Social Security Experience Panels: benefit take-up – visual summary

Visual summary of findings from research with Social Security Experience Panels members about their experiences of accessing the benefit system.

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Approaching an organisation for information

We then asked participants whether they had found some organisations to be more approachable than others.

Participants generally agreed that independent charities or organisations were more approachable than government sources.

Charities and independent charities were thought to be more approachable for a number of reasons. Participants thought they were:

  • More likely to ‘be on your side.’
  • More likely to provide all the information they needed.
  • More likely to be clear about the application process.
  • More likely to understand the fears of the system.
  • Less likely to be judgemental
  • More likely to understand specific conditions or disabilities.

“With them, you trust that what you say will not go any further. It’s non-judgemental. It’s to do with trusting people and them not judging you.”

There was a shared view of ‘getting away’ from official organisations. Participants said that it was difficult to have an honest conversation about a personal situation with a government official.

“You want to get as far away as possible from the benefits organisations. You just want to be in the hands of the people who fight things for you.”

Participants described concerns that conversations with government officials could get them in trouble with social services or the justice system.

“One of the most important things is reassuring people that claiming one benefit won’t result into wider enquiries by social services or the police. For example, if someone has cannabis, they shouldn’t feel afraid to apply to social security. Social Security Scotland have to understand that people are frightened by a ‘big brother’ government.”

Participants generally talked about the importance of the support provided by staff.

“My experience has generally been determined by the individual I have dealt with. Some staff want to help but they can’t. It really depends on the person.”

Participants agreed that it was important to have an ongoing relationship with a staff member who was familiar with their situation.



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