Publication - Research and analysis

Social Security Experience Panels: change of circumstances and debt repayment - report

Published: 20 Jul 2020

This report summarises the results from 10 focus groups and an online survey with Experience Panel members. The research explored how contact about changes of circumstances should work for clients of Social Security Scotland, along with how debt should be repaid.

29 page PDF

581.5 kB

29 page PDF

581.5 kB

Contents
Social Security Experience Panels: change of circumstances and debt repayment - report
Clients reporting changes to Social Security Scotland

29 page PDF

581.5 kB

Clients reporting changes to Social Security Scotland

Preferred way of reporting changes

We asked survey respondents how they would like to get in touch with Social Security Scotland to notify them about a change in their circumstances. In response, over a half of respondents (51 per cent) indicated that they would want to notify Social Security Scotland online. Over a quarter (22 per cent) of respondents said they would prefer to get in touch over the phone. One tenth (10 per cent) of respondents said that they would want to have a face to face meeting with a local member of Social Security Scotland staff.

Table 5: How would you like to notify Social Security Scotland of a change in circumstances? (n=391)

%

Over the phone

22

Online

51

Face to face with a local member of Social Security Scotland Staff

10

Other

16

Total

100

Respondents that answered 'other' (16 per cent) listed various ways in which they would want to notify Social Security Scotland of any changes in their circumstances. The majority of those said that they would like to notify with a pre-paid letter in the post.

Several respondents that answered 'other' said that they would want to make contact both over the phone and online. A couple of respondents said that they would want to make contact via their social worker.

In focus group sessions, several participants mentioned that an online portal would be a useful service where clients could input simple changes of circumstances (such as a change of address) without needing to speak to someone directly.

Reasons not to report changes

Focus group participants were also asked if there were any reasons that they would not report a change of circumstances to Social Security Scotland.

In response, a recurring theme among participants was fear and uncertainty of the consequences if they were to notify about a change. Several participants were concerned that reporting changes could mean that they might be reassessed, and could lose their award.

"There is fear of a decision that leaves you worse off than what you have just now. I'm scared that it could put me in a worse position."

"I might lose money from reporting a change of circumstances."

"The scariest part of reporting changes of circumstances is the potential reassessment. One change doesn't mean that you need to be reassessed."

Similarly, some participants felt that their lack of faith in the system would also make them more reluctant to notify of changes of circumstances.

"If it isn't clear how you will be impacted financially, if that isn't clear and laid out in advance then clients are less likely to come forward. What if you report and the next day you have nothing? What if there are sudden cuts that people aren't expecting?"

Several participants also said that they would be reluctant to immediately notify about any sudden changes, in case their situation worsened shortly afterwards again. These participants suggested that it was not always straightforward to assess the state of any health conditions that they might have. Several also mentioned that because the benefits system was not responsive enough to react to their fluctuating conditions, it did not make practical sense to continually report every one of their good and their bad months.

"If it is your only source of income, then anyone would be wary of oversharing their information. You're not going to shout from the roof that you are fit again. In a short time frame you might feel better, but the following month you could be back to square one."

"Yesterday, I was almost bouncing round the house, up and down consistently, but today was a struggle. It's hard to know when things are improving."

We also asked focus group participants whether there was anything that Social Security Scotland could do to make it easier for clients to update the agency about a change of circumstances. Amongst the suggestions, some focus group participants suggested that having clarity about processes would be useful.

"We should know how things are going to be assessed, puts us at ease when reporting a change."

Other participants suggested having quick and simple tools to make it easier for them to get in touch with staff. Some suggested an online call-back booking system, whereby they could request that a client advisor gave them a ring at a time that they had specified.

"Even if it's just going online and ticking 'change of address' and it then allows someone to call you back when you are free and ask for information."

"I'd like an appointment system – where I can ask them to call me back in these hours."

Other participants indicated that they did not talk on the phone, and therefore would need other quick and easy methods of contact with Social Security Scotland.

Many participants also talked about the general approach of staff. They said that they would be more likely to contact Social Security Scotland if they felt like they would be treated with respect and compassion by client advisors.

"I'd be more likely to talk to transparent, compassionate, and empathetic staff."


Contact

Email: Socialsecurityexperience@gov.scot