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

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29 page PDF

581.5 kB

Contents
Social Security Experience Panels: change of circumstances and debt repayment - report
Agency error - under and overpayments

29 page PDF

581.5 kB

Agency error - under and overpayments

We also asked focus group participants for their views on what Social Security Scotland should do if they noticed that they had made a mistake and either underpaid or overpaid a client.[6]

Underpayments

When asked about what Social Security Scotland should do when they had underpaid a client, most participants suggested that they should notify the client quickly and pay the amount that was owed.

"Pay what the client is due. This needs to be done quickly."

When an underpayment had been made, participants also felt it was important that Social Security Scotland adopted a personal tone and told the client that they had made a mistake.

"Make person aware by contacting them directly, not everyone keeps an eye on finance day to day."

"Admit the mistake and say why a specific thing went wrong – e.g. system failure."

Additionally, when a client had been underpaid, several participants also felt that any update should be written in a letter.

"I'd like a letter with an explanation. Someone to phone if need be. But I like letters, and I don't like online. You can keep letters, you've got a record…"

Overpayments

When asked what should Social Security Scotland do when they realised that they had overpaid a client, many focus group participants shared the same view that clients should be notified quickly.

"Just contact them as soon as possible. Get in touch by email, or phone, or text, whatever. The speed is the main thing."

"As soon as possible. Sometimes you might not notice that you are being overpaid. I wouldn't look all the time so I won't know if there is too much…"

Other participants felt it was important that Social Security Scotland made an effort to avoid causing any harm when it approached clients about an overpayment.

"Should still be a discussion with client, need to find a way of dealing with it without harming the client."

Noticing an overpayment

Survey respondents were asked about the size of overpayment that a client should be expected to notice, if they had received a single payment. In response, over a third of survey respondents (37 per cent) felt that a person should be expected to notice an overpayment of £100 if they had received a single payment (for example, a Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payment). Over a quarter (28 per cent) felt that that figure was lower at £50.

Table 6: What size of overpayment do you think a person should be expected to notice if they had received a single payment such as a one-off grant? (n=384)

%

£20

10

£50

28

£100

37

£300

14

£600

11

Total

100

When asked about what amount of overpayment a person would be expected to notice, focus group participants provided a range of answers. Some thought that a digit error should be noticeable (e.g. receiving £1000.00 rather than £100.00). Others thought that a double payment would be noticeable. However, many others did suggest that it would depend on the individual, and there was no single amount that should be considered noticeable.

"If you got £1000 instead of £100, if it is obviously more than you normally receive, then you should notice."

"What's a reasonable person? Everyone is different. For people with learning difficulties or people who speak different languages, wrong payments may not always be easily noticeable."

"It depends on the circumstances. There's no single amount. Can't really answer that."

"If someone was double paid. If the benefit payment went in twice. That would be noticeable. I imagine errors like this can happen."


Contact

Email: Socialsecurityexperience@gov.scot