beta

You're viewing our new website - find out more

Publication - Research Publication

Analysis of written responses to the consultation on social security in Scotland

Published: 22 Feb 2017
Part of:
Equality and rights, Research
ISBN:
9781786527912

Analysis of responses to a public consultation to inform the content of the new Scottish Social Security Bill.

331 page PDF

2.3MB

331 page PDF

2.3MB

Contents
Analysis of written responses to the consultation on social security in Scotland
5. Independent advice and scrutiny

331 page PDF

2.3MB

5. Independent advice and scrutiny

Proposals for independent advice and scrutiny

5.1 The Scottish Government set out its proposals for independent advice and scrutiny in Part 1 of the consultation document.

Question - Do you think that there is a need for an independent body to be set up to scrutinise Scottish social security arrangements? Please explain your answer.

Table 5.1 Do you think that there is a need for an independent body to be set up to scrutinise Scottish social security arrangements?
Yes No
Respondent group Number % Number % Total
Individuals 95 89% 12 11% 107
Organisations 96 92% 8 8% 104
All respondents answering 191 91% 20 9% 211

Note: A full breakdown of responses by respondent group is included in Annex 2 (available to download separately as part of this publication).

5.2 211 respondents answered the closed part of this question. Almost all of those responding (91%) felt that there was a need for an independent body to be set up to scrutinise Scottish social security arrangements, with individuals and organisations broadly responding in the same way. There was broad support from across respondent groups answering the question.

5.3 203 respondents provided further comments (96 individuals and 107 organisations) when asked to explain their answer.

Reasons for supporting an independent body

5.4 Most respondents providing further comments stated that there would be a need for an independent body to scrutinise social security arrangements. They felt it was obvious that a government agency would need an independent body to provide oversight.

"It is always a good idea to have a mechanism in place from the beginning to demonstrate that there is oversight of practice, with power to intervene in cases of poor practice."
Scottish Out of School Care Network

"All public organisations responsible for delivering services to the community should be subject to independent scrutiny as a matter of principle."
Individual

5.5 The main reasons that respondents gave for having an independent scrutiny body were to:

  • demonstrate independent monitoring and accountability;
  • ensure that the principles enshrined in the Charter are upheld;
  • provide consistency and long term oversight; and
  • reassure and boost public confidence in the new social security agency.

"This would provide transparency and give people faith in the new social security system."
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Corporate Inequalities Team

"Oversight bodies can provide scrutiny of government actions, increasing government's accountability and transparency while providing advice as to how government functions and policy objectives might be improved or discharged. These arms-length bodies (ALBs) perform a consultative or expert role, to bring independence and expertise into the delivery of policy, to help regulate services, and to provide advice. Their main advantage is seen to be their ability to de-politicise decision making and build public trust, as well as providing access to specialist advice and expertise that would be more costly to deliver through consultancy-based services."
Individual

5.6 Some felt that an independent body was needed to fulfil the responsibilities that the current UK committees are providing. A few specifically noted that, as in the current UK system, Scotland should have a separate independent body to provide scrutiny for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit ( IIDB), like the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council ( IIAC).

"A Scottish independent scrutiny body should be set up to provide scrutiny, expert analysis and comment on how new arrangements are working, this could work in much the same way as the current system in place across the rest of the UK."
COSLA

5.7 A few respondents also noted that an independent body was required in Scotland because the Scottish Parliament does not have a second chamber to review legislation. A few mentioned that the body would need to take account of the reserved benefits and interact accordingly with the existing committees. A suggestion was made that a small number of people could sit on both UK and Scottish committees, to ensure good communication and a consistent approach.

Other issues

5.8 Many respondents said that as well as experts, the independent body should involve or incorporate the views of people outwith government and the social security agency. They recommended that people using social security services, representatives from the third sector and health professionals should be involved.

"It is important that any independent body is representative of those who engage with the social security system especially people who are disabled."
ENABLE Scotland

5.9 A few felt that the independent body could be an ombudsman, and few noted that the body should have power to implement change when necessary.

Reasons for not supporting an independent body

5.10 Those who felt there should not be an independent body had concerns around the cost administration for this body and felt that the role could be managed by parliament or an existing body ( e.g. Auditor General for Scotland or Care Inspectorate).

"We would be concerned about the cost of administering such a body. We would prefer that the social security budget should be mainly confined to providing benefits and services. It is important that the Scottish Parliament is clearly seen as accountable for social security. A committee of the Parliament should therefore have oversight of the agency."
Scottish Older People's Assembly

Question - If you agree, does the body need to be established in law or would administrative establishment by the Scottish Government of the day be sufficient? Please explain your answer.

5.11 168 respondents provided comments for this question (86 individuals and 82 organisations).

5.12 The vast majority of respondents answering this question said that the body should be established in law, with a minority feeling that administrative establishment would be sufficient.

Reasons for establishing in law

5.13 Primarily, respondents wanted the body to be established in law so that it would have permanence and not be subject to potential change with each newly elected government. They wanted to ensure that the body had authority, credibility and consistency.

"I feel that if it was administered by the Scottish government of the day, then depending on which government the future may hold, there would perhaps be the likelihood of a harsher return to UK values, whereas if the body was enshrined in law, there would be a more difficult time in removing the body from legislation."
Individual

5.14 A key point raised was that by being established in law, the body would be independent of government and in a better position to be critical and hold government accountable.

"Yes it needs to be established in law. If the new body could be established by the Scottish Government without reference to Parliament it could just as easily be dispensed with if it proved troublesome. To guarantee the new body's independence and its robust scrutiny of the social security system it needs to have statutory authority."
Inclusion Scotland

"Permanence and independence through its establishment in law would be preferred as this will provide continuity and consistency as well as ensuring impartiality in times of political change."
SPAEN

5.15 One organisation noted that although there would be value in establishing it in law, this could exclude 'grassroots voices' from the process. It recommended that alongside the scrutiny body there should be an on-going dialogue with disabled people's organisations and others.

Reasons for supporting administrative establishment

5.16 Those that felt administrative establishment would be sufficient said that there was no need for excessive legislation and that administrative establishment was more flexible, allowing for change when required.

Question - If yes, what practical arrangements should be made for the independent body (for example, the law could state how appointments to it are made and the length of time an individual may serve as a member of the body)?

5.17 120 respondents answered this questions (63 individuals and 57 organisations).

5.18 Some said that the existing UK committees or other public bodies could be used as models for designing the new independent body.

5.19 The main themes emerging were:

  • length of time for appointments, remit and way the body operates;
  • make-up and interests;
  • appointment process; and
  • remuneration.

"We would recommend learning is taken from the arrangements for the current Social Security Advisory Committee ( SSAC)."
ENABLE Scotland

Length of time, remit and operation

5.20 Many respondents said that appointment to the body should be limited to a fixed tenure, with suggestions ranging from two to fifteen years. Although most respondents advocated for a time limited appointment to the body, one respondent noted that it might be useful to have a system where approval is sought for a person to continue beyond the set term so that expert knowledge is not lost. A few respondents also noted that new appointments to the body should be staggered so there is not a wholesale change of membership.

"It should be established in law, with a clear remit and there should be guidance about how appointments are made and about length of time people can serve."
Marie Curie

5.21 Respondents said that details around how the body should be run and its remit should be outlined in law, or in a legal constitution.

Make-up and interests

5.22 A large number of respondents felt that the body should represent a range of views from people across society and should include representation for protected groups, third sector, health professionals and academic experts. Respondents mentioned that the committee should not be overly populated with people from government or aligned to any political party. They felt there should be a wide range of people with a range of experience and expertise in social security. A few respondents mentioned that people appointed to the body should have sufficient knowledge and skills.

"Appointments should be made on basis of a person's skillset and competency levels in order to get the most out of the group. Preferably qualified people to be a big part of it. However, you may want there to be representation from some voluntary organisations also."
Individual

"The body should be made up of individuals with relevant experience and knowledge, and who are not part of the political elite. Membership should change on a regular basis, with members not being allowed to serve for long periods of time."
Ypeople

Process for appointments

5.23 Overall, respondents felt that people should be appointed to the committee in a fair manner, with some recommending the use of existing Scottish Government protocols as a model. A few respondents wanted to ensure that people with special interests or biases were not part of the body.

5.24 With regards to the role of Chair for the committee, there were mixed views on whether the chair should be appointed by the committee itself or approved by Parliament.

Remuneration

5.25 A few respondents discussed remuneration for being on the committee. Those that discussed this issue generally felt that membership of the committee should not be highly incentivised and a few felt that it should be voluntary or 'pro bono.'

Question - Should there be a statutory body to oversee Scottish social security decision making standards?

Table 5.2 Should there be a statutory body to oversee Scottish social security decision making standards?
Yes No
Respondent group Number % Number % Total
Individuals 72 79% 19 21% 91
Organisations 55 83% 11 17% 66
All respondents answering 127 81% 30 19% 157

Note: A full breakdown of responses by respondent group is included in Annex 2 (available to download separately as part of this publication).

5.26 157 respondents answered the closed part of this question. Of those responding, the majority (81%) thought there should be a statutory body to oversee Scottish social security decision making standards. There were no substantial differences in the views between individuals and organisations. There was broad support from across respondent groups answering the question.

"Yes, experience of UK social security administration suggests that there have been problems with quality of decision-making over many years. In the light of that background ensuring high quality decision-making should be a very high priority for the Scottish Government."
Individual

5.27 132 respondents provided further comments (66 individuals and 66 organisations).

5.28 The main themes emerging were:

  • the need for statutory oversight; and
  • potential bodies to undertake the oversight function.

The need for oversight

5.29 Some generally felt that the current decision making system was flawed and lacked public confidence. These respondents felt that some form of statutory oversight would improve decision making standards and consistency and ensure that peoples' rights and principles are upheld.

"Current rates of successful appeal in relation to UK benefits suggest there is a serious problem with the quality of initial decision making in relation to social security benefits."
CPAG Scotland

5.30 A few respondents also mentioned that in the past there have been roles for independent scrutiny of decision making, such as the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council, Decision Making Standards Committee and Adjudication Officers/Decision Makers. They welcomed the introduction of a statutory body to re-establish scrutiny of decision making by a trained and knowledgeable body, and a few called for the reinstatement of Decision Makers.

Potential bodies

5.31 Many felt that this role could fall within the remit of the previously discussed independent scrutiny body, or could be incorporated into another organisation such as Audit Scotland or the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman. A few felt that the reasons behind the need for a decision making standards body were similar to those for an independent scrutiny body. They reiterated their reasons or referred to previous answers.

"We believe statutory oversight and monitoring mechanisms must be put in place; however, we feel that there would be merit in considering whether this could be done by an existing public body."
Equality and Human Rights Commission

5.32 A few restated the need for regular reporting from the body to provide transparency to the public.

Question - If yes, should this be a separate body in its own right?

Table 5.3 If yes, should this be a separate body in its own right?
Yes No
Respondent group Number % Number % Total
Individuals 57 72% 22 28% 79
Organisations 32 65% 17 35% 49
All respondents answering 89 70% 39 30% 128

Note: A full breakdown of responses by respondent group is included in Annex 2 (available to download separately as part of this publication).

5.33 128 respondents answered the closed part of this question. While the majority (70%) agreed that it should be a separate body in its own right, a substantial minority (30%) disagreed. Individuals were slightly more likely to agree than organisations. There was broad support from across most respondent groups. Disagreement came mainly from local authority respondents, with a slight majority of this group disagreeing overall.

5.34 101 respondents provided further comments (53 individuals and 48 organisations).

5.35 The main themes emerging were:

  • the statutory body should be impartial and independent of the government;
  • the body could be part of the scrutiny body; and
  • the body could be part of another existing organisation.

Reasons for supporting a separate body

5.36 Where respondents said 'yes', they felt that this body needed to be independent from the government and the social security agency that had made the original decision. A large number of respondents felt that this body should be entirely impartial and transparent so that the public could truly have confidence in it. A few noted that this body would have a different role to the scrutiny body, and so it needed to be a distinct body.

"For independence and therefore impartiality to the process. Autonomy would make any recommendations more meaningful, and genuinely have legislative and service improvement at the core."
Grampian Housing Association

"It must be seen to be outwith the political bubble machine."
Individual

Reasons for not supporting a separate body

5.37 The main reasons for not supporting a separate body were that responsibilities could be incorporated into the previously discussed scrutiny body, the social security agency, or another existing organisation. These points were made by some, and local authority respondents in particular.

"As detailed above, an independent body should oversee the social security decision making standards but this could be combined with the responsibilities of the scrutiny body."
North Ayrshire Council

"I don't think it needs to be. I think it would be fine to have one organisation that's tasked with scrutiny."
Individual

5.38 A few respondents who supported a separate body suggested models that could be built on or replicated such as Her Majesty's Inspectors ( HMIs) and Audit Scotland.

Question - Do you have any other views about the independent scrutiny of social security arrangement in Scotland ( e.g. alternative approaches)?

5.39 74 respondents answered this question (44 individuals and 30 organisations). Respondents restated the importance of transparency, accountability and regular reporting from the social security system.

5.40 The main themes emerging were:

  • interests and expertise to include;
  • making use of evidence to inform scrutiny; and
  • learning from existing models.

"They should be independent from the government and the social security department also to be accountable to the users of social security by questionnaires and random interviews."
Individual

Interests and expertise

5.41 Some respondents felt that any independent scrutiny should include opinions and expertise from a wide range of people including:

  • people using social security services/user panels;
  • independent advice agencies;
  • third sector;
  • healthcare professionals; and
  • frontline social security workers.

"Scrutiny can only fairly be made by those who have experience (in reality, not on paper) of the same problems faced by service users. The members of these scrutiny bodies must be aware of the intersectional issues faced by those accessing such economic recompense services and be aware of how poverty is exacerbated by having to deal with multiple public and commercial organisations."
Individual

5.42 A few respondents suggested that independent scrutiny could take place at a local level, within the community.

Evidence based approaches

5.43 A few respondents mentioned that independent scrutiny should be part of and informed by on-going monitoring and evaluation of the impact of services. This could include the views of people using social security services through focus groups or surveys.

Learning from existing models

5.44 A few respondents again mentioned that existing successful models of inspection organisations could be used as models for the design of a Scottish independent scrutiny body e.g. Her Majesty's Inspectors ( HMIs) and European Foundation for Quality Management ( EFQM). They also wanted the design to be simple and efficient, making use of existing infrastructure where possible.

"It will always be important for the Scottish Government to continue to listen to the views of all stakeholders through a continuous process of evaluation and monitoring, written consultations, parliamentary working groups, and other such activities."
ENABLE Scotland

"In addition to the formal approaches given above, we recommend a series of informal opportunities to participate in a scrutiny "dialogue" in order to provide mechanisms for 'ordinary voices' in the community to be heard. For example, independently facilitated 'community conversation' events; reference groups; small funded projects; roadshow events around the country; online and paper based surveys and so on."
Glasgow Disability Alliance


Contact

Email: Trish Brady-Campbell