beta

You're viewing our new website - find out more

Publication - Minutes

Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group minutes: November 2017

Published: 9 Jan 2018
Date of meeting: 30 Nov 2017
Location: Millennium Hotel, George Square, Glasgow

Minutes of the meeting of the Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group, which took place on 30 November 2017.

Attendees and apologies

Present

  • Jim McCormick (chair) (JMcC)
  • Shaben Begum (SBe)
  • Tressa Burke (TB)
  • Fiona Collie (FC)
  • Chris Creegan (CC)
  • Etienne d’Aboville (Ed’A)
  • Sarah Hammond (SH)
  • Jatin Haria (JH)
  • Jim McGoldrick (JMcG)
  • Ewan MacDonald (EMacD)
  • Angela O’Hagan (AO’H)
  • Judith Paterson (JP)
  • Frank Reilly (FR)
  • Andrew Strong (AS) (for Ian Welsh)
  • Billy Watson (BW)
  • Sally Witcher (SW)

Apologies

  • Sandra Black (SBl)
  • Lucinda Godfrey (LG)
  • Alan McDevitt (AMcD)
  • Carol Tannahill (CT)
  • Ian Welsh (IW)

In attendance / guest speakers

  • Elisabeth Campbell (Scottish Government) (EC)
  • Ally Macphail (Scottish Government) (AM)

Secretariat

  • Nicola Radley (NR)
  • David Taggart (DT)

Items and actions

Programme update

Elisabeth Campbell, Acting Programme Manager for Social Security, Scottish Government, presented to the Group.

She highlighted the roles of and interaction between different components of the programme, e.g. CAD’s role in evaluation, and Policy’s role in ensuring proposals are deliverable. Digital have a budget of £190m, and it was essential to work closely with them to ensure that what is being commissioned will deliver what is intended. Agency currently had a small number of staff, but that would expand rapidly, starting with recruitment for the wave 1 benefits next year.

EC updated the Group on Bill expected timings, and said that officials from the Legislation team were happy to engage further with the Group.

EC highlighted some of the key points from the recent Experience Panels publication Your Benefits and You, and the importance for service design of considering these points.

Building a relationship with DWP was crucial. In addition to formal meetings (Joint Senior Officials Group, Joint Ministerial Working Group on Welfare) interactions such as seminars and workshops at official level were taking place.

EC recognised that there were lessons to learn from previous large transformation programmes. Lessons show that a phased approach works better than a big bang. The overall programme will only be announced when there is confidence of delivery. The right skills and expertise, where they cannot be accessed within the Scottish Government or other government departments, are being brought in through contractors, but the programme is ensuring that knowledge and skills transfer happens effectively so that it is not lost when contractors leave the programme.

EC highlighted the importance of independent insurance and assessment, e.g. all aspects of the programme are subject to digital first assurance, and a Gateway 0 review had been undertaken. The latter acknowledged the scale and complexity of wave 2 delivery, but had been positive overall. In addition, the Chief Digital Officer and Programme Director had given evidence to the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee. A robust risk management programme was in place.

EC gave some information on development of delivery timelines. Detailed plans were in place for wave 1, with dependencies mapped out. Post wave 1 plans were still under development. Discussions were taking place with DWP around post wave 1 planning.

Post wave 1 benefits will likely have a phased delivery approach, right up to the end of the current Parliamentary term. Stakeholder views are being fed in, and contractor Sopra Steria has been engaged to gather data on user needs during the Discovery phase for the disability benefits programme. Disability benefits will enter their Alpha phase, under the agile methodology, early next year, and a supplier / contractor is likely to be engaged to undertake this.

The Group raised a number of comments and questions:

  • The Group need sequencing of key areas where feedback is required from them so they can do this in a timely manner. An overall programme with more granular detail was necessary to understand the complex landscape, with so many components involved. EC said that, although wave 2 would be subject to change over the coming months, best current thinking could be provided.

DACBEAG4/301117/Action 1: Explore and discuss ways of ensuring regular and timely programme information is provided to the Group.
Action for: Secretariat / Chair
Action by: Next full Group meeting

  • The Group has a role to advise Ministers and officials on whether appropriate advice and evidence is being sought, e.g. around Experience Panels, Agency recruitment. The Group has a responsibility to proactively identify information it needs. However, it was also the Scottish Government’s role as procurer / commissioner to give a clear idea of what advice and input is required from the Group and by when.

  • The Group thought it would be useful to have more in depth information around partnership risks with DWP, particularly around the complexity, the need to mirror the existing system at transition, and the checks and balances to avoid importing the existing culture. EC said that in terms of risk around IT and culture, the programme’s risk management processes were capturing that. All category of risks had been identified and mitigations and treatments were in place. Skills were being bought in where they did not exist, but efforts were being made to embed them in house, rather than them being lost when contracts ended.

  • A comment was made that there is a need to build in evaluation and understand research questions early. It was necessary to mirror the complexity of the existing system at transition, but addressing these questions now could drive simplification post-transition. EC confirmed evaluation is already underway.

  • Comments were made around the current unavailability of an ethnic breakdown for the Experience Panels, and the need for a detailed EQIA for each benefit.

Agency Recruitment update

Ally Macphail, Head of Corporate Services for Agency Implementation, Scottish Government, presented to the Group.

AM clarified that the Agency Implementation Division will become the Agency itself, which will be an Executive Agency of the Scottish Government. Employees will therefore be civil servants and will be subject to the civil service code and operate under SG Main terms and conditions.

He confirmed that the agency’s centralised administration functions would be in Dundee and Glasgow, with Dundee being the headquarters. There would be 1900 staff, with at least 1500 split evenly between the central offices and around 400 spread across local delivery locations. Work was underway to scope what was required for local delivery in each Local Authority area, and recruitment would begin soon to identify staff who will be tasked with building relationships and mapping out the specific needs of each individual LA.

The agency would start relatively small in terms of staff numbers, and build as delivery of each of the benefits was added to the agency’s remit. In terms of the recruitment processes the aim was to make things work as well as possible from the outset. However, one of the benefits of starting small with wave 1 benefits, then incrementally growing, was the ability to seek feedback, measure success, improve and take on board lessons learned.

Recruitment must follow civil service rules which are universal across all departments. This did not need to be a blocker but did place an onus on civil service recruitment to be seen to be fair and open. Agency HR leads were working with SG counterparts to design recruitment processes that are accessible from the outset and that could be advertised externally to a diverse non civil service audience as quickly as possible.

A project has started to look at the correct and fair enactment of COSOP transfer for existing DWP staff.

The Group raised a number of comments and questions:

  • The Group expressed reservations that internal SG recruitment won’t reflect Scottish society as a whole. AM said it was considered unlikely that posts would be filled internally and that subsequent rounds of recruitment would then have a business case to go externally from the start. They were working with partners who recognised that the process could create barriers, and with advocates who had been through the process.

  • A comment was made that having to follow these recruitment pathways initially could set a precedent, meaning it would always have to be done this way. AM asked the Group to be mindful that currently the agency was part of SG and that SG processes must be followed. Even working within existing parameters, AM was confident that a business case will be made for external recruitment in wave 1 and that for wave 2 the agency would have more autonomy to deliver its own recruitment strategy.

  • Group members felt that a case could have been made to override the rules / make an exemption, in negotiation with Trade Unions, to recruit externally from day one, and that this could have been supported by existing legislation and guidance.

  • The Group expressed reservations that potential external candidates would be put off by the impression that the best jobs would be filled in the initial internal recruitment round. AM said that the aim was to identify the best candidates irrespective of background and that there was a commitment to work with various employability groups to create awareness of jibs, create pathways and simplify the application process.

  • Some Group members felt there was a risk that the COSOP element may be more successful in providing staff for the agency than anticipated, meaning there was a large cohort of staff bringing across the existing culture. AM acknowledged that this was a risk but that a project was about to start to manage the COSOP process with DWP and Trade Unions.

  • The Group requested to be kept informed of particular aspects / developments that it would be most helpful to comment on. AM confirmed he was happy to return to the Group and / or keep them informed in other ways.

DACBEAG4/301117/Action 2: Explore and discuss ways of ensuring regular and timely Agency recruitment information is provided to the Group.
Action for: Secretariat / Chair
Action by: Next full Group meeting

Group discussion on Presentations

The Group discussed the presentations without officials present.

The Group underlined its expectation that stakeholder engagement would be joined up and be done in the right order, and that true co-production would be committed to, although they had not seen evidence of this yet. Group members’ respective organisations could offer help and support around stakeholder engagement.

DACBEAG4/301117/Action 3: The Group to write to the Minister on stakeholder engagement, including the Experience Panels.
Action for: Chair / Group members / secretariat
Action by: Next full Group meeting

There was a risk that programme timings may start to drive delivery in a mechanistic way and interfere with values. For example, care still needs to be taken in the language and terminology used, and consideration needs to be given to the physical environment of the new headquarters. Although there was an Operations Group in existence who have started discussing this, there needs to be more communication and co-ordination of activity.

There was risk around the lack of oversight of any equalities analysis / EQIA. There was a need to be sighted on this and for external organisations to be involved in building competence and mitigating risks around this.

The Group discussed in more detail issues around recruitment, particularly around transfer of the existing culture. However, they felt that these risks could, to some extent, be mitigated by having the right training and structures in place.

The Group felt they needed to understand the financial baseline so their advice could take resource implications into account. The Group would commission a report and / or input from relevant officials.

DACBEAG4/301117/Action 4: Seek input to understand the financial baseline, either in the form of a commissioned report or other input from officials.
Action for: Secretariat / Chair
Action by: Next full Group meeting

The Group felt that they should proactively strengthen relationships with each of the programme elements. They had a particular interest in digital strand, to understand this and ensure it is not driving policy.

DACBEAG4/301117/Action 5: Proactively strengthen relationships with each of the programme elements, where not specifically identified in a separate action in this minute: Digital, Analytical Services, Policy, Legislation, Agency Implementation (going wider than just the recruitment strand).
Action for: Secretariat / Chair
Action by: Next full Group meeting

In thinking about getting an overview of how different components worked together, the Group considered the role of their own advice. They felt that there was value in looking at aspects that others were already considering, as their role was to provide overarching advice and co-ordination.

Assessment Workstream update

Tressa Burke updated the Group:

  • The workstream had met once and was next meeting on 14th December.
  • External members had been identified.
  • The workstream was currently deepening its understanding of the landscape through review of existing evidence. It would then roadtest options, involving the Experience Panels and condition specific groups.
  • The role of and weighting given to self-assessment would be a key element to advise on, and the Group discussed this briefly, generally favouring the concept of self led assessment.
  • TB confirmed that this would be a long term workstream which would routinely need to widen out; e.g. may hold workshops / seminars, or involve other Group members at specific points, and would need to capture user experience.

DACBEAG4/301117/Action 6: The evidence being reviewed by the assessment workstream to be circulated to the full Group: Scottish Government International Comparisons Paper (unpublished), Paul Gray second independent review, CAS Burden of Proof report, SG 2016 consultation responses analysis
Action for: Secretariat
Action by: asap following meeting

Scrutiny Workstream Update

[DACBEAG4/301117/Paper 1; DACBEAG4/301117/Paper 2]

Judith Paterson updated the Group:

  • She gave a summary of the actions so far on this workstream: an initial advice note had been provided to the Minister and Committee at the end of October, a wider stakeholder workshop had taken place on 20th November, and meetings with key stakeholders, including Committees, had either taken place or were taking place over the next few days.
  • The final meeting of the workstream was taking place on 5th December, after which recommendations would be finalised.
  • There was a narrow window of opportunity for the whole Group to input on the recommendations. JP had drafted a near final table of evidence and recommendations which would be circulated to the Group.
  • The workstream particularly still needed to clarify recommendations on oversight and whether there should be an independent statutory oversight body.
  • The Group discussed the separate and distinctive roles of IIAC, and whether our recommendations would allow divergence of policy after transition, for example around specific conditions.

DACBEAG4/301117/Action 7: Circulate near final draft of the scrutiny workstream evidence and recommendations table to the full Group for comment.
Action for: Secretariat
Action by: asap following meeting

Charter [DACBEAG4/301117/Paper 3]

Sally Witcher led a discussion on the Charter.

SW highlighted how the Charter had potential to become a key document which could hold information in one place, available to everyone, on the many different aspects of rights. This could include, for example, rights to benefits, and agency standards. The Charter could set out the different bodies responsible, different forms and pathways for redress, means of monitoring and evaluating, and legal underpinnings. A table could help clarify this.

The Group noted that the Charter was also a key part of scrutiny considerations, as it should reflect social security principles and aims, and should set out how oversight of these should be achieved.

The Group agreed that there would be merit in establishing a Charter workstream. There is a commitment to co-production in the development of the Charter, and the Group felt they could potentially support officials to achieve this through a Charter workstream.

The Group were keen to engage with officials to develop this further, particularly around building capacity in the Experience Panels and other means of stakeholder engagement to achieve co-production.

DACBEAG4/3011117/Action 8: Engage with officials to progress work on the Charter. Write to officials offering to work alongside them, and also seeking clarity on the timeline.
Action for: Chair / Secretariat
Action by: End December

Workplan / Issues Log / Advice to Ministers

[DACBEAG4/301117/Paper 4; DACBEAG4/301117/Paper 5]

The existing workplan, published in July, needed updating and fleshing out. It would be useful to set this out in a Gantt chart style so milestones, spread, timing and dependencies can be seen. This would allow Group to see if they have sufficient capacity and resource, and if their meeting frequency was sufficient. Population of the workplan was dependent on having the best current timeline and programme information sought from other action points from this meeting.

DACBEAG4/301117/Action 9: Develop a Gannt chart style workplan for the Group based on updated programme and timeline information.
Action for: Secretariat
Action by: Next full meeting of Group

It was raised that Carers Allowance Increase and Young Carers Allowance need to be added to the workplan.

Secretariat resourcing was discussed. Recruitment was about to start for a new full time Modern Apprentice. The Chair thanked Davie Taggart for his assistance to the Group so far in that capacity.

Carrying out specific pieces of the Group’s remit through workstreams had been shown to be effective, but needed resource. The Group had successfully engaged with the other reference groups in the scrutiny workstream, and would look to draw on other SG resource in future.

The issues log was found to be useful to record issues that had come across the Group’s radar. It would be useful to add some kind of weighting to them.

The Stage 1 committee report would be looked at closely when available, to inform and prioritise the Group’s stage 2 advice.

AOB

Members of the Group had been sent the Best Start Grant Illustrative Regulations by officials for comment. The Group decided not to submit a collective response as Best Start Grant does not fall within their remit. Members were welcome to respond in the individual or organisational capacities if they wished.

DACBEAG4/301117/Action 10: Inform officials that the Group will not submit a collective response to the Best Start Grant illustrative regulations.
Action for: Secretariat
Action by: asap following meeting

The Group discussed how to engage with other stakeholders who may approach with an interest in the Group’s work. It was agreed that a clear and consistent approach should be taken. In some cases, it would be appropriate to suggest involvement in workstreams. The Group should also consider holding an annual stakeholder event. This would be put on the agenda for a future meeting.

Thanks and Close

Summary of Actions from this Meeting

DACBEAG4/301117/Action 1: Explore and discuss ways of ensuring regular and timely programme information is provided to the Group.
Action for: Secretariat / Chair
Action by: Next full Group meeting

DACBEAG4/301117/Action 2: Explore and discuss ways of ensuring regular and timely Agency recruitment information is provided to the Group.
Action for: Secretariat / Chair
Action by: Next full Group meeting

DACBEAG4/301117/Action 3: The Group to write to the Minister on stakeholder engagement, including the Experience Panels.
Action for: Chair / Group members / secretariat
Action by: Next full Group meeting

DACBEAG4/301117/Action 4: Seek input to understand the financial baseline, either in the form of a commissioned report or other input from officials.
Action for: Secretariat / Chair
Action by: Next full Group meeting

DACBEAG4/301117/Action 5: Proactively strengthen relationships with each of the programme elements, where not specifically identified in a separate action in this minute: Digital, Analytical Services, Policy, Legislation, Agency Implementation (going wider than just the recruitment strand).
Action for: Secretariat / Chair
Action by: Next full Group meeting

DACBEAG4/301117/Action 6: The evidence being reviewed by the assessment workstream to be circulated to the full Group: Scottish Government International Comparisons Paper (unpublished), Paul Gray second independent review, CAS Burden of Proof report, SG 2016 consultation responses analysis
Action for: Secretariat
Action by: asap following meeting

DACBEAG4/301117/Action 7: Circulate near final draft of the scrutiny workstream evidence and recommendations table to the full Group for comment.
Action for: Secretariat
Action by: asap following meeting

DACBEAG4/3011117/Action 8: Engage with officials to progress work on the Charter. Write to officials offering to work alongside them, and also seeking clarity on the timeline.
Action for: Chair / Secretariat
Action by: End December

DACBEAG4/301117/Action 9: Develop a Gannt chart style workplan for the Group based on updated programme and timeline information.
Action for: Secretariat
Action by: Next full meeting of Group

DACBEAG4/301117/Action 10: Inform officials that the Group will not submit a collective response to the Best Start Grant illustrative regulations.
Action for: Secretariat
Action by: asap following meeting

Contact

Email: ceu@gov.scot
Telephone: 0300 244 4000

Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

Published:
9 Jan 2018
Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group minutes: November 2017