment that the Scottish Government would try to ensure SCoSS has as long as possible for its scrutiny.

Following David George’s departure, the Board agreed that decisions on stakeholder engagement and gathering evidence would be taken when the draft regulations were published and more was known about their content. Judith Paterson will be the lead drafter for SCoSS’s report.

Action

  • members to discuss an approach to engaging on the draft regulations on Child Disability Payment when they are referred to SCoSS

Scottish Government responses to scrutiny reports

The Board discussed a paper by the Secretariat inviting members to consider the Scottish Government’s responses to recent SCoSS reports, to help identify any scope for continuous improvement.
Members noted that it was important to ensure a shared understanding between SCoSS and the Scottish Government of recommendations made and the rationale for them, to mitigate the risk that responses miss the point SCoSS is making. The Board agreed that it would be useful to discuss with Scottish Government officials how recommendations and responses could be made as clear as possible, to avoid any misunderstandings. Members also discussed whether and how SCoSS should monitor recommendations made in its scrutiny reports that call on the Scottish Government to take action over the longer term.

Action:

  • Chair to discuss with the deputy director for social security issues arising from the Scottish Government’s responses to recent SCoSS scrutiny reports. Secretariat to provide a note to inform to the discussion

Scrutiny framework

The Board considered whether there was a need to revise and update SCoSS’s scrutiny framework in light of experience since it was first developed. The scrutiny framework aims to support SCoSS’s scrutiny of draft regulations and provide transparency about the questions it may ask when assessing whether draft regulations reflect the social security principles and human rights. Members noted various points where the framework could potentially be edited, and discussed seeking stakeholders’ views.

Action:

  • members to provide initial comments by correspondence on how SCoSS’s scrutiny framework could be revised, then consider seeking stakeholders’ views.

Whistleblowing policy

The Board considered a revised draft qualifying disclosures (‘whistleblowing’) policy that SCoSS is required to produce under the Public Interest Disclosures Act 1998. The policy was agreed but members noted various practical issues regarding the process and roles within it and how it would be discharged in practice. Members agreed that a desk-note should be drafted setting out the policy should be implemented in practice.

Action:

  • Chair to seek clarification from Scottish Government officials on how elements of SCoSS’s qualifying disclosures policy would be discharged in practice

Freedom of Information/transparency

The Board considered whether SCoSS could take any steps to make the proceedings of its board meetings more transparent. Members noted the necessity of striking a balance between SCoSS’s freedom of information responsibilities and good governance principles around transparency, and its duty to consider sensitive information while performing its statutory duties.
Action – Chair to consider further the information that SCoSS can publish about its board meetings, taking into account its freedom of information responsibilities and its ongoing consideration of sensitive material.

Code consultation

The Board considered whether to contribute to the Ethical Standards Commissioner for Scotland’s public consultation on the Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments to Public Bodies in Scotland.
Members agreed they would like to do so but noted that pressures of work would prevent SCoSS from providing a corporate response to what was a long, detailed and inaccessible consultation exercise. The Board agreed that the Chair would provide views to the Commissioner on the consequent difficulties in responding and how the consultation process could have been made it easier to do so.

Action:

  • Chair to write to the Ethical Standards Commissioner for Scotland to provide views on the conducting of its public consultation on the Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments to Public Bodies in Scotland

Rolling actions record

The Board noted the Rolling Actions Record.

Work plan

The Board noted SCoSS’s work plan.

Date of the next Board meeting: 27-29 October 2020.