Annex D – Topic guide for local authority decision-makers (phase 2)
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 commissioned Ipsos MORI to undertake research to review the operation and effectiveness of the SWF.
- The review will use multiple methods to explore the operation of the Fund, including:
- Analysis of monitoring data, returned by LAs to the SG
- Analysis of existing literature and evidence
- Interviews with senior staff within each local authority, who have been helping us compile a more detailed picture of how the Fund operates across Scotland.
- Interviews with applicants
- And interviews with professionals involved in processing applications or supporting applicants in a number of case study local authorities
- Latter part is where they come in. Their area has been selected as a case study, and their name has been passed to us as someone involved in processing applications.
- Discuss anonymity and confidentiality.
- Case study areas will be identified by letter only in the report
- We are not sharing the identity of case study areas with the Scottish Government, and will not share your interview with anyone else in your local authority
- If we use quotes in the report, they will be anonymous
- Hope they will feel able be open in your answers, as the learning from this will hopefully help inform improvements across Scotland.
- However, we are aware that offering concrete guarantees of confidentiality can be difficult with professional interviewees who may be one of a small number of people in relevant roles. Given this, if you feel that anything you say is potentially identifiable, and you would rather it wasn't quoted or referred to directly, then just let me know. I'll check back with you about this at the end.
- 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.
- Interview will probably last around 60-90 minutes.
- Request permission to record – 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 and their role (2 mins)
To start off with, tell me a bit about your role
- How long have you been in post?
- Roughly how many applications do you process in a standard week?
- Do you work on both Community Care Grant and Crisis Grant applications? (if yes, then remember to probe on both as appropriate in rest of interview)
- How big is your team?
Processing SWF applications (15 mins)
Can you talk me through what happens when you receive an SWF application
- How does it come into you (email, post, phone?)?
- What do you do when you first receive an application?
- What, if any, additional information do you need to make a decision (beyond the application form)? How do you obtain this?
- At what points do you have contact with the applicant? (before, during, after application)
- What kinds of help / support do you or your team offer applicants? Probe re. before, during and after application.
- Probe re. help offered directly (e.g. with information needed, or with filling in form) and sign-posting/linking to other services/help.
- What do you think about the level of support your team provides applicants?
- Are you able to provide the level of support you would like? If not, what are the barriers?
- Is there learning about how you approach this that could be shared with other areas?
- How easy or difficult is it to make decisions?
- Probe for examples of when it is easy and difficult
- What happens after an applicant gets their decision?
- Do you link applicants with further help/support?
- Probe for successful and unsuccessful applicants
- And on type of help/support
- And whether signposting only, or more 'active' linking with support?
- How much do you find out about impact of successful awards?
- Probe separately for CGs and CCGs
- What (if any) follow-up information do you get on the impact?
- What about the impact for those who do not get awards? What, if any, further information do you get about them?
Training, guidance and review (5-10 mins)
- What, if any, training have you had for your role?
- Probe re. initial and ongoing training
- What does this cover?
- How useful is it? Is there anything else you feel it would be useful to have further training / support around?
- What, if any, challenges do you experience in using the statutory guidance on the Fund?
- Any areas that are unclear or difficult to apply? Why? What might help improve this?
- Any challenges meeting timeframes? if yes – what impacts on this?
- How well does the system for reviewing SWF decisions work, in your view?
- Probe on 1st tier (LA internal) and 2nd tier (SPSO) reviews
- Are you involved with first tier reviews at all? In what way? (i.e. do they review other people's decisions?)
- How does your team use the feedback from reviews?
Local need and demand (5-10 mins)
- How accessible do you think the Fund is to people in your area?
- Are those who might need it generally aware of it? How do they become aware of it?
- How easy or difficult do you think it is to apply? What, if anything, would make it easier?
- Do you come across many people that apply, or want to apply, for the Fund but are not eligible?
- If yes – what types of people?
- Why are they applying? Reasons + whether CG or CCG
- Are there people experiencing pressing need, but who aren't eligible under current guidance?
- Who? What alternative help is available to those groups?
- Are there people who are eligible and in need, but who don't generally apply to the SWF?
- Why not? What could be done to encourage them to consider applying?
- How has demand for the Fund changed since you started working on it? Why? What are the main factors impacting demand?
- Probe separately re. Crisis Grants and Community Care Grants
- Probe re. perceived impacts of Covid-19 on demand – and whether short-term or appear to be continuing longer-term
- To what extent are you aware of receiving repeat applications for CGs?
- What do you think the reasons are for this?
- What, if anything, might help people avoid needing to make repeat applications to the Fund? Probe – changes to the Fund vs. external factors.
Challenges and improvements (5 mins)
- What are the main challenges for in delivering the Fund locally?
- If not covered above: How has your workload changed over time? Why?
- Probe around impact of Covid-19 – and whether temporary or longer-term
- How do you think the Fund could be improved, to better help those who need the types of support it provides?
- If not raised, probe around:
- Eligibility criteria / rules?
- Changes to how it is delivered – local delivery vs. centralised national system?
- Raising awareness of the Fund?
- Making the application process easier / better?
- Changes to how decisions are communicated?
- Changes to the Review process?
- Changes to the guidance?
- Changes to funding for grants?
- Changes to staffing levels for processing applications?
- Support for staff in handling difficult calls?
- Anything else?
Thank you and ending interview (2 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?
- Are you happy to be quoted anonymously in any reports?
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