Social Security Experience Panels: annual report 2022

Fifth annual report from the Social Security Experience Panels programme, covering the key activities and outputs from 2022.

This document is part of a collection

2022: How we worked

This section will give an update on how we approached our research in 2022. It will cover:

  • Returning to face-to-face research
  • How we will work in the future
  • What we are asking about

Returning to face-to-face fieldwork

This year saw us return to running face-to-face research sessions for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the pandemic hit in early 2020 it immediately became apparent that we were going to have to work differently to make sure that Experience Panels members could safely take part in research to inform the development of Social Security Scotland and its benefits.

Panel members were invited to take part remotely, using phone or video, through online surveys, or by post. Strikingly, some panel members told us that taking part in this way was actually easier for them – easier to fit around other responsibilities, eliminating the need for travel, or easier to manage with their disability or health condition. For some in rural or island communities it was a much easier way of taking part than having to travel. Yet, we are also aware that for others having sufficient internet connectivity in these areas can be a barrier to taking part in this way.

Other panel members, however, felt that not having the option of face-to-face sessions was a barrier to participation. This was because they were unable to use online participation methods or found face-to-face sessions easier to manage with their disability or health condition. Some told us that they missed having the direct interaction with other panel members and research staff that face-to-face research had allowed.

With this feedback in mind, we aim to offer a range of participation options going forward. We are keen to re-establish some face-to-face sessions in locations around Scotland, while also retaining the advantages of remote research.

How we will work in the future

We are conscious of the importance of being mindful of the health and wellbeing of participants, and for face-to-face events this is a particular consideration. We know that some panel members may have disabilities or health conditions which make them more at risk from COVID-19 or other transmittable infections. When we run future face-to-face events we will offer information about the measures in place at our events to keep people safe. Wherever possible, we will also offer a remote participation option as an alternative to a face-to-face event. This will allow panel members to make an informed decision about how they would like to take part.

We are grateful to panel members for their patience while we were working under restrictions, and for providing helpful feedback on how we can improve and learn from this experience going forward.

What we are asking about

As benefits have moved from DWP to Social Security Scotland, the work we do with Experience Panels members has changed over time. In 2017 and 2018 we tended to ask general questions about people's experiences and desires for the new system. Since then, our questions became more specific as the detail of the processes began to be developed. This continued during 2022 as we increasingly asked panel members to become involved with testing and refining how some of the systems and processes work in practice. This is to make these as simple and easy to use as possible for the people who will need them.

We are very grateful that so many panel members have shared with us their past experiences of the UK Government benefits system and gave up their time to help test ideas. It is an important time to reflect on what has been achieved since 2017 and how we have got here with their help.

Social Security Scotland are now delivering 13 benefits:[1]

  • Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payment
  • Best Start Grant Early Learning Payment
  • Best Start Grant School Age Payment
  • Best Start Foods
  • Funeral Support Payment
  • Young Carer Grant
  • Carer's Allowance Supplement
  • Job Start Payment
  • Child Winter Heating Assistance
  • Scottish Child Payment
  • Child Disability Payment
  • Adult Disability Payment
  • Winter Heating Payment

Panel members and other citizens have been involved in shaping each of these benefits, as well as contributing to the design of Social Security Scotland's processes and systems for:

  • Appointments
  • Applications
  • Social Security Scotland buildings, logo and branding, staff uniform and recruitment
  • Redeterminations and appeals
  • Complaints and feedback
  • Advocacy and appointees
  • Communication channels and materials
  • Case transfer from DWP to Social Security Scotland
  • Local delivery (services in your local area)



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