Reviewing a benefit award
Participants were asked to think about what they would want to happen when Social Security Scotland reviews a benefit award. They were told that when Social Security Scotland reviews a benefit award, some clients might undergo a 'light touch review'. This is where Social Security Scotland will review the evidence it holds and decides whether to continue to award the benefit, end the award or change the amount paid to clients.
Respondents were asked how far in advance they would like Social Security Scotland to contact them to tell them it will be reviewing the benefit award. Over one third of respondents (36 per cent) would like notice about one month beforehand. Around one quarter of respondents would like about two months' notice (23 per cent) and three months' notice (24 per cent). The least popular options were one to three weeks beforehand (12 per cent) and longer than three months (six per cent).
|One to three weeks beforehand||12|
|About a month beforehand||36|
|About two months beforehand||23|
|About three months beforehand||24|
|Longer than three months||6|
Focus group participants were asked if they would like Social Security Scotland to contact them to tell them that a benefit award will be reviewed. Participants held mixed views on this. Many participants said that they would rather not be told that Social Security Scotland was reviewing their award because this would cause them to worry.
"I would really hate to get something in advance. Every brown envelope puts me in panic. To warn me I'm to be put under review will not let me sleep."
Alternatively, some participants emphasised the importance of keeping the client informed about the review process, and that Social Security Scotland should state any review period clearly in the initial decision letter.
"When you get your award you should tell us when it will be reviewed and stick to that, it's awful being reviewed out of the blue for no apparent reason"
These participants felt that the letter could be worded in a way which highlights that clients do not need to take any action, which might reduce the potential worry and stress.
"The letter should explain it's time now for your review and let them know who they can contact. Make sure you tell them that they do not have to do anything and make this clear."
A few participants felt that it was important that they be notified of a review, so that they too could review the evidence held by Social Security Scotland for its accuracy.
"Need sight of any evidence so there's a right to reply before the decision made. It should say what evidence you've got and ask I agree with it."
Survey respondents were told that after a light touch review, a client's benefit could change, for example, increase, decrease, or stop altogether. For example, if a client's circumstances change and they are no longer eligible for the benefit, their payment would stop. Respondents were asked how much notice Social Security Scotland should give to clients if a review found they were no longer eligible for a benefit, or the amount they were getting was going to change.
Just over one third of respondents said that Social Security Scotland should give about one months' notice (36 per cent) or about two months' notice (35 per cent). One quarter of respondents would like more than two months' notice (25 per cent). Only five per cent of respondents said that Social Security Scotland should give less than one months' notice (between one to three weeks).
|Between one to three weeks||5|
|About a month||36|
|About two months||35|
|More than two months||25|
Over eight in ten respondents said they would like to receive a notification that their benefit award is ending by post (83 per cent), whilst four in ten said they would like the notification by email (41 per cent). The least popular options for a notification that a benefit award is ending were text message (14 per cent) and phone call (10 per cent).
|Text message (SMS)||14|
We also asked focus group participants how much of a notice period they would like, if the award amount was going to change following a light touch review. The most common response was a 'couple of months.' The longest notice period suggested was four months, and the minimum period was one month.
"6-8 weeks. Takes time to find what you can do, how you can manage financially."
"Transition period to adjust."
With an open text question, survey respondents were asked what information they would like Social Security Scotland to include when they communicate a change or end of award. Respondents provided similar answers to those they provided as to how Social Security Scotland can help clients understand the decision on an application form.
A majority of respondents said they would want a detailed explanation of why the benefit award is changing and the information used to make that decision.
"A detailed explanation on why and how the decision was arrived at."
Some respondents said they would like Social Security Scotland to communicate next steps and timescales. This included information on the right to appeal, the appeals process and signposting to support and advocacy organisations that can help.
"What is changing. When it is changing. What I can do about it."
"The reason why the benefit is changing, and other agencies that can be contacted for help/advice if required."
Other respondents noted Social Security Scotland should highlight alternative benefits or sources of the income the client may be entitled to.
"Alternative possible other benefits that may be claimed, also if benefit stopped or payments changed information on the knock on effect on other household income loss of housing costs, passport benefits etc."
Many respondents mentioned a combination of these themes. Focus group participants provided the same suggestions as survey respondents.