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Publication - Minutes

Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group minutes: September 2017

Published: 27 Nov 2017
Date of meeting: 27 Sep 2017
Location: St Andrew’s House, Edinburgh

Minutes of the meeting of the Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group, which took place on 27 September 2017.

Attendees and apologies

Present

  • Ellen Searle, Scottish Government, Social Security Policy, Chair
  • Jane Sterry, Scottish Government, Social Security Policy
  • Nicola Smith, Scottish Government, Social Security Policy
  • Kevin Hurst, Falkirk Council / Health and Social Care Partnership
  • Peggy Winford, Scottish Government, Carers Policy
  • Nicola Dickie, CoSLA
  • Louise Morgan, Carers Trust
  • Suzanne Munday, MECOPP
  • Heather Noller, Carers Trust
  • David Taggart, Scottish Government, Social Security Policy
  • Shirley Morris, VOCAL
  • Andrew Gillies, Social Work Scotland
  • Fiona Collie, Carers Scotland
  • Kirsteen McLeod, Scottish Government, Communications and Delivery
  • Trish Brady-Campbell, Scottish Government, Communities Analysis
  • Elaine Douse, Scottish Government, Social Security Policy (observer)

Apologies

  • Roisin Connolly, Highland Carer Centre
  • Beth Hall, CoSLA
  • David Ward, Scottish Government, Programme Management

Items and actions

Minutes of previous meeting

The Group agreed the minutes from the previous meeting.

Longer term options for Carer’s Allowance

Members reviewed the updated longer term options paper for Carer’s Allowance (paper: CBAG 5/2017) This now took into account the prioritising exercise at the previous meeting, and responses to the Scottish Government’s consultation on social security.

Further to discussion, members agreed that a preamble should be incorporated to set out that:

  • this was a live paper which would be added to if additional longer term issues or relevant evidence emerged over the course of the year
  • longer term choices should take into account the pros and cons of the knock on effects of changes to wider services such as Social Work and NHS, and a comparison with other policy intervention options to achieve the same outcome
  • and that a rigorous assessment of the impact of changes on other benefits in the system, both devolved and reserved, should be undertaken in order to see if the increase to Carer’s Allowance could negatively affect claimants’ financial circumstances.

Action: Scottish Government to update the longer term options paper in line with member comments.

Updates from Scottish Government

Experience Panels

Scottish Government analysts noted that over the summer over 1,100 of the 2,400 people registered for Experience Panels responded to an ‘About You’ survey, and of those over 260 took part in 34 Focus Groups covering all local authorities in Scotland. Around 430 members have experience with carer benefits. The aim of the survey was to learn more about members, their demographics and their experience of social security. The Minister for Social Security had agreed with the request from participants that information on ethnicity would be collected later rather than at the start of the survey, once trust had been established between researchers and members.

The Group agreed that:

  • it is vital that information on members’ ethnicity be gathered, to understand if the Experience Panels have sufficient representation from early on in the process, and be able to take action to rectify any gaps as soon as possible. This is particularly the case as the experience of claiming benefits for ethnic minorities is often very different.
  • information on income bands of members would be helpful.
  • CBAG should receive regular updates and the opportunity to input on questions for the Experience Panels

Actions: Scottish Government analysts to

update CBAG on ethnicity monitoring in the Experience Panels

  • consider gathering information on income bands of participants, and
  • ensure that CBAG is kept up to date on progress and can feed into the approach for developing questions for the Experience Panels.

Legislation

Scottish Government officials reported that the Social Security Bill, which includes the detail of the Carer Allowance Supplement (CAS), is now at Stage 1. Over the summer the Minister for Social Security had met with stakeholders, including carer stakeholders, to promote understanding of and take feedback on the Bill. The evidence session relating to carers is on the 26th of October. The Minister will appear before the Committee on 02 November. Further updates will be provided as the Bill progresses. The chair suggested that papers relevant to the evidence session on the 26th of October can be shared with stakeholders before the evidence session takes place.

Action: Scottish Government to circulate a draft of the Position Paper for the Committee session on carers to members for comments.

Carer’s Allowance Supplement (CAS)

Scottish Government officials reported that CAS payments are aimed to be delivered starting next summer (backdated to April of that year), however we are working with DWP closely on this and our schedule is very much dependant on their timescales. Further updates in regards to timelines should be available within coming weeks.

Carers Act

In regards to the Carers Act, SG is working towards a date of April 2018 for implementation. Five sets of regulations have been passed and there were others out for consultation that closed on the 24th of September. There will be two regulations not passed by the 1st of April, as they are relate to timescales for the production of adult carer support plan or young carer statement, and carers of people with terminal illness and evidence is still being collected to underpin these. Macmillan and Marie Curie are undertaking research on the latter.

The Scottish Government has been producing guidance for the Carers Act. It is planned that the guidance will be issued in draft in December, to be available for use before the Act implementation date, but will not become statutory until the date of commencement. It is expected that the guidance will be a live document, and there may be supplementary guidance. The consultation on the Carers Charter will close on the 22nd October.

The Group agreed that updates could be provided in a short written note in advance of the meeting so that discussion could focus on the key tasks for the Group.

Action: Scottish Government to co-ordinate a written update paper to be circulated with meeting papers

Disability and Carer Benefit Expert Advisory Group

The Carers Scotland representative, who sits on the Disability and Carers Benefit Expert Advisory Group (DCBEAG), set out that the group plans to be as open and as transparent to the public as is feasible. There are two workstreams of the DCBEAG, one focusing on scrutiny and another on assessments.

It was noted by local authority representatives that it is crucial that Local Government are represented in the Assessment sub-group, as if ministers have ruled out the use of the private sector to carry out assessments, it may be left to local authorities to employ the assessors for disability benefits. Local authority representatives also noted that it would be vital to link DCBEAG to Health and Social Care Partnerships and CoSLA, as well as other relevant groups.

Action: DCBEAG representative to report this back to the DCBEAG.

Remit and Membership of the Young Carer Grant Working Group (Paper 5/2017)

This agenda item was shortened to allow sufficient time for subsequent items. The Group agreed the overall approach in respect of the Young Carer Grant Working Group. The need to consider engage with front line providers, including Health and Social Care Partnerships, was highlighted.

Action: Members to provide further comments by correspondence.

Communications

It was noted that the Social Security Directorate now has its own communications and engagement team, with an individual member of staff dedicated to each benefit, and overarching strategic staff. The team leads on benefit uptake activity, and alongside recent announcements, work has been undertaken to increase the social media presence on social security, such as the Social Security Twitter account (@ScotGovSocSec)

Feedback on recent communications, including the timeline produced by SG, was sought and members made the following points:

  • announcing the agency location and the Young Carer Grant within a few days of each other had caused confusion.
  • for the greater presence online to be effective, it would be crucial to network with organisations with a good social media presence such as Young Scot.
  • although a strong presence online is helpful, we should not solely rely on Social Media and should still partake in more traditional forms of information sharing, such as newsletters. For example, some 4000+ carers still request to receive the VOCAL Newsletter physically as oppose to digitally.
  • in terms of young people, the Scottish Government and stakeholders should reach out to Parent-Teacher Councils (they also tend to be active on social media)
  • any Q&A video focusing on the Young Carer Grant should be separate from the video already developed on CA, and should be developed with a younger target audience in mind
  • Carers Scotland would be holding their annual Carers Summit on 24 November, which could provide a useful platform for communication and engagement on social security. This is also Carers Rights Day across the UK.
  • we must be careful with the timing of communications, remembering the mantra of ‘the right message, at the right time, to the right people’. For example, communications on the Young Carer Grant now could easily cause confusion and disappointment as people who meet the eligibility criteria now will not be eligible when it is delivered in autumn 2019.
  • it is vital to engage with those in the public and third sector who will be at the frontline of engaging with our target audience, for example Health and Social Care
  • the organisations represented on the Group also have their own communications strategies, which must align with Scottish Government’s plans to be effective.

The Group agreed that they would be happy to engage on communications between meetings.

Actions: SG to take the points raised into account in developing the communication strategy on carer benefits, and consider a more extended and interactive session on the communication strategy at the next CBAG meeting.

CBAG Remit, Membership and Group Work Plan (Paper: CBAG 7/2017)

At the last meeting the group agreed that the remit, and membership be revised to take into account the changed landscape for carer benefits in Scotland since the inception of the Group - the development of carer and social security outcomes, the new Disability and Carer Benefit Expert Advisory Group, and the progress to benefit delivery, planned from summer 2018. It has also been agreed to provide a draft work plan for the Group for 2017-18. It was noted that NHS representation was still required. Feedback on the revised remit and membership and the work plan was sought.

Members noted that the tone of the outcome on benefits ‘providing value for money for Scottish taxpayers’ could be seen as implicitly critical of people who receive benefits. On balance however the majority of the Group felt that this was fair, as we are all taxpayers and this should be seen in the context of our vision that ‘social security is important to all of us and able to support each of us when we need it’, and the principles that ‘social security is an investment in the people of Scotland’, and that ‘respect for the dignity of individuals is at the heart of everything we do’.

The Group agreed

  • that a revision was required to the outcome on practitioner support for carers (it would not be realistic for all practitioners to identify carer needs and develop a plan)
  • that the remit and membership was fit for purpose, pending the addition of an NHS representative and a mechanism to engage with Health and Social Care
  • workshops should be organised over the next three months on the cross-cutting issues of: the charter; residency; complaints, redeterminations and appeals; fraud, debt and error.
  • that a mechanism to support communication with members should be developed, which would hold documents and support discussion between meetings.

Actions: Scottish Government officials to circulate the updated remit and membership to take into account member comments; continue to seek NHS representation; and organise workshops for members on cross cutting issues.

Diversity and Equalities

It was agreed MECOPP will circulate a paper on this as they felt there was not enough time to discuss this topic in the detail it requires. This would be put to members to develop a working plan going forward.

Members were clear that further work and a strong emphasis on equalities were required, specifically that an overarching approach on equalities was needed across social security, as well as benefit specific work. The issue of the combined impacts of welfare reform on women was highlighted to illustrate this. Members noted that the social security bill itself is currently largely silent on equality, in particular in respect of gender.

Actions: MECOPP to develop and circulate a paper on carer benefits and equalities, covering all protected characteristics; members to comment on this paper; SG to highlight comments on broader equalities issues to colleagues in the SG Social Security Directorate.

What Went Well, Even Better If…

The Chair set out that given the volume of work for 2017-18 and its complexity, it was vital that meetings and engagement with members was organised in a way that enabled effective contributions. To this end, this would be a regular agenda item. Members were asked for comments:

  • What went well: candid discussion; having the right people in the room, including Comms and extended LA representation; identifying messages for Comms “getting the right message to the right people at the right time”; getting papers one week in advance; highlighting equalities as an issue.

  • Even better if….:present papers as a hierarchy when issuing; improved mechanisms for engagement with Health and Social Care; a bigger, light and airy room

Action: Scottish Government to take into account for future meetings

AOB

The Group was informed that a new member will be representing CoSLA going forward.

Carers Scotland extended an invite to the group for their upcoming Annual Carer Summit hosted in the Glasgow City Chambers on the 24th of November.

Action Who Date
1. Update long term options paper SG Secretariat Next meeting -17 Jan
2. Written updates paper in advance of meetings SG Secretariat Next meeting
Experience Panels, 3. Update CBAG on ethnicity monitoring in the Experience Panels, 4. Consider gathering information on income bands of participants, 5. Provide regular updates to CBAG on progress and take feedback SG Analysts Next meeting and ongoing
6. Report back to DCBEAG on LA involvement in the work of the Group DCBEAG representative 30 Nov (next DCBEAG meeting)
7. Take member comments into account for the communication strategy, consider for the next CBAG meeting. SG Comms Next meeting
8. Revise CBAG remit and membership in light of member comments SG Secretariat Next meeting
9. Secure NHS representation on CBAG SG Secretariat Next meeting (carried fwd)
10. Organise workshops for members on cross cutting issues SG Secretariat By end December

Contact

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

Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

Published:
27 Nov 2017
Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group minutes: September 2017