Participants also spoke about attitudes towards receiving benefits.
Thinking of ‘benefits’ as an ‘entitlement’
Some said that they didn’t see benefits as a right that they were personally entitled to. Others said that that feeling ashamed was a reason why they would be less likely to seek help and try to get what they were entitled to. Several said that they would be worried about others finding out that they were claiming additional support.
"Some can be ashamed to talk about the fact that they are struggling."
"Sometimes people are embarrassed. People who have never ever been on benefits, they’ve lost their job, they don’t know where to go. They feel embarrassed."
"I’m too embarrassed to ask anyone about benefits or help. People are embarrassed to ask and embarrassed to tell."
A number of participants talked about how claiming benefits was perceived by others they knew. Some said that they didn’t want others to think they were struggling and that claiming benefits would be seen as a weakness. Several said that they wouldn’t want rumours to start to spread about them being ‘on benefits.’ These participants spoke about how fear about being seen by others could prevent them from visiting certain places to get help.
"It’s seen as a weakness if someone is seeking help."
"There’s a fear of being rejected and being outed as different to everyone else."
"Even going to local offices is a stigma – what if someone will see us?"
Some also spoke about how accessing benefits would make them feel like they had to change the way they lived. They described how they would feel restricted in their regular life if they were claiming extra money. Several said that, once they were claiming, it would feel wrong if they spent any of their money on non-essential purchases. Therefore to maintain their sense of freedom, they would prefer to live on less.
"I have it in my mind that if I claim, I can’t go out, I can’t buy things for myself. It’s not worth it."
There was a view that Social Security Scotland needed to encourage the idea that benefits are a right to people who are entitled to them. These participants felt it was important to change the language and culture around claiming additional support. Several felt that the word ‘entitlement’ provided a less stigmatising message than ‘benefit’ or ‘charity.’
"It can be an ego thing for some people. They should know the support they can receive is not a sin. It’s an entitlement. But they don’t want to be seen to be on benefits."
"It’s important to feel trust. Like that’s my entitlement first. Then you can tackle other things like the language barrier."
"It should be classed as an entitlement and not a charity. People think it’s charity and they don’t want to take charity. It’s their entitlement."
"Very first thing should be are you entitled? If so, then they should feel like they can trust the system and feel that they are entitled to support."
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