Communicating about fraud
Participants were then asked a series of questions about how Social Security Scotland should communicate about fraud to the public.
Participants generally felt that any communication about fraud needed to be approached very carefully. Many thought that raising awareness about benefit fraud and its consequences was a good thing. However, there were also concerns that public messaging about fraud could have a negative impact on communities.
Impact on communities
Several participants said that public attitudes towards benefit fraud were fragile. They thought that the public already saw benefit fraud as a big problem in communities. They said certain public campaigns about catching benefit 'fraudsters' often made communities suspicious about their neighbours. It was therefore felt that public information campaigns about fraud could be harmful. Several described their concerns that adverts might increase the number of incorrect accusations made between neighbours.
"If you put a TV advert on, you will get an upsurge of people phoning in, it will create more phone calls. If not done correctly, this can cause communities to turn on themselves."
"The government should be careful about any messaging that creates division – anything that encourages a neighbour to report a private individual."
Several were concerned about how public campaigns risked increasing levels of stigma towards the disabled community specifically.
"There have been steady increases of hate crime towards disabled people. I think any campaign isn't going to help those who need the help. I would be really concerned about this. Any campaign would reinforce this view."
Several others said it was important that any public messaging did not discourage any future applications from those who were eligible.
"You want to encourage people to apply – the bigger problem is about poverty and people not applying when they should. But we do need to have a response to fraud."
Different methods of communication
Participants were also asked about various ways which Social Security Scotland could communicate with the public about benefit fraud. These methods of communication included:
- TV adverts
- Information leaflets
- Online information
Most participants were unable to recall examples of good communication that they believed had worked well and could be done again in the future.
Nevertheless, participants were divided about whether different methods of public communication about fraud were appropriate. Some thought that messages should be spread as widely as possible. These participants thought that Social Security Scotland should share information about fraud through leaflets and posters, television, radio, and social media. This would raise awareness about fraud. It would also continually remind claimants about their responsibility to keep their information up to date. Some thought that market research could be conducted to ensure that any advertised message was not too hostile.
"The information should be out there for everyone. As you never know when circumstances change and you could need it."
"They should advertise on posters and social media. Money should be set aside to advertise about fraud on TV."
"Messages need to be put in places people go. Places that are in the public eye."
"Once you produce an advert, do a bit of market research and see how people respond to messages before they are put out there."
Others did not think that any public messaging about fraud was helpful. These participants felt that public communication could do more harm than good. They felt that regular reminders to clients – delivered in a more private manner - would be more appropriate. It was felt that more private reminders about fraud would have less potential for harm in the community. A few said that to avoid any confusion, fraud and error information should arrive alongside wider information about eligibility.
"When someone is claiming for new benefit, and Social Security Scotland send you forms, a leaflet could come in the post as a reminder as well."
"I wouldn't want posters or TV adverts. Just clear information about fraud and error when applying."
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