Social Security Experience Panels: designing the benefits case transfer process

Panels' views expressed in interviews and a survey on benefits case transfer process from UK Government Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to Social Security Scotland.

This document is part of a collection

Priorities for who transfers first

In interviews with participants, we discussed who should transfer from DWP over to Social Security Scotland first and in what order the benefits should transfer. We also asked participants what we could do to ensure the case transfer process was fair and safe.

Benefit by benefit transfer

We discussed the idea that benefits should transfer on a benefit by benefit basis, as they go live. This means that the order in which people transfer would be determined based on the order in which benefits moved over from DWP to Social Security Scotland. Most participants were generally welcoming of this idea and said that it would be easier for both clients and agency staff. Participants also spoke of the importance of making sure clients were up to date on what benefits would be transferring first to avoid confusion for clients.Throughout interviews, participants were keen that Social Security Scotland took its time to transfer cases to ensure mistakes are not made.

Transfer by reassessment date

We spoke with participants about what cases should transfer over first once a benefit was being transferred from DWP to Social Security Scotland. One of the ideas we discussed was prioritising those with upcoming assessments, so that clients who had an upcoming reassessment would be transferred to Social Security Scotland first. This would mean that their reassessment would be done by Social Security Scotland rather than DWP.

Participants were strongly in favour of this idea. A large number of participants said that they would rather their assessment be done by Social Security Scotland than DWP and spoke of their previous negative experiences of assessments.

Futhermore, participants told us that transferring by reassesment date would help to minimise stress for clients. Participants spoke of how the period of time running up to an assessment can be stressful and make clients feel anxious. Knowing that their assessment would be done by Social Security Scotland would help reduce this stress.

Transfer by geographical area

Another idea that was discussed within interviews was transferring cases based on a geographical area.

Participants responses were fairly mixed on this option. A few benefits of transferring cases based on geographical area were raised by some participants. Firstly, participants noted that it would mean information in local areas would be consistent and that you would be transferring over at the same time as your neighbour. Participants also spoke of how it would better prepare services and resources in local areas to help assist with any problems or questions that may arise throughout the process.

However, some participants were not in favour of transferring cases based on location. It was suggested that transferring by geographical area may place a strain on local resources if there were to be any problems with the transfer. This was likened to the strain on foodbanks and citizens advice centres during the introduction of Universal Credit. Many participants noted that this was an unfair way of selecting who should transfer next and one participant referred to it as a "postcode lottery."

We asked participants how we should select who transfers first if the geographical approach was taken. A popular suggestion was to transfer those in smaller, more rural areas first. Participants explained that this would allow the system to be tested and if mistakes were to happen, they would happen on a smaller scale. Other suggestions included transfer based on local authority area and by randomly selected postcodes.

Transfer by health condition

Another idea that we dicussed with panel members was that cases should transfer over based upon a qualifying health condition. Most participants were not in favour of this idea on the basis that it would be difficult to decide which health conditions should be prioritised. Participants also spoke about the varying nature of many health conditions and how it would be unfair to prioritise some conditions over others. Generally, participants were keen that cases were not transferred depending on health conditions.

However, many participants recognised terminal illness as a condition to be prioritisied within the case transfer process. The majority of participants thought that those with terminal illness' should transfer over first. The most common reasons for this were to help reduce stress and limit the contact needed with DWP. On the other hand, a few participants thought those with a terminal illness should transfer over last. For these participants, it was thought that transferring the terminally ill over last would give them less to worry about and minimise stress.

Random transfer

We also discussed the idea of transferring cases randomly, for example, by a computer algorithm. Participants in interviews tended not to favour this option. However, some participants thought this was the fairest way to transfer cases and that it would not single any one person or group out.

Many participants noted a number of drawbacks of randomly transferring cases. Some thought that it may be difficult to try an explain why the transfer was random and that people would feel left out. Participants also spoke about the uncertainty that random case transfer would bring and that it wouldn't be helpful if clients had no idea of when they will transfer. Furthermore, participants spoke about the confusion random transferring could cause, especially in cases where people within the same household transferred at different times.

Other ideas for transfer order

We asked participants if they had any other ideas as to how we could transfer cases in a fair and safe manner. Some participants talked about doing it alphabetically or even in reverse alphabetical order. Others talked about doing it by age with suggestions including youngest clients first and oldest clients first.

Many recognised that there was no clear way to select what cases should transfer over first. However, participants spoke about the need for transparency when it came to deciding what cases should transfer over first. Participants suggested that clients should be made aware of what would qualify a case to be prioritised as well as an explination for any prioritisation.

Overall, transferring cases based on assesment data was most supported, as was benefit by benefit transfer. Panel members had mixed views on transfer based on geographical area and random case transfers. Transferring based on health condition was not popular with panel members, with the exception of terminal illness. Throughout, the priorities of panel member were ensuring no more DWP assesments and transparent, fair transfer of cases so clients could know when to expect their own case to transfer.



Back to top