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.

This document is part of a collection

Promoting Social Security Scotland benefits

Participants were asked about what Social Security Scotland could do to raise awareness about its benefits. In response, participants suggested a variety of ways for Social Security Scotland to promote its benefits. 

More information materials in more places

Some participants felt that Social Security Scotland needed to put more information materials in more places. It was felt that there needed to be a greater amount of helpful information in places where people were likely to visit as part of their daily lives. These participants spoke about a problem of information not being visible and people not knowing that benefits might apply to them. They suggested a greater volume Social Security Scotland leaflets, flyers, posters or media adverts in locations where they might be picked up by people who were eligible. These locations included: 

  • Local charities and social groups
  • Doctors surgeries and hospitals
  • Schools and nurseries
  • Workplaces

"Honestly, just traditional stuff. Leaflets, posters, radio. The more people see the logo or see something at the doctor, nursery, dentist, the more we spread."

"It should be something that's put in hospitals and doctor's surgeries."

"It would be helpful to have information in nurseries and schools."

"What about in workplaces? Employers having information they can give to anyone losing their job, which I did due to my health issues."

Some said that attempts to spread awareness needed to be bigger than distributing leaflets and posters in certain locations. They felt like this may not be successful in reaching the intended audience. 

"I think it's got to be bigger than posters and leaflets. You mentioned the new Child Disability Payment, I've heard it nowhere and seen it nowhere. I only know through people I work with. Most people won't know. Local radios. It's not been anywhere, there needs to be more money put behind these things." 

Promote in trusted community networks

Other participants agreed that leaflets, posters and media advertising were important to raise awareness of Social Security Scotland's benefits. However, they also questioned how effective these tools might be at encouraging people to make applications and take up benefits.

Several described how picking up a leaflet or poster might give them more awareness of a benefit, but would not necessarily give them enough confidence to apply for it. These participants said they were unlikely to apply for a Scottish benefit unless they could hear and speak about it with someone they trusted. They felt it was important that Social Security Scotland had a way of communicating with trusted local networks that would encourage those who were eligible to trust the process. 

"They have to get down to the grassroots. Sometimes it's easy [to] just focus on national things, but we need people talking about benefits right in our communities."

A number of participants said making the decision to apply for support was a slow process that took time for someone to gradually build up to. They felt that Social Security Scotland could not build this kind of long-term trust with certain vulnerable groups. Instead, it needed to make use of the carefully built trust and connections in local networks of charities and local groups. 

"I volunteer at Citizen's Advice, and it's taken me three years to get a conversation with some of my most vulnerable clients. And it's all about giving them their own space. There's nothing that a national form or a leaflet can do to help that at all. It is all about personal connection."

"It would be good if Scottish Social Security engaged with local charities. They would take information and pass it outwards to the people that trust them. At this point, DWP don't do this."

Several also felt like Social Security Scotland could share information with those who spent large amounts of their time in local clubs – such as pensioner clubs or bingo halls. They felt that people were more comfortable discovering information that might apply to them in this spaces.  

"It's better to promote in social settings rather than formal ones. Like a little pensioner's club for example, that would be a good place to start."

"For older people like me, think about pensioner's clubs or bingo halls." 

Similar points about trust were also made about working with schools and colleges. 

"I would start through the schools. Particularly if you have a hub through the school, inform parents through the school when advisers will be present, let them know, you might be entitled to something, making it informal to start with and then have people that actually can engage with other people."

Publicity campaigns

Several participants suggested that Social Security Scotland could use various forms of media to promote its benefits to the public. Suggestions included publicising in a number of ways, including:

  • Television (news channels and advertising)
  • Radio (both local and national)
  • Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
  • Bus shelters
  • Online news feeds

"It needs to be in more than one place. You've got to do radio, online, newspapers for example." 

"Do a long read piece on benefits on the BBC news feed? Or Sky news? They have a feed too." 

"What about Scottish specific television? Advertising on ALBA, STV, BBC Scotland?" 

There were views that support in the media across political parties would be helpful. 

"Cross political party groups are useful to spread the word."

Others expressed concern about the effect that more adverts might have on potential fraud levels and stigma towards benefit claimants. 

"Public information and media campaigns will make things more visible. But you have to weigh up the risk of stigma too though." 

"If it's a TV campaign you need to think about when it is shown. Think about the TV shows and the type of audiences that they attract." 

Target specific groups

A number of participants also felt that Social Security Scotland should take steps to focus on getting information to specific groups in local areas, based on what was known about the local population. 

"There should be more proactive targeting of specific groups. Like going into schools, delivering information in schools, to all pupils and teachers. Or at the very least make sure they are aware of where to go for help."



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