Submitting evidence about a benefit claim
It is sometimes necessary to send supporting documents when making an application or reporting a change in circumstances. Respondents and participants who had contact with Social Security Scotland during the pandemic were asked if they had submitted evidence during this period.
Submitting evidence to Social Security Scotland during the pandemic
Table 3.1 shows the proportion of survey respondents who sent evidence to Social Security Scotland during the pandemic (Table 3.1).
|I'm not sure||3.4|
Just less than a third (28 per cent) said they had submitted evidence during the pandemic. These respondents also indicated if they experienced any difficulty (Table 3.2).
|I had no trouble with the process||73.7|
|I had difficulty with the process||26.3|
Most (74 per cent) respondents said they had no trouble with the process for submitting evidence. Just over a quarter (26 per cent) said they experienced some difficulty.
There were some differences between respondents who experienced difficulty based on demographic characteristics and geographic location. Proportionally, more women and more respondents with a long-term health condition or disability reported difficulty. Respondents living in rural areas were also more likely to say they had difficulty than respondents living in urban areas. The small number of total respondents for this question means it is important to take care when comparing differences between groups.
Paper and online evidence
Survey respondents and interview participants gave feedback about their experience of submitting evidence when making a claim for benefits. Some answers referred to experiences with DWP. All comments were included in the analysis.
The main theme among comments was a comparison between sending documents via post and uploading evidence online.
Difficulties with paper evidence
Survey respondents and interview participants said that sending paper evidence can be problematic. Some feedback said problems in acquiring and sending paper evidence were made more difficult during the pandemic. Clients without access to a printer or scanner at home said they faced difficulties making a photocopy. Respondents also noted delays and problems with mail. Participants noted that the ability to upload evidence online was a helpful solution to many of these barriers.
"First document lost then wouldn't stamp my original as couldn't touch it because of COVID-19." (survey respondent with experience of Disability Living Allowance)
"I don't have access to a photocopier and could not copy the necessary evidence to send by post. However, I submitted a query online and received a very helpful response which included instructions on how to upload electronic copies of the documents." (survey respondent with experience of Best Start Grant/Foods)
One interview participant with experience of Young Carer Grant experienced significant difficulty submitting paper evidence to Social Security Scotland. Without access to the internet, the participant described the expense of buying a printer and the time taken for it to be delivered during the pandemic. The participant reported feeling anxious as a result of this experience.
"It cost money. For a like a printer and stuff to send stuff away to send your application…it made me anxious because it took too much time and money." (interview participant with experience of Young Carer Grant)
Uploading evidence online
Many said uploading evidence online was quicker and more convenient than providing paper evidence. In April 2020, Social Security Scotland introduced a portal to allow clients to upload evidence via the mygov.scot website.
Interview participants who had submitted evidence to Social Security Scotland via the portal said the upload process was straightforward. One noted that the service should continue beyond the pandemic. One survey respondent with limited access to the internet said that upload had taken a long time. Another participant also noted that digital upload can be difficult without access to a printer or scanner at home.
"[Evidence upload was] straightforward, went onto web page and followed steps to upload photo of evidence and what it was for and then upload…all straightforward, no problems along the way." (interview participant)
"[Evidence upload] would still be a good option after the pandemic as well, it was easier and can't get lost in the mail." (interview participant)
"Very slow internet resulted in many attempts to get details uploaded. Also limited data size needed 6 bits, only allowed 5. Took forever." (survey respondent with limited access to the internet)
Interview participants said guidance and support could be helpful when uploading evidence online.
"Yeah, a how-to video is the best way forward. As long as the instructions are precise and clear. You push this button and this would happen. Just push the button that's what it does and that's what you see." (interview participant)