The Scottish Commission on Social Security (SCoSS) is pleased to present its first scrutiny report on draft regulations. As we are a new body and this is a new process for all concerned, we hope it is helpful to provide a brief outline of our role and how we intend to operate.
SCoSS was established by the Social Security (Scotland) Act 20181https://www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2018/9/contents/enacted as an advisory Non Departmental Body, independent of Scottish Government and Parliament but with legal duties that relate to both. We legally came into existence on 21 January 2019 and opened for business on 8 February 2019, as was necessary to enable timely scrutiny of draft Young Carer Grant regulations (See ANNEX A).
The Act broadly sets out three key parts to our role2Section 22(1) of the Social (Security) Scotland Act 2018:
- Scrutinising and reporting on draft regulations arising from the Act in relation to nine forms of devolved assistance3Section 22(1) of the Social (Security) Scotland Act 2018 and the power of Scottish Ministers to top-up benefits reserved to the UK Government
- Reporting, from time to time, on the extent to which expectations in the Social Security Charter are being met and making recommendations for improvements
- Providing any reports requested by Scottish Ministers or the Scottish Parliament on any matter that is relevant to social security
When the Commission scrutinises draft regulations we must have due regard to any relevant international human rights instruments4 Section 22(5) of the Act sets out further detail about what the relevant instruments might be: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2018/9/section/22/enacted and the Social Security principles.5 Section 1 of the Social (Security) Scotland Act 2018 sets out the eight social security principles: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2018/9/section/1/enacted As the Social Security Charter “takes these principles and explains what they will mean in practice”6Social Security Charter, p4: https://www.gov.scot/publications/charter/ we may also refer to expectations set out in the Charter when scrutinising draft regulations. When we report on the Charter we may have regard to human rights. Together, these functions provide a broad and robust remit to hold Ministers to account for delivering a system that lives up to the principles, human rights obligations and the expectations set out in the Social Security Charter.
SCoSS intends to be open and accessible about how we go about our work. We have therefore developed a draft scrutiny framework that integrates both the principles and human rights, which we will use as a tool for scrutinising draft regulations as they develop (See ANNEX B). In so doing, we may also collect information relevant to reporting on the Social Security Charter. The draft framework covers the whole end-to-end process, from policy intention, development, design and delivery, right through to continuous improvement, monitoring and evaluating impact. It does not mean that our scrutiny of regulations will always cover everything. It might depend on exactly what the regulations cover. Or we might want to focus on one or two key points. It also does not mean that our scrutiny reports will always follow the sequence of main headings in the framework.
The framework means that everyone will know the kinds of questions we have asked and the kinds of evidence that we intend to consider. It also allows us to be held to account against the framework for how we carry out our scrutiny and the conclusions that we reach. The Commission will consider how it can best seek wider feedback on the development and improvement of the framework on an ongoing basis. We will also consider how this and all our work can be communicated accessibly and inclusively. The draft framework is annexed to this report for information.
The members of this Commission care deeply about social security and the critical importance of its role as an investment in people’s lives and in Scottish society. We are committed to playing our role in supporting the delivery of a system that lives up to the social security principles, a human rights based approach and the expectations set out in the Social Security Charter. We will also aim to reflect these in the way we ourselves carry out our work; adding value to existing scrutiny processes on behalf of the people of Scotland and providing constructive challenge to help ensure that positive ambitions translate into positive improvements to people’s lives.