Section Two: SCoSS’s performance
The second section of this report contains information about the following:
- How does SCoSS work? This sets out its vision, values and aims.
- What has SCoSS done so far? This describes its main work to date.
- What will SCoSS do next? This considers its future priorities.
Everything that SCoSS does is informed by its vision and values.
- For Scottish social security: A robust, effective and efficient Scottish social security system that meets its full potential to
improve outcomes for the people of Scotland.
- For SCoSS: To help achieve the vision for Scottish social security by providing independent expert advice that adds demonstrable and significant value.
Both what SCoSS does and how it does it are underpinned by SCoSS’s values:
SCoSS is Independent – from Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament. It scrutinises impartially on the basis of evidence, while actively seeking out and carefully considering different views and perspectives.
SCoSS is Committed – to making sure human rights, the social security principles and the lived experience of people who use or need to use social security are at the heart of its work.
SCoSS provides Assurance and Accountability– by undertaking expert, thorough scrutiny and challenging constructively while remaining solution-focused. SCoSS aims to be open, transparent and accountable itself, and is committed to its own continuous improvement.
SCoSS is Outcome-focused – making practical recommendations for improving draft regulations and the Charter, always aiming to make a real difference to the lives of people who use devolved social security.
SCoSS will publish its annual report and accounts in late 2020, which will include a full review of its performance. Some of the highlights to date are set out below. This looks first at what SCoSS has done to carry out its roles under the Act, then at work to establish SCoSS as a new body.
Much of SCoSS’s time has been spent scrutinising and reporting on the Scottish Government’s draft regulations. SCoSS has published eight scrutiny reports to date:
- The Carer’s Assistance (Young Carer Grants) (Scotland) Regulations 2019
- Uprating report 2019
- The Scottish Child Payment Regulations 2020
- The Social Security Assistance (Funeral Expense Assistance and Young Carer Grants) (Up-rating and Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Regulations
- The Scottish Child Payment Regulations 2020: supplementary scrutiny report on draft regulations
- The Disability Assistance for Children and Young People (Scotland) Regulations 2020
- The Winter heating assistance for children and young people (Scotland) regulations 2020
- Draft Carer’s Allowance Supplement (Qualifying Persons) and Young Carer Grant Amendment (Scotland) Regulations 2020.
SCoSS started work on its first report, on Young Carer Grant draft regulations, as soon as it opened for business in February 2019 and published it in May 2019. SCoSS was pleased that the Scottish Government accepted most of its recommendations, for example, changing the definition of ‘care’ in the regulations. Members of the Social Security Committee also found SCoSS’s report useful when they scrutinised the draft regulations –
“I really like the layout of your report. It is easy to read and easy to see what recommendations were adopted. I found it extremely helpful, so, like other committee members, I thank you for your work on it.”
The Cabinet Secretary’s responses to other scrutiny reports provide several examples of how SCoSS’s scrutiny has led to the Scottish Government changing its approach. This is welcome as it clearly shows that SCoSS is adding value.
Another key benchmark of success concerns being able to ensure, within the often limited time available, that what SCoSS says reflects the lived experience of people with experience of the social security system and is informed by the expertise of key stakeholders. SCoSS has been exploring different ways to do this. For example, it held an event on the Scottish Government’s proposed Scottish Child Payment (SCP) to help inform its views. 25 people took part, allowing SCoSS to hear from parents and organisations that provide advice on social security. SCoSS was grateful for their input and was pleased that participants found the event to be worthwhile, with 90% saying both the event and presentations were excellent or good.
“SCOSS seems genuinely interested in engaging with a wide range of organisations/individuals and hearing their views about SCP regulations.”
SCoSS must report ‘on any matter relevant to social security’ when asked by either the Scottish Government or the Scottish Parliament. To date, SCoSS has had one request from the Scottish Government. This asked SCoSS to consider its plans for ‘uprating’ and different approaches to it. Uprating happens every year. The aim is to make sure that the value of assistance – what it’s worth – remains the same. Otherwise inflation means that you can buy less with the same amount of money. There are different ways to calculate the impact of inflation and what that means for the amount people get paid each year. SCoSS
took the opportunity to set out ideas for developing improved approaches to uprating over the longer-term. SCoSS was pleased that the Scottish Government said it would consider the report’s recommendations in the future.
Every organisation needs policies and processes to make sure it is well run and complies with the law. As SCoSS was a new body, there has been a lot to do to put these into place. For example, the board has:
- Considered possible risks to SCoSS’s ability to perform its roles, and then and agreed a plan to reduce each risk;
- Agreed its working practices and the rules that determine how it makes important decisions
- Established an approach to freedom of information so that people can fully understand the decisions it makes.
- Agreed a Framework Document with the Scottish Government which sets out the broad framework within which SCoSS operates.
One of SCoSS’s first actions was to produce a draft Scrutiny Framework. This sets out the issues SCoSS will consider and the questions it will ask when it scrutinises draft regulations. The Framework helps SCoSS members to check they have fully thought about how draft regulations reflect the social security principles and human rights obligations. As the principles cover things about how social security is designed and how it will be continuously improved, the Framework covers the whole process, from development through to monitoring and evaluation. SCoSS hopes the Scrutiny Framework also provides a useful checklist for others involved in developing and scrutinising draft regulations.
Based on SCoSS’s experiences of scrutiny so far, it is also developing a protocol with the Scottish Government. This will set out SCoSS’s roles and how it works together with the Scottish Government. The protocol will make clear the information SCoSS needs from officials to undertake effective scrutiny and help ensure there is a shared understanding of what SCoSS needs.
SCoSS appreciates that it is a part of the wider social security landscape and is developing links with other relevant organisations. This should make its work better informed, while guarding SCoSS’s independence.
The disruption of COVID has caused the Scottish Government to change its timetable for draft regulations. This means SCoSS does not know at the moment when draft regulations will be referred to it or how much time it will have to produce scrutiny reports. However, there are other important pieces of work that SCoSS will progress.
SCoSS also wants to consider how it can continuously improve its outputs, the processes and relationships for developing them, and how SCoSS operates as a body.
SCoSS’s priorities for the next year are as follows:
- Monitor how the Scottish Government and the Social Security Committee take account of its reports, to ensure SCoSS is being effective and influential.
- Devise an effective and inclusive approach to undertaking SCoSS’s reporting duties on the Charter.
- Embed a ‘lessons learned’ culture, where SCoSS always reviews the effectiveness of its work to identify where improvements could be made.
- Strengthen the expertise of the SCoSS board by recruiting an additional member.
- Continue developing SCoSS’s relationships with the Social Security Committee and the Scottish Government to make sure SCoSS is adding value while maintaining its independence. Continue exploring how SCoSS can best involve people with lived experience in its scrutiny work, to help ensure that draft regulations have a positive impact on their lives.
- Implement a stakeholder engagement plan and strengthen SCoSS’s relationships with other key stakeholders including Social Security Scotland, academic and third sector experts, and colleagues in the Social Security Advisory Committee, which scrutinises the UK social security system.
- Consider whether to establish any sub-committees.
- Consider holding on-line stakeholder consultation events to inform SCoSS’s scrutiny of draft regulations.
- Invite feedback from stakeholders on SCoSS’s events and reports, and from Scottish Government officials attending board meetings.
- Deliver on all of SCoSS’s corporate responsibilities, ensuring that it creates a sound governance framework and demonstrates value for money through its audited accounts.
- Develop a new website that is transparent, inclusive and provides full access to SCoSS’s reports and minutes.
- Work to provide information in accessible formats, and invest in accessible, inclusive communications.