Social Security Experience Panels: annual report 2020

This is the third annual report from the Social Security Experience Panels programme, covering the key activities and outputs from 2020.

2020: The Research 

Our research programme with panel members this year has covered a wide range of topics. This chapter will outline what we have covered. It will also give some examples of our findings and how they are being used to make decisions. 

We report on our findings through full research reports and shorter, visual summaries which are designed to be as accessible as possible. These are sent to panel members as soon as they are published so they can see what they have said and how we have used the findings.

Our Reports 

In 2020 we have published 25 reports and visual summaries, including on:

  • The design of specific low income benefits including on Cold Spell and Winter Heating Assistance
  • The design of disability and carer benefits including Short-term assistance; Personal Independence Payment health assessments; decision making and reviewing a reward; and gathering supporting information.
  • A range of different Social Security Scotland processes and policies such as inclusive communications; fraud investigations; paying into different bank accounts; others speaking to Social Security Scotland for clients; appointees; change of circumstances and debt repayment

All reports can be found on our website at

What we have covered 

As more low-income benefits move to Social Security Scotland, and we move closer to the delivery of disability and carer benefits, the work we are doing with Experience Panels members is changing. In 2017 and 2018 we tended to ask general questions about people's experiences and desires for the new system. In 2019, our questions became more specific, as the detail of the processes began to be developed. This has continued during 2020 as we have increasingly asked panel members to become involved with testing and refining how some of the systems and processes work in practice.

In February we carried out a series of focus groups across Scotland which looked at a few different topics to support thinking around how Social Security Scotland should work in practice. This included asking about how the agency can make sure that staff are able to meet clients' needs, how issues around potential fraud should be dealt with, and how to encourage more people to apply for the benefits they are entitled to. We also asked people about how we should support people who wish another person or organisation to speak to Social Security Scotland on their behalf.

Once research restarted after the start of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, this has involved panel members speaking to our researchers either online or over the phone. Panel member have helped to develop materials like information pages or leaflets, application processes and forms, processes for case transfer, appeals and redeterminations, and communication materials. They have also spoken to our researchers about how some of Social Security Scotland's existing services are working

We have also asked panel members to fill in a number of surveys, including on:

  • Renaming Attendance Allowance
  • Assessments
  • Meeting People's Needs
  • Cold Weather and Winter Fuel Payments
  • Paying benefits into different bank accounts
  • Others speaking to Social Security Scotland for you
  • Appointees
  • Carer's Allowance Supplement
  • Fair Start Scotland

Social Security Scotland are now delivering a range of benefits[2], and panel members and other citizens have been involved in shaping each of these:

  • Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods
  • Funeral Support Payment
  • Young Carer Grant
  • Carer's Allowance Supplement 
  • Job Start Payment
  • Child Winter Heating Assistance

Additionally, applications are now open for Scottish Child Payment. The first payments will be made after 22 February 2021.

Our work on disability benefits has increased this year as their design gathers pace. This work will continue into 2021 as we continue to prepare for disability benefits to move to Social Security Scotland. We will also continue to speak to panel members about what other systems and processes should look like to ensure that Social Security Scotland is delivering a service with fairness, dignity and respect. 



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