Publication - Research and analysis

Social Security client and experience panels research: effects of the coronavirus pandemic on communication preferences

Published: 23 Aug 2021
Director-General Communities
Social Security Directorate
Part of:
Coronavirus in Scotland

A report of findings from research with client and experience panels about communication preferences.

Social Security client and experience panels research: effects of the coronavirus pandemic on communication preferences
Safety measures when meeting Social Security Scotland in person

Safety measures when meeting Social Security Scotland in person

During the pandemic, the Scottish Government has introduced a range of safety measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Respondents and participants were asked about what safety measures they would expect to see when engaging with Social Security Scotland in person.

Safety measures at Social Security Scotland locations

Survey respondents were asked how long a range of six COVID-19 safety precautions should be in place at Social Security Scotland locations. Respondents said if a measure should be in place from now on, or only while COVID-19 restrictions are in place. Some respondents said that some measures should not be implemented (Table 9.1).

Table 9.1: Survey respondents views on safety measures at Social Security Scotland locations (n=289)
  From now on, this should always be in place (%) While COVID-19 restrictions are in place (%) Never (%) Don't know (%) Total (%)
Availability of hand sanitiser 21.0 76.9 1.7 0.3 100*
Access to hand washing facilities 16.3 78.9 2.4 2.4 100
Physical distancing (ability to stay at a safe distance from others) 39.1 55.0 1.7 4.2 100
Face coverings or Personal Protective Equipment for me to use 79.5 12.5 5.6 2.4 100
Screens/shields (e.g. at desks) 58.1 36.3 3.1 2.4 100
Staff wearing a face covering or other Personal Protective Equipment 79.7 12.4 4.8 3.1 100*


Around three quarters (79 per cent) of respondents said that while restrictions are in place, there should be access to hand washing facilities. A similar number (77 per cent) said hand sanitiser should be available. Over half (55 per cent) said physical distancing should be maintained while restrictions remain in place. These figures are highlighted in bold in Table 9.1.

The majority (80 per cent) of respondents said that from now on, staff and clients should wear a face covering. Over half (58 per cent) said there should be screens or shields, for example at desks. These figures are highlighted in bold in Table 9.1.

Between 2 and 6 per cent of respondents said that the safety measures didn't need to be in place.

Views about safety measures

Some participants said that they expected the risks of COVID-19 to be part of life for some time to come. These participants said safety measures should remain in place into the future. One participant said that it was important to remain cautious to avoid a rise in case numbers.

"After the pandemic passes, it could be beneficial to still wear face coverings when meeting face-to-face." (survey respondent)

"Well I think they [safety measures] should always be there because I think we're just going to have to learn to live with and adapt to it. I don't think the Coronavirus is going to go away. It will always be prevalent in society, we just have to minimise the risks as much as we can." (interview participant)

"I've got to be honest, I don't think we should drop them too soon as cases can pick up quickly and easily." (interview participant)

Other interview participants said it would be safe to remove precautions after the pandemic. Some noted that this would depend on things like: government guidance, lifting of all restrictions, roll-out of the vaccination programme or low case numbers.

"All the preventative measures they can have, they must have. After everyone has received the jab…then that will be ok, if not, all the things we are doing now, until then the routine must continue…When we've had the two vaccines then it will be much easier." (interview participant)

"The government guidance should precede. By the end of this year, I hope we'll be going back to normal. I think masks will still be prevalent but more in crowded places and airplanes." (interview participant)

"If the risk is reduced and the World Health Organisation says it's safe to remove the safety measures. Once there is less risk factor, then would be a good time to remove the safety measures, [but] some people would like to still use the face mask and hand sanitiser." (interview participant)

Some respondents said that rules should take into consideration that for some people, face coverings can be a barrier to communication. Instead of face masks, suggestions said visors or screens may be more appropriate for some clients. One respondent said that face coverings should be optional once restrictions have been lifted.

"I'm not sure about face coverings, as it is difficult to tell and express facial expressions while wearing a mask. A screen should be sufficient." (survey respondent)

"As I have a hearing impairment I rely on being able to see a person talking so masks will always be a problem as they restrict my ability to see someone talking." (survey respondent)

"I think protective measures such as face coverings and physical distancing should be available to staff and clients at all times if desired. But it should be a choice once restrictions have been lifted." (survey participant)

Other suggestions for safety measures included staggered appointment times to avoid crowded waiting areas. Some comments suggested a one-way system for moving around a location.

Comments also noted that signage or markers could be used to help visitors maintain distance. Some respondents noted that in addition to distance, ventilation was important. Suggestions included open windows and that meetings shouldn't be held in rooms with limited or confined space. Some said these measures should be taken while restrictions are in place. Others said they should be in effect from now on.

"Floor markers to follow when visiting so to avoid close contact with others while COVID-19 restrictions are in place, signs throughout the location and at the entrance showing what to expect before entering the building so individuals are fully prepared and safe. (All during COVID-19 restrictions in place)." (survey participant)

"When COVID-19 restrictions are lifted…I don't necessarily think that social distancing needs to be in place as it is now, but I think more spacing than is traditionally given needs to be provided for. Often times waiting rooms are cramped and they shouldn't be, especially if the potential of COVID-19 is to be the new normal." (survey respondent)

"Air flow! There must be better ventilation as otherwise virus particles build up in an environment very quickly. I'd prefer to sit next to an open window and keep my jacket on." (survey participant)

Respondents also said that they would expect regular cleaning to take place, especially of frequently-touched surfaces. A couple of respondents mentioned that automatic doors can avoid the need to touch door handles.

"The venue should be clean, door handles, chairs and tables/desks should be wiped down between customers with disinfectant." (survey respondent)

"Enhanced cleaning should remain in place and hand gel/washing facilities should remain also. For physical access and reduction of hand touch surfaces more automatic doors should be considered to make mobility easier and safer for disabled staff and customers." (survey participant)

Lastly, a few respondents said that health checks could be used as a precaution. Screening questions, temperature checks, tests, and proof of vaccination status were all mentioned.

Safety measures during home visits

Respondents were asked what kinds of safety measures they would want in place if a Social Security Scotland employee were to visit them at home. Interview participants who said that they might consider this option in the future also gave feedback about safety precautions. The majority mentioned at least one precaution, many listed several measures. One interview participant said that no special safety measures would be needed for a home visit.

Masks or personal protective equipment (PPE) were the most frequently mentioned precaution. Respondents and participants said they would expect staff visiting their home to wear a mask. Many noted that they would also wear one during the visit. One survey respondent said that visiting staff should wear medical-grade masks. One participant said that clients should have the ability to refuse entry to staff who cannot wear a mask due to health reasons. Another participant said staff should carry proof that they are exempt from wearing a mask if appropriate.

"That during COVID-19 restrictions, employee will wear a face mask throughout interview (as I would)." (survey participant)

"If Social Security staff were to visit during COVID-19 or in the first year after restrictions relax I think PPE mask and shield would be appropriate for staff." (survey respondent)

"I think the person coming to the house would need to wear a mask and be two metres away." (interview participant)

Hand sanitiser or hand washing was also mentioned by many respondents. Suggestions included staff carrying their own supply or using sanitiser provided by the client. Some respondents also mentioned that staff could wear gloves.

"Both staff and clients should use hand sanitisation at the beginning of the meeting, also any other persons present during the meeting." (survey participant)

"I would expect a staff member visiting me to wear a face covering during their visit and to apply sanitiser to their hands too." (survey respondent)

Maintaining physical distance was also important for many respondents. Some mentioned the two metre rule, or keeping six feet apart where possible. Some respondents said that any physical contact, such as handshakes, should also be prohibited. Feedback also mentioned increasing ventilation at home for example, by opening windows. Some also said they would be happy to conduct the visit outside in their garden to allow for distancing and fresh air.

"No need for physical contact (even after COVID-19 restrictions as not everyone feels comfortable shaking hands, etc.)." (survey respondent)

"I would see them outside in the garden. So they would need to bring a very warm jacket…If inside I would open the windows in the room we were going to sit in. In much the same way as smoking is not permitted for home visits now, and mentioned on NHS letters, the same focus on ventilation should be made now." (survey participant)

"Just a distance to set us apart and hand sanitiser. If it's a nice day we can sit outside." (interview participant)

Some participants said employees visiting their home should provide proof of vaccination status. Others also thought staff should be regularly tested and be able to show proof of a recent negative test.

"That staff have been tested and vaccinated and proof of these available." (survey participant)

"To know that you [staff] hadn't had a recent COVID-19 case, hadn't recently tested positive for COVID-19." (interview participant)

The majority of respondents said they would still expect some safety measures to be taken, even after restrictions were eased or removed. Interview participants also said they would expect safety measures to continue for home visits. Participants emphasised that face masks would continue to be particularly important.

"…once restrictions are lifted, I would expect the employee to wear a mask if I requested it and to do their best to keep physically distant." (survey respondent)

"[It] might be that wearing masks becomes the norm." (survey respondent)

"Well I have had my first jag and I get the next one in May so I am hoping that I am going to be immune but I would still expect them to wear a mask and maybe an apron, I would probably wear a mask too, safety wise." (interview participant)