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Social Security Experience Panels - ethnic minorities: visual summary

This summary 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

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Stigma and other social barriers 

Stigma 

Participants also spoke about attitudes towards receiving benefits. 

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. 

"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."

Several said that they would be worried about others finding out that they were claiming additional support. 

Some said that they didn’t want others to think they were struggling. They thought 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.’

Some felt 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 benefits. Several felt that the word ‘entitlement’ provided a less stigmatising message than ‘benefit’ or ‘charity.’ 

"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."

Financial Abuse 

A few said that older people were less likely to manage their claim themselves. They thought that financial abuse could prevent clients from getting what they were entitled to. 

Several said that language barriers and lack of confidence in the system meant that bilingual children could often end of managing their older parent’s claim. This meant that sometimes these clients may not receive everything that they are entitled to. 

"I’ve seen children abusing their parent’s claim and taking money from them. They take the money and keep them isolated from their money and benefits. So the system is being abused by family members and they are not looking after their parents."

"Many of us don’t know which benefit we actually receive. This is because the children take over and manage everything."

Low confidence and isolation 

Many spoke about how it was easy for ethnic minorities to become isolated in daily life. 

Some felt that it was particularly easy to become isolated if people did not have good English language skills. 

Several talked about how they didn’t want to be a burden for society. They said that if they got in touch with authorities, they would feel like they were bothering them

"There is a language barrier for me. But it makes me reluctant to get it touch with people because I don’t want to be a bother."

Participants also said Social Security Scotland could find ways to empower isolated people who were not currently confident enough to engage with them. 

They said that it was common for older people to rely on their children or friends. They thought it would be a good thing if they were encouraged to get in touch on their own. 

"It is important to increase self-esteem and confidence so people can apply for themselves. Many rely on their bilingual children or workers, but if they feel that they can do it themselves, they can connect to society. It’s important if you are an immigrant that you feel able to connect to mainstream society."

Contact

Email: socialsecurityexperience@gov.scot

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