2. Approach to Scrutiny
As with previous reports, SCoSS has carried out its scrutiny role in accordance with Section 97 of the Act; with regard to the Scottish social security principles and any relevant provisions of human rights law; and also with reference to our scrutiny framework
The draft Regulations were formally submitted on 25th June 2021 by the Minister for Social Security and Local Government, Ben Macpherson MSP, with a request by officials that we report by 21st July 2021, in order that they are laid as soon as possible following the return of the Scottish Parliament from its 2021 summer recess. Our scrutiny timeline is summarised in the Annex.
The Commission has had less than a month in which to draft and agree this report. The very tight timescales, combined with leave arrangements, have had inevitable implications for our approach to scrutiny. Regrettably we did not have time for all members of SCoSS to be involved in drafting this report, including the Chairperson. We have also been unable to engage with people with lived experience and consult stakeholders as we would have wished. As a result, to date, there appears to have been no specific stakeholder engagement on the detail of the draft amended Regulations. We were, however, able to invite officials to a SCoSS Board meeting to discuss the draft Regulations and we submitted written questions following the Board meeting to which officials responded by email.
While it is true that the draft Regulations are technical in nature, the changes can have a significant impact on people’s lives. It is therefore important that risks are carefully monitored and that principle (f) of the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018– that the social security system should be designed with the people of Scotland on the basis of evidence – is not sacrificed. Moreover, if it is the intention to use the draft amendment Regulations as a vehicle for ‘tidying up’ other Regulations, it is important to ensure such additions do not cover matters of substance where stakeholder engagement would be critical.
Recommendation 1: The Scottish Government should routinely assess and highlight whether Regulations contain matters where people with lived experience and stakeholders may have an interest and a contribution to make, and ensure adequate time is available for this.