Scottish Welfare Fund review: final report

A comprehensive review of the Scottish Welfare Fund.

Annex C – Applicant topic guide

Introduction (3 mins)

  • Introduce self and Ipsos
  • Check in with how they are. Is now still an OK time to speak to us?
  • Introduce the research:
    • The Scottish Government has asked us to carry out a review of the Scottish Welfare Fund. They particularly want to hear about the experiences of people who have applied to the fund – how you found the process and anything that you think could be improved about it.
    • We'll write a report about what we find out, from applicants, local authorities, and others who are involved with supporting people to apply to the Fund.
    • Explain that the interview will last about 45 minutes to an hour. Remind them they will get £30 to say 'thank you' for giving up time to talk to us.
  • Provide reassurances of anonymity and confidentiality. Explain that no identifying information about individuals will be passed on to anyone outwith the Ipsos research team, so it will not be possible for the Scottish Government or local council to identify individuals in any reports that Ipsos produce.
    • Explain that taking part today won't have any impact one way or another on whether any applications they make to the SWF will be approved or not.
    • Remind participant that they don't have to answer any questions they don't want to answer, and that they are welcome to stop the interview at any time.
  • Request permission to record interview. This in case my notes are unclear and I need to go back and check anything. The recording will not be shared with anyone outside the research team and will be securely deleted after the research is complete.
  • Any questions before we start?
  • At start of recording – I just need to confirm for the record that you are giving verbal consent that you are happy to take part in this interview, and happy for the interview to be recorded for Ipsos to listen back to.

About the participant (2 mins)

Firstly, it would be great if I could just confirm a few details about you

  • Can you tell me how old you are?
  • Which area of Scotland do you live in?
  • And do you live with anyone else? If so, who?
  • And are you working at the moment?
  • Confirm whether have experience of applying for Community Care Grant, Crisis Grant, or both?
    • Check how often have applied for each in last 2 years
    • And when most recent application was.

Awareness and understanding of the Fund (5 mins)

  • How did you first find out about the Scottish Welfare Fund? (probe on where / when / from who heard about it)
    • What kind of information do you remember getting about the Fund?
      • What did you think about this information? Did it cover everything you needed to know? If not, what was missing?
    • Who did you think the Fund was for, when you first found out about it? (If unsure when first heard about it – who do they think it's for now?)
      • Were you clear about whether or not you could apply to the Fund?
      • Did you have any concerns about applying to the SWF?
    • What sort of help and support did you think you would be able to get from the Fund, when you first found out about it? (if unsure when first heard about it – what's their understanding now of what kinds of help the SWF can offer?)
      • Probe – were they aware of Crisis Grants and Community Care Grants, or just one? Were they aware that CCGs might be in the form of goods, rather than cash?

Background to their SWF application(s) (5 mins)

  • Just to remind you, we won't share your answers today with anyone else in a way that could identify you – we'll only include anonymous quotes in our report.
  • For each type of grant applied for: Please can you tell me a little bit about how you came to apply to the Scottish Welfare Fund for a Crisis Grant / a Community Care Grant? (most recent application, if more than one)
    • What were the circumstances that led to you applying? What had happened immediately before you applied?
    • Why did you decide to apply to the SWF? What help were you looking for from them? Specifically, what did you ask for the grant to cover?
    • Had you tried any other avenues of support? What happened with these?
    • If repeat application: What about the previous time you applied? Could you tell me a bit about what had happened that led to you applying on those occasions?
      • (depending on how much time have, probe for all applications in the last year, and also try and build picture of how many times they have applied in total – e.g. when did they first apply to the SWF (keeping in mind it started in 2013 but might have applied to DWP fund before then)? How many times did they apply in the last year? Roughly how many times have they applied before the last year?).

Note to interviewer: You should talk through the topics in the remainder of the topic guide (application process, decision-making, Review, impacts) for each type of grant they have received – i.e. if applied for both CG and CCG, probe on each.

If they have applied multiple times, might be easiest to ask them to focus on the most recent application first.

If time, you can then go back and probe on whether/how previous applications differed.

The application process (5 mins)

  • How did you apply to the Fund? In person, online, by phone, in writing?
    • Were you aware of any other options for applying? Why did you decide to apply that way?
  • Did you get any help or support with applying?
    • If yes – who from? What kind of support did they give you?
    • If no – was there any help or support that would have been useful when you were applying?
  • How easy or difficult was it to apply? Why? If difficult – what would have made it easier for you?

Decision-making (5 mins)

  • After you submitted your application, what happened next?
    • Probe on whether had conversations with Local Authority, by telephone/email/in person
      • What did these discussions cover?
      • How long after submitting the application did you hear from the local authority (and in what form)?
  • What was the outcome of your application?
    • Probe on whether completely/partially successful or unsuccessful
    • If successful – what form was the grant in? (cash, voucher, goods)
    • How long did the grant / goods take to arrive? Was this timing as expected? Any issues with the timing?
    • If CCG - Would you have preferred goods or cash? [explore why]
    • If they received goods - were you happy with the goods? [explore why] Were you happy with the quality of the goods?
  • How was this outcome communicated to you?
    • Probe – letter, email, over the phone, combination?
    • What information were you given about the decision?
      • Probe – reasons for decision? Right to request a review? How to request a review?
    • How easy or difficult did you find it to understand the information you were given about the outcome?
      • Why?
      • What, if anything, would have made it easier to understand?
    • How did you feel about the reasons given (especially for unsuccessful applications, but probe for both)?
      • Did you understand why your application was/was not successful?

Review (if not wholly successful) (5 mins)

  • Did you request a review the decision not to award you a grant / the full amount requested?
  • Why did you decide to request a reviews of the decision / not to request a review?

If yes, did request a review – probe around experience of first tier review (where the local authority reviews application) and second tier review (where ask the SPSO to review it)

  • Can you talk me through what happened with your Review request?
    • Did anyone help you to request a review? Who / what help did they give you?
    • How did you ask for your decision to be reviewed? (e.g. over phone, by email, letter, etc.)
    • How easy or difficult was it for you to submit your request to review the decision? Why? What, if anything, would have made it easier?
    • What happened after you submitted your request to review the decision?
      • How long did it take to hear back?
      • What was the outcome? Was the decision upheld or changed?
      • What information were you given about the reasons for upholding / changing the decision?
      • How easy or difficult was this information to understand?
      • What did you think about the reasons given for upholding / rejecting the local authority's decision on your application?
      • Were you told you could request a further review of the decision, by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsmen?
      • Did you request the SPSO review the decisions about your application?
      • If yes – go through questions re. review process again, for this second review.

Impacts of the SWF (5 mins)

If application successful:

  • What difference, if any, did the SWF award make to you (and your family)?
    • Financial impacts – what did you use it for and what difference did this make to you?
    • Any non-financial impacts – did getting the award affect you in any other ways?
  • If crisis grant – how long did the additional money last you?
  • If community care grant – after you got the grant, were you able to move into / stay in your accommodation?
  • What do you think would have happened had you not got the grant/award? Would you have been able to access help/support from anywhere else?

If not successful:

  • What impact did your application being turned down have on you (and your family)?
    • Probe on financial impacts – how did you manage without the grant?
    • And non-financial – what other impacts did not getting the award have?
  • Were you able to access any alternative help or support, after your application was turned down? (if necessary, prompt – any other financial support? Any non-financial help, like help from a foodbank? For CCG – did they get the items they needed in the end? Where from?)
    • If yes – what other help did you access? What impact did this have? Was it able to address the issue that had led you to apply to the SWF?

Repeat applicants:

  • What's your understanding of how often you can apply to the SWF?
  • Ask if feels appropriate: What do you do / will you do when you reach maximum applications? Where else do you / would you go for help?

Overarching views of the process (5 mins)

  • How did you feel you were treated by the local authority during the process of applying to the SWF? Why do you say that?
    • If unhappy with treatment – probe on how treated at different stages – initial application, communication of decision, Review (1st tier, to LA, and 2nd tier, to SPSO)
    • And what, if anything, would have improved your experience of applying to the Fund?
  • When you applied to the SWF, did the local authority suggest or put you in touch with any other sources of support or advice that might be able to help you?
    • If yes – what? And how? (i.e. just suggestions, or did they actively link them with other support?)
    • When did they suggest this? (what point in the application process?)
    • Did you follow up on these suggestions?
      • If yes – what was the impact of that? Did it help you? Why / why not?
      • If no – why not? What were the issues that stopped you taking this up?
    • Was there any (other) advice or support you think you might have found helpful?
  • Repeat applicants:
    • What, if anything, would have helped you not need to apply to the SWF again?

Suggestions for improvement (5 mins)

  • What suggestions do you have for how the SWF could be improved?
  • Probe around:
    • Raising awareness of the Fund?
    • Making the application process easier / better?
    • Changes to how decisions are communicated?
    • Change to the Review process?
    • Anything else?

Thank you and ending interview (3 mins)

  • Is there anything else you would like to raise about the things we've discussed today?
  • Do you have any questions about the research?
  • Would you like us to let you know when the report is published? (if yes, record email address or contact details)

As I mentioned, we're offering you £30 to thank you for your time. Would you prefer to get it as:

  • A BACS transfer? (ask for account number and sort code)
  • A Love2Shop e-code? (double check we have their correct email)
  • An Amazon e-code? (double check we have their correct email)



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