Date: May 2020
Location: MS Teams
- Sharon McIntyre (Deputy Chair)
- Judith Paterson (Member)
- Dr Mark Simpson (Member)
In the Chair’s absence, Members agree that Sharon McIntyre would act as Deputy Chair.
- Dr Sally Witcher (Chair)
- Fiona Lodge – SCoSS Deputy Secretary (minutes)
- Terry Shevlin – SCoSS Lead Secretary
- James Wilson – Scottish Government Disability Benefits Team Leader (for agenda item 3)
Members discussed the minutes from the Board meeting on 7 April. With one minor amendment, Members agreed the minutes and their publication on the SCoSS webpage.
- Actions: Secretariat to publish the April minutes on the SCoSS webpage.
Members considered a Scottish Government policy note on proposed draft Winter Heating Assistance for Children and Young People regulations, and a scrutiny approach paper prepared by the Secretariat. The Secretariat noted that the draft regulations were expected to be formally referred to SCoSS on 14 May.
Members considered possible questions to ask James Wilson before inviting him to join the meeting and make a brief presentation. He explained the rationale for introducing ‘free standing’ draft regulations on winter heating assistance, making reference to the Cabinet Secretary’s recent statement to the Scottish Parliament on reprioritising the social security programme. He also highlighted that SCoSS’s scrutiny report on the draft Disability Assistance for Children and Young People (DACYP) regulations had influenced the development of the draft Winter Heating Assistance regulations, including in relation to residency and in clarifying that payments would be made to qualifying individuals rather than to households.
Members asked a series of questions about the likely content of the new draft regulations, drawing on the Scottish Government policy note and SCoSS’s report on DACYP. The Deputy Chair noted that SCoSS would require sufficient time to undertake its scrutiny of the draft regulations, once referred.
James noted that related Scottish Government impact assessments would be provided to SCoSS as soon after the draft regulations were referred as possible.
Members thanked him for attending the meeting then discussed their approach to scrutinising and reporting on the draft regulations. Members considered that consulting with stakeholders could be valuable but noted that the Scottish Government had undertaken a wider consultation on disability assistance, which included asking for views on winter heating assistance. Further, SCoSS had recently received some views on this matter after having asked stakeholders for written submissions on the DACYP draft regulations. Members agreed to wait until receipt of the draft regulations before agreeing a final approach to scrutiny, including on possible consultation. Members also agreed with the Deputy Chair’s suggestion that she be lead drafter for SCoSS’s report.
- Actions – Sharon McIntyre and Secretariat to draft potential options for stakeholder engagement, upon receipt of the draft Winter Heating Assistance for Children and Young People regulations. The options and a draft timeline for scrutiny would then be circulated to Members for agreement by email exchange. Secretariat to request from Scottish Government officials a short briefing on current Government fuel poverty initiatives.
Members considered questions submitted by the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee on SCoSS’s scrutiny report on the draft Disability Assistance for Children and Young People regulations. Members discussed potential responses to the questions, taking SCoSS’s scrutiny report into consideration. Members agreed to finalise SCoSS’s response by email correspondence.
Members noted that SCoSS had been informed by the Social Security Committee of its call for views on the Social Security Administration and Tribunal Membership (Scotland) Bill. Members agreed that there were no issues that SCoSS would wish to raise in response. Members considered that SCoSS should have a future, general discussion on SCoSS’s position on responding to parliamentary consultations.
- Actions – Members to provide comments on the draft response to the Social Security Committee’s questions on the SCoSS scrutiny report on the draft Disability Assistance for Children and Young People regulations by 22 May.
Secretariat to schedule a future board meeting item on whether SCoSS should respond to parliamentary consultations.
Members discussed a draft annual report and a separate draft business plan prepared by Sharon McIntyre and the Secretariat. The Secretariat highlighted to Members that SCoSS’s annual report and accounts had to be laid by December 2020 at the latest, but that it should be possible to publish the document well in advance of that date. The Secretariat also noted that there was some overlap between the content of the annual report and the business plan. As SCoSS had agreed to delay publication of its business plan in light of the disruption caused by COVID-19, there was a need to consider together the content of, and publication dates for, the two documents.
Members provided initial feedback on the draft annual report, noting the need to focus more on the outcomes delivered by SCoSS and on the key role played by stakeholders in informing SCoSS’s scrutiny. Members agreed to provide more detailed comments by email exchange.
- Actions: Secretariat to circulate the annual report and business plan to Members for detailed feedback.
Members considered a further draft of the risk register paper prepared by Sharon McIntyre and the Secretariat. Members agreed that the Chair should review the entire risk register on a monthly basis, with the aim of identifying any new, changing or high level risks. A risk register dashboard containing these risks would then be presented to the Board on a quarterly basis.
- Actions: Secretariat to discuss with the Chair, Members’ agreed approach to the risk register.
Members noted the actions presented in the paper.
Mark Simpson suggested that a briefing from the Scottish Government on universal basic income could be beneficial in light of increased interest in it due to COVID-19.
- Action – Secretariat to add universal basic income to a list of potential briefings and then circulate to Members for consideration and prioritisation.
Secretariat fed back the main points from a recent discussion with the Social Security Advisory Committee Secretariat.
- Action – SCoSS and Social Security Advisory Committee Secretariat to prepare a paper on how both bodies could best work together to improve scrutiny. Judith Paterson to progress this on behalf of SCoSS.
Members were asked to review their register of interests in light of the Board recently agreeing the SCoSS Code of Conduct for members.
- Action – Members to notify the Secretariat of any changes to their register of interests, with a view to the registers being published on SCoSS’s webpage.
The Secretariat highlighted that the procurement process for securing a supplier for SCoSS’s new website was due to begin very soon.
- Action – Members to suggest stakeholders who could participate in user testing of SCoSS’s new website.
Date of the next meeting – 16/17 June 2020 by Skype.