Experience panels: annual report 2018

This report summarises experience panels research work done in 2018 and looks forward to 2019.

This document is part of a collection

2018: How we worked

This section of the report will look at how we worked in 2018.

Finding out about panel members

In 2018 we found out more about panel members, using a survey to add to information from when panel members registered. From that information, we know that:

  • Over 80% of panel members have one or more disabilities or long term health conditions
  • Half have caring responsibilities (for disabled adults/children or someone in old age)
  • As is common in research of this kind, there are slightly more women than men, and there are more people from older age groups than younger.
  • 2% say they are from ethnic minorities
  • 9% say they are lesbian, gay or bisexual
  • Fewer than 10 respondents identified as transgender.

We have been running work alongside the main Experience Panels with ethnic minorities, with over 120 people participating in focus groups to date. We also have a separate Young Carer Panel, with over 50 young carers participating in focus groups, and over 50 in a survey to date, to inform the new Young Carer Grant.

Reopening recruitment to Experience Panels

We will soon reopen recruitment for new panel members. While recruitment will be open to everyone with recent experience of the benefits being devolved, we will also target specific groups to boost their membership. This will include ethnic minorities, young people and people in remote locations and islands.

We are also hiring researchers to help us reach a range of groups who are particularly marginalised, sensitive or dispersed.

Spotlight On: Our Interns' Work

In 2018 we brought two disabled interns through Inclusion Scotland's work placement scheme into the team to work on communication with panel members. They have, among other things, organised our first two events with panel members to feed back findings, written the first Experience Panels newsletter, and improved our website.

As well as bringing their own unique skills and experiences, the interns have increased the 'lived experience' of using social security within the team, and have been sharing their insights into working at the Scottish Government with panel members.

"I have really enjoyed working on the Experience Panels team. My adjustment needs are met and the work is really fulfilling, especially when I get the chance to talk with panel members."

"I especially enjoy the contact with the Panel members. Recently, at the end of an information session, a panel member told me he appreciated the honesty of the team, and that we have given her hope for the future. This means we are setting out to do what we aim to achieve- treating people with dignity, fairness and respect."

Feedback from panel members

In the Experience Panels team, we are always looking for opportunities to get feedback from panel members. In summer 2018 we asked panel members in a survey about what we are doing well and what we could do better.

We learned that panel members liked:

  • feeling listened to,
  • our flexibility in ways to participate,
  • our easy to use surveys, and
  • the format of events.

Suggestions for improvement included:

  • more information and updates, and
  • more flexibility in terms of how people can take part
    • more local events
    • wider range of timings of events,
    • using technology or offering home visits.

We will continue to run two 'tours' of Scotland a year to make sure people have an opportunity to meet us face to face wherever they live. We will offer as wide a range of timings for events as possible, and in line with demand. And we can now offer home visits for panel members who otherwise would not be able to take part.

Sharing what we have found

Now that we have completed a large amount of work and are regularly reporting, we have worked this year to share what panel members have told us with panel members, external stakeholder organisations and internal colleagues. This has included:

  • Sending panel members the reports as they are published
  • Beginning a newsletter for panel members (first edition being tested and finalised now)
  • Starting a series of 'What you have told us and what's next' events for panel members
  • Holding twice yearly events for stakeholder organisations
  • Activity to share the work across everyone working on social security, not just those we work directly with.

Spotlight On: The Experience Panels Helpline

A key part of the Experience Panels programme is the work of the Experience Panels helpline. The helpline was set up to make sure panel members could contact us by phone to register, to ask questions and to take part in the research. These days the helpline staff are also involved in many other tasks. This includes managing the Experience Panels mailbox, typing up surveys that have been sent in by post and transcribing recorded interviews, among other things.

The helpline provide friendly help to any panel members who get in touch. Because of their experience and expertise, the helpline team were asked to take the first Carers Allowance Supplement calls while the Social Security Scotland headquarters were still being set up. This was a very important undertaking, as they were responsible for creating a positive impression of the newly-founded agency.

The team ended up dealing with nearly 600 calls and received praise from the Director of Social Security Scotland, David Wallace.

"My role as manager of EP Helpline is extremely rewarding. We are in a privileged and unique position to be able to help shape the future of Social Security Scotland, and the enthusiasm of the panel members is contagious. I try to empower the team to treat each caller the way they would like to be spoken to, and are encouraged to bring their own personality to each call. The team have a real pride and drive in what they do, which makes my job all the easier."

What we have learned as a team

Our team of researchers, interns and admin support, as well as colleagues working with us from across the Scottish Government, have had a fantastic year working with panel members. We have learned a huge amount from panel members' experiences, insights and ideas.

One area we've focused on a lot is always working to make our research as accessible as possible. This has included responding to views on the length and detail of our emails, to adapting the kinds of questions we use in surveys to be easy to use with screen readers, providing multiple kinds of milk wherever we go to make sure we are always meeting dietary requirements, and our never ending search for fully accessible venues across Scotland.

Finally, we have learned a lot from panel members themselves. We have been privileged to hear their stories, and are very grateful for the open, frank and thoughtful way they have shared their experiences and views with us.


Email: Carole Edwards

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