Scottish Scams Strategic Partnership minutes: August 2021
- Energy and Climate Change Directorate
- Part of
- Energy, Environment and climate change
Minutes from the meeting of the group on 12 August 2021.
Attendees and apologies
- Neil Ritchie (Chair), Scottish Government (SG) Head of Consumer, Competition and Energy Company Services Unit
- Saskia Kearns, Scottish Government, Consumer Policy and Interventions
- Tanya Friel, Scottish Government, Consumer Policy and Interventions
- Pauline Scott, Scottish Government, Consumer Policy and Interventions
- Pam Stewart, Advice Direct Scotland
- Myles Fitt, Citizens Advice Scotland
- Katherine Hart, CTSI
- Jim Robertson, Police Scotland
- Graeme Paton, SCOTSS
- Julie McCarron, Trading Standards Scotland
- Christine Farrow, UK Finance
- Thomas Docherty, Which?
- Conor McKay, Scottish Government - Cyber Resilience
- Murray Meikle, Scottish Government - Adult Protection
- Tom Arthur MSP, Minister for Pubic Finance, Planning and Community Wealth
- Joyce Greenhorn, Police Scotland
- Mike Findlay, Victim Support Scotland
- Jamie MacLeod, Scottish Government – Consumer Policy and Interventions
- Wendy McInnes, Scottish Government - Safer Communities
Items and actions
Welcome and introductions
The chair welcomed everyone to the meeting and made apologies for the Minister, who was unable to attend. The first meeting of the new Strategic Partnership will move work forward and focus on substance and next steps. The chair also noted that the Minister is committed to attending a future meeting of the partnership.
In the absence of the Minister, officials shared Mr Arthur’s intended remarks, which provided an overview of work to date in developing the strategy and reiterated the continued commitment of the Scottish Government to this work going forward. In particular, focus was placed on the importance of collaboration and partnership working to deliver the strategic actions set out.
It was further announced that to support implementation of the Strategy during 2021/22, the Minister was making available up to £500,000 to the Strategic Partnership to allocate as appropriate in line with agreed actions and outcomes.
A short Q and A session followed, which addressed the point below:
- SG confirmed that the new funding announced does not already include costs incurred to support development of recent research reports commissioned during development of the Strategy. The new funding is available up to the end of this financial year. SG cannot make any guarantees about future budgets at present, although expect that scams will continue to be prioritised in future years
- Which? advised that they wanted to ask the Minister about the UK Government’s Online Safety Bill and whether SG has had any discussion around this, in particular, around the absence of potential scams legislation. SG advised that they are aware of the bill and are speaking to the Home Office to better understand the drafting of the Bill in this regard
- SG to follow up with Which? around the Online Safety Bill
Strategy: summary overview - paper 1 and 2
SG provided a quick overview of Paper 1, summarising the progress made against some of the strategic actions set out in the strategy. Some points of discussion following this overview are listed below:
- it is important to have an awareness of key/major events which can feed into a calendar of events, for example the upcoming COP 26. Scammers may use large scale events like this to target people – the partnership should give consideration to the wider context in which scammers operate. SG acknowledged that horizon scanning is needed in this space and that big events such as COP 26 are opportunities to get key messaging out to the public. These types of considerations will be key to development of the new Anti-Scams Strategic Communications Plan
- Trading Standards Scotland (TSS) highlighted that identifying large scale public events such as COP 26 and the potential risk of scams tied to these is already being addressed through, for example, this year’s National Consumers Week (NCW). The campaign is being held w/c 11 October 2021 and will focus on Misleading Energy Efficiency and Environmental Claims. NCW is being held earlier than normal this year to ensure messaging is not lost in the media during COP 26. TSS stated that they receive lots of complaints regarding this issue, with recent data from call blockers showing that misleading energy schemes are the top nuisance call, 30% of all calls
Strategy: governance and work-planning - paper 3
A brief overview was given of Paper 3, setting out a proposed governance structure and approach to delivery of the Strategy. Key areas for consideration included:
- role of Chair – it was indicated that while an independent Chair may reflect a balanced and equal membership base and participation, the option for the Scottish Government to continue to chair meetings remained. Some partners (Which?, CAS) commented that the latter was preferable as the Scottish Government could provide greater legitimacy and influence to the group when engaging counterparts in the wider Scottish and UK landscape
- resources – partners discussed the limitations and current budget pressures faced by organisations across sectors, in the context of ability to contribute to delivery of the Strategy.
- SG suggested quarterly meetings of the Strategic Partnership to allow progression against key actions
- work on delivery of actions under the Strategic Partnership will be led by different sub-groups: Streamlining the Landscape Steering Group; Sectoral working groups focused on banking and telecommunications; and work-stream delivery teams, to deliver on strategic actions 2,7,8 and 10
Workload is going to be key, with resources already stretched this may be an issue for partners. It was highlighted that the new £500,000 allocated to support the role of the Strategic Partnership in delivery of the Strategy could be used, in part, to provide additional capacity within key partner organisations to lead on certain actions and outcomes. However, a distinction was made between this type of staffing cost and supporting frontline delivery. Other types of costs that the new resource may be used for includes, e.g. research, consultancy, campaigns activities, wider engagement work.
CAS stated that they are tentative to commit resources, but are happy to proceed as things stand and then make decisions about what they can and can’t do as delivery plans take shape. In terms of resourcing, SCOTSS advised that they have colleagues who do great work in the scams space and are highly knowledgeable, which should be tapped into, and could also help to alleviate pressure on resource. It was generally agreed that specific expertise will need to be drawn on within the sub-groups and that a flexible approach to membership of these would be appropriate to accommodate as needs arise.
TSS asked if the governance set out was voluntary and how SG envisage this working in practice. TSS also asked about the kind of person SG are looking for as a chair, and suggested Councillor Kelly Parry as a potential candidate. SG confirmed there are no views on the chair and would consider all suggestions, although it needs to be someone partners collectively endorse.
- partners are asked if they have any suggestions around who may be a candidate for chair of the group to send suggestions to the team by Friday 27 August. SG will then draw up a shortlist and bring back to partners for consideration
Police Scotland (PS) noted that make-up of the group should include someone with expertise in victim support. SG confirmed that Victim Support Scotland are members of this partnership but were just unable to attend this first meeting and sent on their apologies. PS also expressed caution in using the term ‘vulnerable/vulnerability’ as we can all be vulnerable to scams, although it is recognised that there will be those more vulnerable in certain circumstances. It is also important to consider how success is measured, and the outputs against the strategic actions will be a key marker for this.
Many partners noted the importance of considering the UK approach to scams, to ensure there is no duplication. SG have already engaged with the Home Office, BEIS and the National Scams Team, and will continue to seek opportunities to join up at a UK level.
Following on from this, UK Finance stated that they were developing their work-plan for scams, including their Fraud Strategy of which they are awaiting membership sign-off. Once finalised they are happy to share this with the group as there will be overlap on areas such as engagement with telecoms, and are happy to help make those connections that may help with heavy workloads.
- SG and UK Finance to link up and make connections to work underway at UK level. UK Finance will also share their Fraud Strategy with partners once finalised
It is also important to consider how to harness the wider spectrum of agencies to help focus resource. Part of this may be informed by the outputs of the upcoming public engagement work, which could help prioritise focus of efforts through presenting a strong evidence base on key issues going forward.
SG then asked partners to consider the role of front-line practitioners in this partnership. As previous discussed under the old Advisory Panel, it is now intended that a programme of local-practitioner workshops will be delivered, to include trading standards, police divisions and possibly the Citizens Advice Bureau network. Again, this would form part of the evidence base to inform content or direction of travel of strategic actions, in particular work on streamlining the landscape for access to advice and enforcement.
- SG to meet separately with CAS to discuss where/how CAB’s can fit into front-line practitioner workshops in future
SCOTSS asked SG for an updated timescale for the current set of research and scenario planning reports commissioned during development of the strategy, and when these would be shared with partners. SG confirmed that we expect to have final versions of all reports in the coming week – once the Minister has been read in on their content, the reports will then be issued to partners, in line with the first meeting(s) of relevant sub-groups.
The importance of a consistent membership to the Strategic Partnership was raised by Which?, who feel that additional member organisations or substitutes for individuals already named on the group could impact on effectiveness of overarching governance and delivery functions. Looking longer term, one organisation Which? feel should be invited to join the membership is Consumer Scotland, once it is set up and established.
Which? advised that they were slightly nervous about the governance of the group and collective decision making. SG advised that they were happy to discuss any concerns offline.
- SG – to arrange separate discussion with Which? to discuss their corporate position re governance role on the Strategic Partnership
It was also suggested that the partners highlight and share success stories where they have been successful in priority responses to different scams.
Partners were asked to send any further feedback on Paper 3 to SG by Friday 27 August 2021. It is important to ensure that everyone is on the same page as we go forward.
- SG to send the Minister a summary of today’s discussion
Key milestones and tiimelines
Paper 4 sets out the key milestones and timelines for Year 1 (2021/22) of delivery of the Strategy. The intention is for all outputs of strategic actions to be in place by the end of 2022/23 period – Year 3 of the Strategy will then focus on implementation.
Once the governance of the Strategy set out in Paper 3 has been finalised, initial meetings will be put in place for sub- groups, with priority being to develop appropriate work-plans for each area of responsibility. For the actions going forward the plan is that any decisions will be brought back to the Strategic Partnership for awareness, or agreement as appropriate.
The public engagement piece needs to happen fairly quickly in order for any key insights to be used to inform work of the sub-groups going forward.
The chair concluded the meeting, which he noted was really helpful and again made apologies for the Minister’s absence. The chair invited partners to retweet the Scottish Government’s social media posts issued in relation to the meeting.
The Chair highlighted that SG are consulting on a new 10 year National Economic Transformation strategy and are happy to be contacted by partners to discuss further.
ADS mentioned their #ScamWatch campaign, which launches on 30 August. UK Finance asked if this was linked to the national Take 5 to Stop Fraud campaign, and will link up with ADS on this to ensure there is a collective voice.
In terms of the next meeting, partners suggested that updates on work partners have underway could be given as a written paper beforehand.
- UK Finance to link up with ADS regarding their #ScamWatch campaign
- SG - to follow up with Which? around the Online Safety Bill
- all partners - partners to provide feedback/suggestions to SG regarding Paper 3 by Friday 27 August 2021
- SG - to send partners an update on preferred approach to appointment of Chair (SG, or external) based on feedback received, may include a shortlist of candidates subject to direction of travel indicated
- SG/UK Finance - to continue to link up and make connections with work already underway at UK level around scams prevention, and keep partners informed
- UK Finance - to share their Fraud Action Plan with partners once finalised
- SG - to follow up with CAS to discuss where/how CAB’s can fit into practitioner-led workshops
- SG - to follow up with Which? to discuss their corporate position re participation in governance role of the Strategic Partnership
- SG - to send the Minister a summary of the meeting’s discussion
- UK Finance/ADS - to link up on ADS’s #ScamWatch campaign
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