Social Security Experience Panels: communicating by phone

This report considers client’s views on contacting Social Security Scotland by phone.

Background and research methods

The Scottish Government is becoming responsible for some of the benefits previously delivered by the Department for Work and Pensions. As part of the work to prepare for this change, the Scottish Government set up the Social Security Experience Panels. The Experience Panels are made up of over 2,400 people from across Scotland who have recent experience of at least one of the benefits being devolved to Scotland.

The Scottish Government is working with Experience Panel members to design a new social security system that works for the people of Scotland, based on the principles of dignity, fairness and respect.

To deliver the benefits devolved to Scotland, the Scottish Government have established Social Security Scotland ('the agency') who will be responsible for administering Scotland's new social security system. As part of the creation of the new agency, we have worked with Experience Panel members to understand their views on telephony and how we can make it easy to call the agency.

This report details the key themes which emerged from a survey which took place in July and August 2018. The research considered:

  • Respondent's reasons for wanting to call the agency, and how we can make calling the agency easy;
  • What should happen if phone lines are busy, waiting times and how long calls should last; and
  • Respondent's views on automated messages.

Respondents were recruited from the Scottish Government Experience Panels (2,456 people). All Experience Panel members were invited to take part in the survey.

The Social Security Experience Panels are a longitudinal research project. The panels are made up of volunteers from the Scottish population who have experience of at least one of the benefits that will be devolved to Scotland. The results of this work should be regarded as being reflective of the experience and views of the respondents only, and are not indicative of the wider Scottish population. The number of responses for the survey was small and this should be kept in mind when considering the results. Percentages are given only to give a broad sense of the balance of opinion across respondents.

Survey Method

All 2,456 Experience Panel members were invited to take part in the survey. Participation in Experience Panels research is optional, and in this case 161 people chose to complete the survey (a response rate of 6.55 per cent).

This information was added to information from the 'About Your Benefits and You'[1] and 'Social Security Experience Panels: Who is in the panels and their experiences so far'[2] surveys. The data collected in these surveys was linked to the information supplied by respondents of this survey as part of the longitudinal data set for this project.

Almost four in ten survey respondents identified as 'man or boy' (39 per cent) and over six in ten (62 per cent) as 'woman or girl'.

Table 1: Gender of survey respondents (n=130)

Gender %
Man or boy 39
Woman or girl 62
Total 101

Over eight in ten survey respondents were aged 45 or over (85 per cent) with just over one in ten aged between 25 and 44 (15 per cent). No survey respondents were under the age of 25 or over the age of 79.

Table 2: Age of survey respondents (n=132)

Age %
Under 25 0
25 – 44 15
45 – 59 46
60 – 79 39
80 or over 0
Total 100

Over 85 per cent of survey respondents considered themselves to have a disability or long term health condition:

Table 3: Disability status of survey respondents (n=132)

Disability Status %
Disabled 86
Not Disabled 14
Total 100

Almost two thirds of survey respondents (63 per cent) had a physical disability. More than half of respondents also reported having chronic pain (58 per cent) or another type of long term health condition (65 per cent). Around one in ten respondents had a severe hearing impairment (12 per cent) and/or a severe visual impairment (10 per cent). Less than one in ten respondents (9 per cent) had a learning disability:

Table 4: Disability types of survey respondents (n=128-132)[3]

Disability Type %
Has a physical disability 63
Has chronic pain 58
Has a mental health condition 32
Has a severe hearing impairment 12
Has a severe visual impairment 10
Has a learning disability 9
Has another kind of disability or long term health condition 65

Almost half of survey respondents was a carer for a friend or family member
(45 per cent):

Table 5: Caring status of survey respondents (n=128)

Carer Status %
Carer 45
Not a carer 54
Prefer not to say 1
Total 100

Survey respondents most commonly cared for an adult friend or relative
(31 per cent), but almost one in four (24 per cent) was a carer due to old age:

Table 6: Who do survey respondents care for (n=132)[4]

Person who they care for %
Cares for an adult 31
Cares for a child 11
Carer due to old age 24

Survey respondents took part from thirty of the thirty-two local authorities, with the majority living in an urban area (66 per cent).[5]

Table 7: Location of survey respondents (n=132)

Location %
Urban 66
Rural 23
Prefer not to say 11
Total 100

Survey respondents who took part had experience of claiming a wide range of benefits. The most common benefits claimed by survey respondents were Disability Living Allowance (69 per cent) and Personal Independence Payment (67 per cent). The least common benefits claimed were Funeral Expenses and Sure Start Maternity Grant.

Table 8: Respondents benefit experience[6][7] (n=132)

Benefit %
Disability Living Allowance 69
Personal Independence Payment 67
Winter Fuel Payment 34
Carer's Allowance 34
Cold Weather Payment 31
Universal Credit 22
Discretionary Housing Payments 21
Attendance Allowance 21
Scottish Welfare Fund 19
Severe Disablement Allowance 15
Industrial Injuries Disability Benefit - -
Funeral Expenses - -
Sure Start Maternity Grant - -

More detailed demographic information on the Experience Panels as a whole can be found in Social Security Experience Panels: Who is in the panels and their experiences so far (Scottish Government, 2018[8]).


Email: James.Miller@gov.Scot

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