Analysis of written responses to the consultation on social security in Scotland

Analysis of responses to a public consultation to inform the content of the new Scottish Social Security Bill.


About this analysis

This report provides an analysis of responses to the Scottish Government's consultation on social security [2] . A total of 521 responses were received to the consultation.


The Scottish Government published its paper, A New Future for Social Security in Scotland [3] , in March 2016. In that paper, it made a commitment to work with people across Scotland to determine how best to use the new social security powers which will be devolved by the Scotland Act 2016.

The Scottish Government's Programme for Government [4] for 2016-17 highlighted its intention to introduce a Scottish Social Security Bill by June 2017. This will set out the overall legislative framework to support social security in Scotland. The Bill will be supported by Scottish secondary legislation which will set out the operational detail of the devolved schemes.

The Consultation

On 29 July the Scottish Government issued its public consultation to inform the content of the new Scottish Social Security Bill. The consultation sets out a vision and five key principles for social security in Scotland. The consultation was in three parts, covering:

  • a principled approach;
  • the devolved benefits; and
  • operational policy.

The consultation ran from 29 July 2016 until 30 October 2016. The consultation contained a total of 234 key questions. The full consultation document and questions had to be converted into an appropriate format for Citizens Space (The Scottish Government's online consultation platform). This resulted in slight differences between print and online versions.

The consultation was designed in a modular way, to allow people to focus on the areas of most interest or relevance to them. This has resulted in varied response rates and respondent profiles for specific parts and sections.

The Scottish Government provided a range of opportunities to engage in the consultation. This included:

  • responding to the full written consultation - which could be completed online (via the Scottish Government's online consultation platform), by email or by post;
  • responding to a summary version of the consultation;
  • responding to an easy read version of the consultation;
  • versions available in alternative formats, on request; and
  • making non-standard responses - handwritten or typed submissions which do not follow any of the formats above.

Just over 120 events were held as part of the engagement in relation to the consultation. Many of the events were hosted by organisations with a view to ensuring those with lived experience, and those who support them, were able to have their say. The engagement reached thousands of people across Scotland with the Scottish Government working in partnership with key organisations to engage fully with those who receive benefits and have experience of the current system.

Analysis methodology

The Scottish Government received and organised all consultation responses - either through its online consultation platform, by email or post. All responses were transferred securely to us (Research Scotland) for analysis.

As we received responses, we reviewed these and established whether they were full responses (following the full response consultation format, answering specific questions), or were summary or easy read responses.

Quantitative analysis

We used Excel to analyse quantitative data (for questions with closed options - such as yes or no) and qualitative (open-ended) data. We downloaded all of the online responses to Excel, and input all other responses to Excel. We carefully read non-standard responses, and comments, whether quantitative and/ or qualitative, were input against the relevant consultation questions on an Excel spreadsheet.

We agreed respondent groups with the Scottish Government, so that we could analyse trends and differences between types of respondent. We undertook quantitative analysis using Excel in order to produce tables. We have included simple tables, for each quantitative (closed) question from the full consultation, throughout the report. More detailed tables, providing breakdowns by respondent group, are available in Annex 2 and 3 of this report, which are available to download separately as part of this publication. These provide information on the response levels for all questions, and responses to closed questions.

In order to understand whether particular groups of stakeholders responded differently to closed questions, we reviewed the patterns in responses to closed questions by respondent group. However, because only a small proportion of consultation respondents answered each question, the number of respondents in each category was often too small to undertake meaningful quantitative analysis of closed questions. In our quantitative analysis, we have only identified where a respondent group answered differently to overall respondents, if more than ten people from that group answered. In some places in our quantitative analysis, we explained which groups contributed to a particular position - but only where there were at least four respondents in that group that answered the question.

Because of the relatively small size of respondent groups, comparison of quantitative response patterns between respondent groups should be treated with caution. Assumptions should not be made about the extent to which the views of consultation respondents from a particular group represent the views of similar organisations who did not respond to the consultation.

Qualitative analysis

We analysed qualitative (open) responses using a process of manual thematic coding. This involved reviewing the open responses and manually coding the themes identified by each respondent. The qualitative analysis process enabled us to extract the main themes from each question, allowing us to present the range of views across all responses, as well as and trends amongst respondent.

We have included quotations in shaded boxes throughout the report, and included the names of organisations, where they gave permission to publish their response. These are verbatim, however, we have corrected minor typing or grammatical errors, where these were obvious. Quotations vary in number, length and by respondent group throughout the report, reflecting the varied nature of responses to the consultation. Quotations are intended to illustrate key points, rather than represent views of particular groups.

This report is strongly qualitative in nature. To ensure consistency in our language when describing the level of interest in a particular theme or issue, we used a consistent scale to describe the number of respondents making broadly similar points. Where less than ten respondents made a similar point we used the term 'a few'. 'Some' is used for ten to 29 respondents, and 'many' is used for 30 to 45 respondents. Where more than 45 respondents made a similar point, we used the term 'a large number'.

Profile of respondents and participation levels

The Scottish Government received a total of 521 responses to the consultation - 280 from individuals and 241 from organisations. Of these, 453 were identified as full responses. In addition, 68 summary responses were received. Of these, three individuals used the easy-read response form. Because the summary and easy read forms followed the same structure, and to ensure anonymity, we have referred to both easy read and summary respondents as 'summary respondents' in our analysis.

Overview of responses received
Respondent type Full consultation - number of respondents Summary and easy read - number of respondents Total respondents
Individuals total responses 250 30 280
Organisations total responses 203 38 241
Total responses 453 68 521

As the table below shows, the highest number of organisational responses came from organisations focusing on disability and long term conditions, housing and homelessness organisations, and local authority respondents.

Breakdown of organisational responses received by respondent category
Organisational category Full consultation - number of respondents Summary and easy read - number of respondents Total respondents
Advice and support 22 1 23
Carers 15 0 15
Disability and long term conditions 38 6 44
Employment 5 2 7
Equalities and human rights 21 2 23
Funeral 9 0 9
Health 9 2 11
Housing and homelessness 25 7 32
Legal and justice 5 1 6
Local authority 30 2 31
Other public body 4 4 8
Political and pressure 3 4 7
Poverty 9 0 9
Other 8 7 15
Total 203 38 241

Note: The local authority group includes individual local authorities, specific local authority departmental responses, and organisations with a local authority interest.

Some responses demonstrated wider engagement with staff and members of the public with an interest in social security. For example, two responses referenced petitions:

  • The Scottish Unemployed Workers Network referred to a petition signed by 551 people. It included five key points relating to: removing sanctions for not attending or complying with an employability scheme, supporting the independence of services from certain schemes, the importance of advice from health and care professionals in providing evidence, reinstatement of Higher Rate Mobility for some people, and their opposition to the role of private companies in any devolved service.
  • 38 Degrees submitted a petition signed by 3,052 people which supported making individual payments by default under Universal Credit.

Although there were no completely identical responses, some respondents made similar responses to others in their respondent category. These included seven local authority respondents (including COSLA), and three Carers organisations.

Response patterns

The table below shows the number of respondents, to the full consultation, who completed different numbers of consultation questions. As the table shows, half of respondents answered 50 or fewer questions, and just under a quarter completed between 51 and 100 questions.

Overview of number of questions answered on the full consultation
Number of questions answered Number of respondents Percentage
0 to 50 228 50%
51 to 100 107 24%
101 to 150 56 12%
151 to 200 37 8%
201 to 234 25 6%
Total 453 100%

Tables showing response levels by respondent groups to specific questions are available as annexes to this report. Unsurprisingly there were noticeable peaks and troughs in response levels. Generally, response levels of particular respondent groups corresponded to their interests - for example, higher levels of disability and long term condition organisations responding on disability benefits, and funeral organisations commenting on the section on funeral payments.


Email: Trish Brady-Campbell

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