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Social Security Experience Panels: benefit take-up – report

This report covers findings from research with Social Security Experience Panels members about their experiences of accessing the benefit system.

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Improving application and assessments processes

We asked participants about any other barriers they felt that stopped them or others they knew from accessing what they were entitled to. In response, there was a general concern about application forms and the health assessments. Many spoke about how application and assessment processes had stopped or delayed them from getting what they were entitled to in the past.[5] 

Application forms

Generally, participants described their negative experiences of the application forms. Some spoke about the length of the forms that they had tried to complete in the past. These participants described how it had been highly stressful to follow all of the steps and complete the form accurately. They also said how it had been difficult to know how to answer certain questions on their own. 

"When this big 40 page brown envelope through your doorway, you just think I won't bother."

"The design of the forms is setting you up to go it alone." 

"The forms are designed to trick you. I think they are. They say fill in this, then move to another box round the corner. If you filled that in right that's okay but if you filled that in wrong it's putting you off down the wrong direction."

It was felt that Social Security Scotland needed to support those who would be looking at the forms for the first time. Several said that Social Security Scotland needed to understand that applicants would be scared to ask for help. 

"People really need the support to make these applications, their fear is asking for the support even before tackling the forms. I can't fill it out, so where do I even get the support initially?"

Assessments

Participants also spoke generally about how difficult having a health assessment had been for them after they had completed an application form. Some talked about how the thought of being assessed filled them with dread. Others spoke about their fear about an assessor trying to catch them out. 

"The forms and the admin of benefits applications are awful and really put people off. The PIP application is 40 pages. Then once they have done that they then need to sit with someone to pick through their life to decide if they will then be entitled to a payment."

"The horror of the assessments that really gets to me I think. The horror of the brown envelope when you see it on your doorstep. And its all because of how horrible the assessments can be."

A number of participants spoke about how they had not been assessed by someone with the correct medical expertise. They talked about how assessors had not been trained to fully understand hidden disabilities or certain health conditions. 

"Non-medically trained people doing assessments just doesn't work."

"Filling out the forms and lots of repetition with assessments too. These things put people off."

Participants felt that Social Security Scotland assessors should be able to look at a client's situation and then signpost them to a number of benefits that they might be eligible for. Several felt that if an assessment only focussed on a single benefit, then the applicant would not become aware of any other support that they may be entitled to. They also felt that applicants were not likely to want to return to another assessment for a different benefit if they discovered it shortly afterwards. 

"During initial assessment, the assessor should be able to look at the person's situation and identify what they are eligible for. The assessor must be active and opposed to the assessors for DWP where they only deal with the one thing. They should look at the whole situation and give you the right options."

Contact

Email: SocialSecurityExperience@gov.scot

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