Social Security Experience Panels - ethnic minorities: report

This report is on research with ethnic minority groups about their past experiences of social security and the barriers that exist to them in accessing support. It provides information about the steps Social Security Scotland is taking to help overcome these barriers.

This document is part of a collection

Background and research methods

The Scottish Government is becoming responsible for some of the benefits currently 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. People from across Scotland who have recent experience of at least one of the benefits coming to Scotland were eligible to join the Experience Panels. Over 2,400 registered as panel members when it was launched in 2017. 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.

As part of the programme of Experience Panels research, additional work is being undertaken with seldom heard groups who have distinct experiences and needs that may not be covered in the main Experience Panels. This project is part of that work, and had a focus on ethnic minorities, particularly older people with English as a second language. This group face particular barriers to accessing public services.   

Between March 2018 and September 2019, the Scottish Government conducted focus groups with ethnic minorities across Scotland. The first phase of this work, in Glasgow, Kilmarnock and Aberdeen, focused on older people with English as a second language. The second phase widened out to all ethnic minorities, and focus groups were held in Dundee across two events as part of recruitment events for the main Experience Panels. 

Participants were not Experience Panels members, and were recruited through organisations with expertise in engaging with the target groups. We aimed to target people with experience of the benefits coming to Scotland. However, given the barriers highlighted above, this was not mandatory.  

Participants were asked a range of questions about their awareness and previous experience of accessing public support and the benefits system. They were also asked questions about how Social Security Scotland’s approach and services could be designed to meet their needs. The discussions gathered views and suggestions on a range of topics. These included: 

  • How participants have found out about the benefits system and the specific support available.
  • Views on how Social Security Scotland can promote its benefits in the future.
  • Views on language barriers and how Social Security Scotland can communicate inclusively with ethnic minorities.
  • Views on how Social Security Scotland staff should be
  • Views on application and appeals processes.
  • Views on stigma and other social barriers.

In total, more than 130 participants took part in 20 focus groups across 5 events in Scotland. Groups had between 2 and 11 participants.[5]

Events involved participants from a range of different ethnicities. Interpreters were provided where required to enable focus group discussions and notetaking.[6] All participants were invited to join the Experience Panels at the end of their focus groups.

This report details the findings and key themes that emerged from this work. The research was qualitative, meaning it explored in depth people’s experiences and views. The findings of this work should be regarded as being reflective of the experience and views of the participants only, and are not indicative of the views of a wider Scottish population.



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