Disability benefits evaluation - case transfer: qualitative research - annex A

Qualitative research supporting the findings from the evaluation of the case transfer process in the context of the devolution of disability benefits.

5. Case transfer and longer term impacts

This chapter focuses on the longer-term impacts of the case transfer and review processes for clients previously in receipt of DLAC, PIP and DLA. Specifically, it summarises clients’ views of Social Security Scotland and how – if at all – the transfer and review processes impacted on those views. It also explores trust in Social Security Scotland and how clients felt about transferring to a benefit delivered by them rather than the DWP.

Note that two of the six long-term outcomes in the logic model were outwith the remit of the research. “There is reduced stigma around illness and disability” was not explored as this is a longer-term outcome better explored through or in combination with other aspects of policy change. “The right decision is made first time by Social Security Scotland” was not explored as this is an issue better evidenced by quality assurance data and outcomes of appeals and re-determinations.

Findings on the four long-term outcomes that we explored are discussed below.

Key findings

  • Positive experiences of dealing with staff, including their perceived reliability led to client trust in Social Security Scotland.
  • Clients were positive overall about the tone, style and content of communications they received from Social Security Scotland compared with the DWP. However, some felt there was insufficient communication particularly in relation to progress/likely timescales. This meant they had to chase for updates on their case transfer and/or review.
  • Clients generally felt that they had been treated with dignity, fairness and respect and by Social Security Scotland and had been treated better than they had been by the DWP.
  • Although clients reported feeling more hopeful moving forward with Social Security Scotland, some anxiety remained around reporting a change of circumstances and this leading to benefits being taken away.

Individuals trust in Social Security Scotland

As highlighted in the case transfer chapter clients’ views towards Social Security Scotland were positive (if they had heard something about them before) or neutral (if they had not heard much about them before). See Initial feelings about the process.

Positive experiences of dealing with staff during the case transfer and review process, including their perceived reliability, led to client trust in Social Security Scotland.

“[Social Security Scotland] I trust 100% because they said they would call me back and they did, they took away the stress.” (PIP client)

Those who had received a review outcome that they were happy with tended to say they trusted Social Security Scotland.

“I fully trust them. They are just better at explaining and letting you know what to expect from them, what to expect from the services.” (DLA client)

On the other hand, those who were still awaiting a review or an outcome tended to be more tentative or conditional when asked how much they trusted them. They indicated that they could trust Social Security Scotland ‘thus far’, or that they would withhold judgement until they had more experience with them.

“I think so far I trust them, [I have] no reason not to.” (DLAC client)

There are open and effective communications between individuals and Social Security Scotland

The nature of communications clients received from Social Security Scotland are explored in detail in the case transfer and review chapters – findings were mixed. This section therefore focuses on clients’ overall reflections on the amount of communication from Social Security Scotland.

Those who felt the amount of communication was about right tended to feel that the letter they received at the start of the case transfer process contained all the information they needed and reassured them that they did not need to do anything. Clients who were satisfied with the amount of contact they had with Social Security Scotland also felt the staff were available and approachable when they had queries.

“The actual communication with [Social Security Scotland] has been brilliant. They went out their way to call back and let you know how things were going. When you get your review done with the DWP you do your face-to-face and you just have to wait. The communication with [Social Security Scotland] has been second to none.” (PIP client)

Clients who felt they had too little communication from Social Security Scotland tended to be those who felt the case transfer and/or review processes had taken a long time and were having to chase to receive updates on their case. These clients wanted indicative timings for the case transfer and review processes and updates on the progress of their case.

“It’s me having to do the chasing. It should be the other way around, them contacting me if they want anything.” (DLA client)

Overall, clients were more positive about the communications they received from Social Security Scotland compared with the DWP, with tone, more modern style and content all highlighted as key differences. The letters were perceived to be more personalised and modern-looking compared to the DWP’s which were seen as more traditional-looking and typewritten. The letters were also thought to be more accessible because of the larger font, use of more direct language, and inclusion of clearer signposting to information and support.

Clients also reported feeling more hopeful and less anxious when dealing with Social Security Scotland.

“I felt I’d moved on to a better system, so don’t have same anxiety now. I previously thought about the DWP, ‘do I dare ring them up or just try to avoid them?’” (DLA client)

Public services treat people with dignity and respect

While it was recognised that the DWP and Social Security Scotland processes shared some similarities in terms of the types of questions that are asked, clients tended to feel that they had been treated better by Social Security Scotland during the transfer of their case and (where applicable) the review of their case than they would have been by the DWP. Clients noted the commitment to the principles of dignity, fairness and respect and this underpinned a perception that dealings with Social Security Scotland would be more “open” and less “intrusive”.

“The words dignity, fairness and respect on the letter are good to see. It’s not good to have to claim benefits and [it’s] reassuring having that on there. It’s a good message.” (DLAC client)

The other main differences highlighted were the shorter waiting times to get through to Social Security Scotland on the phone and the quality of their interactions with staff. Staff were consistently described as friendly, helpful, respectful, compassionate, and reliable. Clients felt that they were listened to and not judged. As a result, they did not feel as anxious having to call Social Security Scotland as they had when dealing with the DWP.

“The Social Security Scotland people are chalk and cheese compared to the DWP people. Really helpful, always prepared to listen, without exception. They went above and beyond to help, I never felt I was troubling them […] [It] gives you a bit of respect when people talk to you like an equal adult.” (DLA client)

Perceptions of negative treatment by Social Security Scotland were more exceptional. Where clients did feel this way, their opinion tended to be shaped by problems that had arisen, such as delays to other benefits or the review process taking too long, rather than the way they were treated by staff.

“You want to feel confident with the people that are taking [the case] over […] and if it seems like the process is going to take longer to answer direct questions, then that doesn’t fill you with confidence for kind of the way ahead.” (DLAC client)

There was another group of clients who felt that moving from the DWP to Social Security Scotland, or from one benefit to another, would make no difference. These clients felt that they would be treated in a similar way no matter what the payment is called or who administered it.

ADP instead of PIP? No difference. Social Security Scotland instead of [the] DWP? It doesn’t make much difference to me.” (PIP client)

Individuals understand their responsibilities and feel more comfortable about reporting a change in circumstances

Clients generally said that they would know what to do if they had to report a change of circumstances to Social Security Scotland in future. Even when not sure, clients were confident that they would be able to find out by searching online or calling Social Security Scotland, and would feel “relaxed” about the prospect.

Those who had been through the review process said they would feel comfortable reporting a change of circumstances. Some of those who had found the review forms onerous and/or the whole process too lengthy assumed that it would be easier the next time around. Others who had not yet had a review felt comfortable about the prospect because of their positive interactions with staff.

“I would feel very comfortable. They’re human, professional and they’re not patronising. [They] explain things in a way that’s understandable.” (DLAC client)

However, there were others who said they would not feel comfortable reporting a change of circumstances. There were a number of reasons for this:

  • A worry that reporting it would lead to a change in award.

“I’d feel nervous because in back of mind you have that niggle that it might result in a change.” (DLAC client)

  • Concerns about the length of time a review of their change in circumstances would take, particularly among those who had experienced a review with Social Security Scotland and felt it had taken a long time.
  • A broader discomfort based on past experiences completing reviews (regardless of the agency conducting them) where they were considered to be lengthy and emotionally exhausting processes.

“I wouldn’t feel comfortable because I don’t like change. To do the form again would be very stressful. Anything related to benefits stresses me out. But Social Security Scotland I know I won’t lose it [the award] where with [the] DWP I think I would.” (DLA client)

Nevertheless, clients mentioned feeling more comfortable dealing with a devolved agency over a UK-wide one going forward, because they felt more respected and trusted by Social Security Scotland than they had done by the DWP, who they felt “interrogated” by. With the prospect of reporting a change of circumstances in future, there was also sense of security with Social Security Scotland and less of a worry about payments stopping suddenly.

“[I feel] safer, less likely to get [payments] withdrawn. [There is] less ulterior motive to cut payments.” (DLAC client)


Email: socialresearch@gov.scot

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