Framework document between the Scottish Government and the Scottish Commission on Social Security

Framework document between the Scottish Commission on Social Security (SCoSS) and the Scottish Government, setting out the broad framework within which SCoSS operates.

Updated June 2024.

Governance and Accountability

11. SCoSS was established by section 21 of the Act as a body corporate and does not carry out its functions on behalf of the Crown. The body’s functions are defined in Section 22 of the Act. Schedule One of the Act sets out the parameters of the body’s legal status, powers, procedures, finance and membership.

12. The remainder of this section summarises the specific responsibilities and accountabilities of the key people involved in governance of SCoSS.

The Board

13. Members of the SCoSS Board, including the Chair or Chairing Member(s), are non-executives appointed by Scottish Ministers in line with the Code of Practice for Ministerial Public Appointments in Scotland. The Chair and Board Members are accountable to the Scottish Ministers and also to the Scottish Parliament, and may be required to give evidence to Parliamentary Committees.

14. The Board has overall responsibility for the delivery of the functions of SCoSS, as set out at paragraphs 8 to 10 above, in accordance with the aims, policies and priorities of the Scottish Ministers. In fulfilling this responsibility, individual Members, under the leadership of the Chair, will:

  • (a) set strategic and operational plans to deliver the functions of SCoSS, focusing on how the work of SCoSS can most effectively contribute to achievement of the outcomes in the National Performance Framework, the Programme for Government and Scotland’s Economic Strategy in collaboration with the SG and other public bodies;
  • (b) regularly scrutinise current and projected performance against the aims, objectives and targets set out in plans and take decisions on remedial action where required;
  • (c) ensure that effective governance is established and maintained, including ensuring that decision-taking is open and transparent and that key risks are identified and managed;
  • (d) promote the efficient, economic and effective use of resources consistent with the principles of Best Value, and regularly scrutinise financial performance and compliance with financial guidance issued by the SG; and
  • (e) promote the wellbeing, learning and development of staff assigned to work for SCoSS.

15. The role of Members of the Commission is to act in the best interests of the Commission as a whole. When undertaking their roles, individual Members of the Commission should not ask the Secretariat to take action on their behalf, unless the request is in the best interests of the Commission as a whole or there is an agreed consensus among a majority of Commissioners prior to any request.

16. The Chair will:

  • (a) lead the Board, ensuring that all Board members have suitable induction to understand the role and their responsibilities, that the skills and experience of all Board Members are used effectively and that the Board undertakes regular self-assessment of its performance;
  • (b) ensure that the performance of each Board member is reviewed at least once per year and that the Board and/or individual Board members undertake development activity when required to ensure the effectiveness of the Board;
  • (c) ensure that the Board reviews its effectiveness annually;
  • (d) ensure that a Code of Conduct (aligned to the Model Code of Conduct for Board Members) is in place, that corporate actions are taken to implement it as required and that Members understand their responsibilities, using the guidance provided by the Standards Commission;
  • (e) work with the Accountable Officer or their delegate(s) and the Public Appointments Team in SG on succession planning for the Board, action necessary to fill vacancies as they arise, skills requirements and promoting diversity by encouraging applications from less represented groups, including younger people, people from minority ethnic backgrounds and disabled people;
  • (f) delivers its principal aims as set out in the Act and that the Board is working effectively;
  • (g) work with the rest of the Board and the Accountable Officer to oversee effective management of SCoSS’s budget;
  • (h) in discussion with Members, ensure that SCoSS’s work plan is set and tasks are allocated to the secretariat and Members;

    17. Board Members of SCoSS, including the Chair, are non-executive appointments made by the Scottish Ministers in line with the Code of Practice for Ministerial Public Appointments in Scotland. The role of Members is to provide direction, support and guidance to ensure the body delivers and is committed to delivering its functions effectively and efficiently and in accordance with the aims, policies and priorities identified within the Act. Individual Members, under the leadership of the Chair, have the following responsibilities, including, but not limited to:

    • (a) taking forward the strategic aims and objectives for SCoSS as agreed with the Scottish Ministers;
    • (b) bringing their unique experience, perspective and knowledge to SCoSS discussions;
    • (c) representing the agreed views of SCoSS in public forums where appropriate; and
    • (d) complying at all times with the agreed behaviours in the Code of Conduct and within the rules relating to the use of public funds and conflict of interest.
    • (e) Promoting transparency through clear reporting and sustainability through taking a long-term view.

    18. If SCoSS choose to set up a committee to lead on any report or topic, the Committee shall have clear Terms of Reference setting out its relationship with the SCoSS Board. Any co-opted members shall have formal letters of appointment setting out the expectations of them in their role and are expected to abide by the Code of Conduct at all times.

    19. Specific guidance on how the Chair and Board Members should discharge their duties will be provided in their appointment letters and helpful information can be found in On Board – A Guide for Members of Statutory Boards. Guidance on governance good practice is available in the Scottish Public Finance Manual and from the sponsor team, who may consult the SG Governance and Risk Team. A list of key aspects of governance to consider is included in the Governance and Risk section below.

    SCoSS Secretary and Staff

    20. SCoSS cannot employ staff in their own right. All staff, including the Secretary, are civil servants on SG terms and conditions. They are required to comply with the Civil Service Code and SG HR policies, but their primary responsibility for all operational matters is to the Board and it will not be possible for the Accountable Officer, Senior Sponsor, members of the Sponsor Team or other SG officials to instruct the staff of SCoSS in the performance of their duties except by agreement with the Chair or the Board. Arrangements for the provision of SG staff, HR services and applicability of HR policies will be set out in a separate management agreement between SG and SCoSS and reflected in letters of appointment for SG staff assigned to SCoSS.

    21. The Secretary will be the principal adviser to the Board on the discharge of its functions and is accountable to it. The role of the Secretary is to provide operational leadership to staff working for SCoSS and to ensure that its aims and objectives are met, its functions are delivered, and its targets are met through effective and properly controlled executive action.

    22. The specific duties of the Secretary will be set out in a job description and annual objectives will be agreed with the Senior Sponsor and used in the performance appraisal process.

    23. In addition to any other specific duties, the Secretary will:

    • (a) advise the Board on the discharge of its responsibilities – as set out in this Framework Document, in the founding legislation and in any other relevant instructions and guidance issued by or on behalf of the Scottish Ministers;
    • (b) implement or oversee implementation of the decisions of the Board;
    • (c) manage the staff of SCoSS in line with guidance, policies and procedures in place in the SG, and ensure their wellbeing and development;
    • (d) manage the budget for SCoSS in line with Finance guidance, policies and procedures, including the Scottish Public Finance Manual;
    • (e) agree with the Board and the AO or Senior Sponsor what information is required to enable the Board and SG to scrutinise the performance of SCoSS and progress against overall strategic and business plan aims and objectives, and ensure that the agreed information is provided and that it is both accurate and timely; and
    • (f) manage the day-to-day relationship with the Senior Sponsor and/or Sponsor Team, with other SG officials who have an interest in the work of SCoSS and other key stakeholders, including staff of other public bodies.

    24. In advising the Board, the Secretary will ensure that the key governance issues highlighted in the Governance and Risk section below are addressed.

    The Scottish Ministers

    25. The Scottish Ministers appoint the Chair and Board Members of SCoSS, and hold the Board to account for the performance of SCoSS and its use of resources. Ministers are ultimately accountable to the Scottish Parliament for ensuring that the Board is discharging its duties effectively, although the Parliament will scrutinise the performance of SCoSS directly as it does with all public sector bodies. The Scottish Ministers are not directly responsible for the operation of SCoSS and Schedule One of the Act prevents them from directing the Board in relation to specific statutory functions.

    26. The Scottish Ministers will:

    • (a) agree the strategic aims, objectives and key targets of SCoSS as part of the corporate planning process;
    • (b) agree the budget for SCoSS, and secure the necessary Parliamentary approval; where necessary;
    • (c) approve the Code of Conduct of the SCoSS Board;
    • (d) Provide SCoSS with such staff and resources as required to carry out its functions;
    • (e) Carry out responsibilities specified in the Act, such as appointments to SCoSS’s Board and approving the terms and conditions of the Chair and members of SCoSS, and;
    • (f) Undertake other matters such as approving the remuneration of the Chair and Board Members of SCoSS in line with SG Pay Policy and laying accounts (together with the annual report) before the Parliament.

    SG Accountable Officer

    27. The Principal Accountable Officer for the Scottish Administration (the Permanent Secretary of the SG) has designated the Deputy Director, Head of Social Security Policy, as the Accountable Officer (AO) for the budget which will provide funding for SCoSS.

    28. The AO’s duties are to establish a framework for the relationship between SG and SCoSS, oversee the operation of that framework, ensure the public appointments to the body are made appropriately and ensure that appropriate assurance is provided on the performance and governance of the body.

    29. These activities are known collectively as ‘sponsorship’. In practice, the AO has delegated all sponsorship duties to other SG officials in a ‘Sponsor Team’. The responsibilities of an Accountable Officer are set out in detail in the Memorandum to Accountable Officers for Parts of the Scottish Administration.

    30. The AO will:

    • (a) make sure this framework document is agreed between the Scottish Ministers and SCoSS, ensure that it is reviewed regularly and oversee the operation of the roles and responsibilities set out in it;
    • (b) ensure that financial and other management controls being applied by SCoSS are appropriate and sufficient to safeguard public funds and conform to the requirements both of propriety and of good financial management;
    • (c) in line with Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments, ensure that public appointments are made in good time and secure appropriate skills, experience and diversity amongst Board members, working with the Chair on succession planning; that there is effective induction for new appointees; and ensure that there is continuous assessment and annual appraisal of the performance of the Chair;
    • (d) support regular and effective engagement between SCoSS and the relevant Scottish Minister(s); and
    • (e) make sure there is clear, documented delegation of responsibilities to a Senior Sponsor and/or Sponsor Team and that the Board and senior officials of SCoSS are aware of these delegated responsibilities.

    31. The AO remains personally answerable to the Scottish Parliament for the effectiveness of sponsorship activity.

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