The Poverty and Inequality Commission members appointment round - Good Practice in planning, publicity and assessment - 2019

Key learning outcomes

  • These member appointments for a completely new board are unusual in that the appointments required parliamentary approval. There was significant and substantive engagement between the Commissioner’s office and Public Appointments Adviser, the Scottish Government’s sponsor team and panel chair and the Social Security Committee of the Scottish Parliament. This meaningful engagement during planning was pivotal to the delivery of the right outcome for the appointment round and to giving effect to the will of both the appointing minister and the Scottish Parliament.
  • Taking time to plan the round – the Commissioner published a thematic review in 2018 which examined succession planning in appointment rounds.  This review identified that taking time to plan a round and to design the process in order to best meet the unique needs of the board in question pays dividends.
  • Given the nature of this body’s work, it was vital to attract and appoint individuals with lived experience of poverty to in turn inform the advice given to the Scottish Ministers and to the Scottish Parliament. A recent review conducted by the Commissioner has demonstrated that the appointments process generally sees people from the upper household income brackets attracted and appointed to board roles disproportionately. The approaches taken on this round to publicising the opportunities, to person specification design and to assessment required to be different to ensure that people from alternative backgrounds were attracted and appointed. These approaches are recommended for other boards seeking to address a lack of socio-economic diversity.  Two of the eight members appointments made were on the basis of having lived experience of poverty.
  • Keeping the criteria required for the role simple and to a minimum were good practice provisions for helping to mitigate bias within the appointments process.  The Commissioner has published guidance on mitigating unconscious and other forms of bias during appointments rounds and a guide to assessment and recording assessments which help to assist panels in ensuring that they are using the best possible techniques and approaches to assessment.

Background

The Poverty and Inequality Commission was established as a statutory body from 1 July 2019 through the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017. It is an advisory non-departmental public body which provides independent advice and scrutiny to Scottish Ministers on poverty and inequality. The Commission is tasked with:

  • Providing advice to Ministers on Child Poverty Delivery Plans
  • Commenting on annual progress towards the child poverty reduction targets set and what further progress is needed to meet the targets.
  • Advising Scottish Ministers on any matter relating to poverty or inequality in Scotland, including the impact of polices and the use of resources in reducing poverty and inequality
  • Monitoring progress in reducing poverty and inequality in Scotland
  • Promoting the reduction of poverty and inequality in Scotland

In order to perform its functions, the Commission can gather evidence, carry out research and prepare and publishing reports.

This appointment round was set up to find a whole new board of eight members. The selection panel was chaired by Shirley Laing, Deputy Director, Social Justice & Regeneration Division (SG Housing & Social Justice Directorate), and included the newly-appointed Chair of the Poverty & Inequality Commission, Bill Scott, who is Director of Policy at Inclusion Scotland, and Paul Matheson, Public Appointments Adviser (PAA) as the Commissioner’s representative.

The PAA noted that Shirley and Bill were both knowledgeable and insightful about the challenges of reducing poverty and inequality as well as demonstrating a deep commitment to that aim. Their personal commitment was coupled with an emotional intelligence which was vital for designing a selection and interview process that was attractive to people with lived experience of poverty and inequality, and sensitive to their experiences and their feelings.

Planning

The appointments in this case required parliamentary approval. As a consequence, the panel, sponsors and Scottish Government’s Public Appointments Team as well as the Commissioner’s office made substantive efforts very early on to engage with the Social Security Committee, which was the relevant subject committee of the Scottish Parliament. The Committee’s role at the end of the process would be to write a report for parliamentary consideration about the suitability of the appointing minister’s preferred candidates. It was therefore vital that the committee was properly consulted on the board’s requirements so that all parties had an agreement and shared understanding about the type of people that should be attracted and ultimately appointed to these new roles before the vacancies were publicised.

Engagement with the committee consisted of a mix of both informal and formal consultation as planning progressed which put the relationship between panel and committee on a clear and positive footing at the outset of the round. It also generated agreement about the committee’s engagement with preferred candidates at the end of the process which would be with the Convener and two committee members in a private session as opposed to the publicly broadcast interview by the whole committee that the Chair had participated in prior to his appointment. This was intended to be less potentially off-putting and more accessible to the prospective applicant pool and was published in the applicant information pack alongside details of the other assessment methods. Taking on board the input of the Committee, the criteria for selection were agreed. The combined board would be required to demonstrate a wide range of skills and experience in order to provide comprehensive and well-rounded advice to Scottish Government (and others) about poverty and inequality.

Candidates were asked to demonstrate evidence of one or more of the following priority criteria:

  • the ability to reflect critically on your lived experience of poverty in order to inform solutions;
  • experience of engaging with disadvantaged or marginalised groups;
  • experience of working with children and families experiencing poverty;
  • experience of developing and using analysis in connection with poverty;
  • experience of the formulation, implementation and evaluation of policy relating to poverty.
  • In addition, Candidates were expected to demonstrate evidence of both of the following general criteria:

  • ability to constructively challenge others and be challenged by others;
  • ability to communicate effectively and influence others.

Publicity and assessment

The process was designed to be as barrier free as practicable. The panel decided to test only the priority criteria at the first stage of application, in order to encourage people to apply. This appeared to be successful, because 202 applications were received.  

As with the preceding Chair round, the vacancies were advertised to the sponsor directorate’s comprehensive contact list of stakeholders, relevant organisations and academic researchers with an interest in poverty & inequality – it was also more widely available on Goodmoves, meaning that the opportunity pulled through to other sources such as Indeed.

The list was further augmented by the body chair and the PAA, drawing on their knowledge and experience of working in the fields of disability equality, race equality, organised religion, and refugee/asylum-seeker integration.

As far as possible, named contacts were used to encourage stakeholders and partner organisations to circulate the details of the vacancies to anyone who might be interested in applying. A covering letter was sent from the Cabinet Secretary to stakeholders and partner organisations, which described what an exciting and historic opportunity this was, and in which the Cabinet Secretary personally requested the assistance of stakeholders and partner organisations to circulate details of these vacancies to anyone who might be interested in the work of the Poverty & Inequality Commission.

Given the panel’s interest in attracting applications from people with lived experience of destitution, poverty and inequality (including inequality of education), the panel saw the need to make the applicant information pack as plainly and clearly written as possible, on the grounds that an applicant information pack with minimal policy jargon would be more accessible and encouraging to everyone with lived experience of poverty and inequality, and not just to those prospective applicants – such as refugees or migrants - whose first language is not English.

The PAA circulated to the panel and sponsors an applicant information pack used on a prior round for the Scottish Housing Regulator as an example of good practice. It provided clear, simple, accessible, encouraging information. This was well-received, and elements of it were used to influence the development of the information pack for this round.

The second stage of assessment included a practical exercise in which candidates had to digest a written brief prior to interview and prepare a 5 minute presentation to the panel.

The written brief outlined a scenario in which the candidate was on the board of the Poverty and Inequality Commission, and it had been asked by Scottish Government to consider three key areas of focus for their work in the coming year. Due to time restrictions and other commitments, the board could agree only one of these areas; the others would be for consideration at a later stage. Candidates were invited to present to the panel and discuss which of the options they felt the Commission should focus on as a priority. Candidates were asked to outline their reasons for choosing the priority that they chose, and also to explain why they had not chosen the other two options.

Candidates were assured that there was no ‘right’ answer, and were encouraged to consider how they would handle challenge from other board members regarding their choice, and how they would seek to influence others to agree an outcome that was acceptable to all board members. The exercise was very productive and worked very well.

As this would be the first experience of many candidates of an interview exercise of this kind, plenty of preparation time was allowed for and the language and content of the briefing paper was made as accessible and as jargon-free as possible.

The proposed interview script was prepared by panel members through correspondence in advance and again removed policy-related jargon to take account of the fact that some candidates’ lived experience of poverty and deprivation may not have included sustained exposure to or use of such policy jargon.

Outcome

Eight applicants were recommended to the Scottish Parliament Social Security Committee. They included six women and two men and lived experience of various aspects of poverty and inequality was to be found across all eight nominees. Following the private session with the committee members all eight nominees were recommended by the Committee for appointment and all were subsequently appointed. In recognition that one of the applicants was pregnant, and about to commence maternity leave, the commencement of her appointment was delayed to a mutually agreed date. The press releases announcing the appointments are appended.

PRESS RELEASE 15/08/19

Appointment of Members of the Poverty and Inequality Commission

Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, Aileen Campbell MSP today announced the appointment of Linda Bamford; Yvonne Blake; Alex Cobham; Lindsay Graham; Shona Stephen; Professor Morag Treanor; and Douglas White as Members of the Poverty and Inequality Commission.  Cabinet Secretary, Aileen Campbell, said:

“Tackling poverty and inequality is a key priority for this government and we have set ourselves ambitious targets.  The new Commission members form a formidable team, boasting a diverse range of skills, experience and knowledge which will be an asset to Ministers and the people of Scotland.

“I have asked the Commission to scrutinise the new action reports and to consider what lessons can be shared from different approaches. As this is a new duty for local areas, it is an opportunity to take stock of the work already underway across Scotland and to help increase its positive impacts.”

Chair of the Commission, Bill Scott, said:

“I’m delighted to welcome the new members to the Poverty and Inequality Commission.  Each of them brings a unique combination of experience and skills to the Commission which will be essential to the Commission’s role in advising Scottish ministers, monitoring progress and promoting the reduction of poverty and inequality in Scotland.

“We are looking forward to working alongside Scottish Government, local authorities, the NHS, the third sector and businesses to achieve the shared goal of reducing poverty in Scotland.  Only when the evil of poverty has been eliminated will all of Scotland’s citizens be able to achieve the wellbeing and happiness that is their right.”

Appointments

Linda Bamford’s early career was with NHS Scotland, initially as a psychiatric and general nurse before moving into para medicine with the Scottish Ambulance Service.  Ms Bamford took early medical retirement after surgery for a spinal cord injury and during her rehabilitation she became involved in Children’s Hearings Scotland as a Panel member and Panel Practice Advisor.  Ms Bamford also took up opportunities with the Open University and on-line learning to expand her knowledge mainly in Child Development and Psychology, the Children’s Scotland Act – Criminal Justice and Corrections, Disability and Equality Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  In 2016, Ms Bamford was appointed by Scottish Ministers as the Convener of the Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland (MACS).  She has also worked with Scope on the research elements of Disability Price Tag.

Yvonne Blake is a lifelong social justice anti-poverty campaigner. Her campaigning is embedded in the empowerment of migrant community to recognise and effectively challenge oppressive structures and behaviours individually and collectively.  She is the co-founder of Roots to Return, a member of the Unity centre where she is responsible for day to day running of the centre, strategic development and volunteer recruitment, training and retention and co-founder of Migrants Organising for Rights and Empowerment.

Alex Cobham is Chief Executive of the Tax Justice Network, the leading international organisation dedicated to ending global damage caused by tax havens and corporate tax abuse.  He is a development economist, having worked on inequality and tax at Oxford University and the Centre for Global Development, and leading the policy research teams at Christian Aid and Save the Children.  Mr Cobham has published widely in academic journals, and forthcoming books; The Uncounted and on Illicit Financial Flows.  He is the co-creator of the widely used income inequality measure, the Palma ratio.

Lindsay Graham is a former community nurse and local government officer from the Highlands.  She has direct knowledge and understanding of supporting access to services for vulnerable groups.  At a national level, she chaired the All Party Parliamentary Group of School Foods ‘Holiday Hunger Task Group’, developing guidance and training on the issue.  Ms Graham is also founder of two children’s charities for families affected by disability and is an advocate of their rights.  She has an interest in tackling food insecurity causes and consequences and rural poverty.  A Churchill Fellow, she is a member on the Scotland Committee of National Lottery Community Fund and Trustee for the charity Dundee Bairns.

Shona Stephen is currently the Chief Executive of Queens Cross Housing Association with over 4,300 tenancies, 2,500 factored owners and 220 staff.  She was previously a senior Civil Servant in the Housing and Regeneration Directorate within Scottish Government where she advised Ministers on policy areas including homelessness, fuel poverty, older people’s housing and housing support.  Previously Ms Stephen was Director for The Prince’s Trust in Scotland and spent 11 years as a development officer working for a range of Housing Associations in Easterhouse, latterly as Director of Lochfield Park Housing Co-operative.

Professor Morag Treanor is Professor of Child and Family Inequalities at Heriot-Watt University.  Her focus is on child and family poverty and she has conducted research in this field for close to 20 years.  She analyses strategic and other data to inform policy and practice in relation to child and family inequalities.  Professor Treanor is a Member of the Advisory Board for the Child Poverty Action Group.

Douglas White is Head of Advocacy at the Carnegie UK Trust, a charitable foundation that aims to improve people’s wellbeing with a particular focus on communities experiencing disadvantage.  He leads the Trust’s Digital Futures and Fulfilling work programmes, overseeing a range of research, policy and practice projects with a strong focus on tackling poverty.  Mr White is Vice-Chair of Shelter Scotland and worked previously as a consumer rights advocate and as a social researcher, working with people and communities across Scotland.

An eighth member will be appointed later this year

The appointments are regulated by the Ethical Standards Commissioner.  As set out in the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act, appointments made to the Poverty and Inequality Commission are also subject to additional scrutiny by the Scottish Parliament.

Length of Term, Time Commitment and Remuneration

The appointments are for three years and commenced on 1 July 2019 and will end on 30 June 2022.  Members of the Commission receive £225.00 per day for a time commitment of on average one day each month.  Some Members may also participate in working groups which may lead to additional time which will not exceed five days over the course of a year.

Ms Stephen has indicated that any remuneration received will be donated to the Garscube Community Foundation - a grant giving charitable subsidiary of Queens Cross Housing Association.

Other Ministerial Appointments

Ms Bamford is Convener of the Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland and receives £200.00 per day for a time commitment of 30 days per annum.

None of the other appointees hold Ministerial appointments.

Political Activity

All appointments are made on merit and political activity plays no part in the selection process.  However, in accordance with the original Nolan recommendations, there is a requirement for appointees’ political activity within the last five years (if there is any to be declared) to be made public.

Ms Blake canvassed on behalf of the Yes campaign during the 2014 Independence Referendum and has also canvassed on behalf of the SNP in the 2016 EU Referendum, 2017 General Election and 2019 European Elections.

Ms Bamford, Mr Cobham, Ms Graham, Ms Stephen, Professor Treanor and Mr White have had no political activity in the last five years.

The Poverty and Inequality Commission

The Poverty and Inequality Commission was set up from 1 July 2019 as a new public body, as required by the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017. It replaced the non-statutory Commission, which was launched in July 2017 by the First Minister and chaired by Douglas Hamilton.

The Members appointed will join Bill Scott who took up appointment as Chair of the Commission in January 2019 in order to support in the recruitment of Members.

The Child Poverty (Scotland) Act sets out a number of tasks that the Commission must take on as part of its standard workplan.  Beyond this, the Commission can set its own work programme in discussion with Ministers and can gather evidence, commission research and prepare reports as it sees fit.  The Commission will have a key role to play in:

  • advising Scottish Ministers on the measures they propose to include in delivery plans to reduce child poverty;
  • commenting on progress made towards the child poverty targets set out in the Act, whether progress is sufficient and what further progress is required;
  • advising Scottish Ministers on any matter relating to poverty or inequality in Scotland, including the impact of their policies and use of resources in reducing such poverty and inequality;
  • monitoring progress in reducing poverty and inequality in Scotland;
  • promoting the reduction of poverty and inequality in Scotland.

The Commission will have a budget agreed on an annual basis and a dedicated secretariat will support the work of the Chair and the Commission.

PRESS RELEASE FOR DELAYED APPOINTMENT - 19 September 2019

Appointment of a Member of the Poverty and Inequality Commission

Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, Aileen Campbell MSP today announced the appointment of Katie Schmuecker as a Member of the Poverty and Inequality Commission.

The is the eighth and final appointment to the Commission following the appointments of Linda Bamford; Yvonne Blake; Alex Cobham; Lindsay Graham; Shona Stephen; Professor Morag Treanor; and Douglas White from 1 July 2019.

Appointment

Katie Schmuecker is Head of Policy and Partnership at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), where she leads activity on how to make work a more reliable route out of poverty.  She is one of the authors of JRF’s landmark report ‘We can Solve Poverty’ and a regular commentator in the media through blogs, vlogs, articles and broadcast appearances.  Ms Schmuecker was a member of the non-statutory Poverty and Inequality Commission.  Her experience spans poverty, inclusive growth, economic development, Universal Credit and devolution.  Prior to joining JRF, Ms Schmuecker was Associate Director at the Institute of Public Policy Research North.

The appointment is regulated by the Ethical Standards Commissioner.  As set out in the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act, appointments made to the Poverty and Inequality Commission are also subject to additional scrutiny by the Scottish Parliament.

Length of Term, Time Commitment and Remuneration

The appointment is for three years and will commence on 1 December 2019 and end on 30 November 2022.  Members of the Commission receive £225.00 per day for a time commitment of on average one day each month.  Members may also participate in working groups which may lead to additional time which will not exceed five days over the course of a year.

Other Ministerial Appointments

Ms Schmuecker does not hold any other Ministerial appointments.

 

More Information

More detailed information on any of the materials referred to in this report is available from Ian Bruce, Public Appointments Manager, Ethical Standards Commissioner.
Tel: 0131 347 3897 
Email: i.bruce@ethicalstandards.org.uk