Social Security Experience Panels: change of circumstances and debt repayment - visual summary

This visual summary summarises the results from 10 focus groups and an online survey with Experience Panel members. The research explored how contact about changes of circumstances should work for clients of Social Security Scotland, along with how debt should be repaid.

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Recovering debt

Most participants agreed that when a client had made an error or committed a fraud, debt should not be written off entirely.

Some thought that collecting overpayments was important to discourage fraud.

We asked participants what Social Security Scotland should take into account when deciding whether or not to pursue a client's debt.

There was general agreement across most participants that repayments should be flexible, if needed. Many expressed about how any 'one size fits all' approach to recovering debt would work.

Several suggested that decisions should be made on the basis of whether it was cost-efficient for Social Security Scotland to get the money back.

"It's public money – don't write it off unless it'll cost more to get back."

Some thought that conditions – including mental health - should be taken into account also before recovering debt.

Others thought that a household's financial position should be considered.

"You should consider the person's circumstances, dependents, other incomes. If they no other income then repaying is hard!"

"You need to look at the effect of it. If a person then has to go to a food bank because of that repayment, then it is counterproductive. People's circumstances fall off the edge sometimes. It cannot be one size fits all."

Many participants felt that flexible repayment options would be beneficial.

"Repayment rates need to be more relaxed. They can't be set in stone, especially if it is an error. You could say, if you are having difficulty, we can slow it…"

"You need to be understand as you will be dealing with very vulnerable people anyways. The sort of stress that comes with sanctions and repayments could upset a condition."

Over three-quarters of survey respondents (77 per cent) said that they would want Social Security Scotland to speak to DWP about any debt that they may have.

Almost two-thirds (62 per cent) of respondents thought that repayments should be made monthly. This was higher than those who said fortnightly or weekly (20 per cent and 18 per cent respectively).

Over three-quarters of respondents (78 per cent) said that the smallest percentage of a person's benefit that should be used to make a repayment should be 5%.

Over two-thirds of respondents (60 per cent) said that 10% should be the largest percentage of a person's benefit that should be used to make a repayment.

The vast majority of respondents (94 per cent) felt that a client should have the option to pay above the standard repayment amount if they wished to.



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