Background and research methods
The Scottish Government is becoming responsible for 11 of the benefits previously 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. The Experience Panels are made up of over 2,400 people across Scotland who have recent experience of claiming at least one of the benefits that will be devolved to Scotland.
The Scottish Government is working with Experience Panel members to design a new social security system that works for the people of Scotland. As part of this work, Scottish Government researchers have met with young carer groups to hear about their experiences, and to invite them to join the Social Security Experience Panels work on the Young Carer Grant.
Sixteen focus groups were held between February and August 2018. These were held with existing young carer groups in locations across Scotland, and in most instances the participants of each group knew each other and received regular support from a dedicated youth worker or social worker. Most groups had between 5 and 10 participants. The fewest number of participants in a group was 3, and the highest number was 16.
Young carers were asked about their experiences and views in relation to the design of the new grant. In particular:
- What is a young carer?
- What is good about being a young carer?
- What is difficult about being a young carer?
These questions were used as prompts to discuss the language that should be used, the verification process, eligibility criteria, application processes, how we reach out to young carers, how the grant might impact on their lives, and any other questions or concerns that they have about the grant.
Flipcharts and post-its were used to facilitate discussion and to capture the views of less vocal or confident participants. A Scottish Government staff member acted as note-taker in each session. Due to practical and ethical considerations, the sessions were not recorded, so this analysis is based on these notes and flipchart responses.
Focus groups were held in a wide range of locations across Scotland, including in small town/rural areas and Highlands, and Islands, as well as bigger cities. Participants were between the ages of 12 and 25 and were all young people with current or recent experience of caring for someone. For those under the age of 16, parents or guardians were asked to give their consent for their child to participate, as well as the young person consenting themselves. Trained youth workers or social workers were present throughout all of these focus groups to provide support. A minimum of two Scottish Government staff were present at each session, including at least one social researcher. Research staff underwent safeguarding training to support this work with young carers.
It is important to note that at this stage, participants were all affiliated with a young carer group. Work to engage with young carers who are not part of a formal group will be part of the next stage of the research for the Young Carer Grant, and will be informed by the findings and lessons learned from this work so far.
Participants were invited to register for the Young Carers Experience Panel to stay involved in the work to design the new young carer grant. For those who chose to stay involved, their data is held in an encrypted file in a secure Scottish Government network folder, and is held separately from the wider Experience Panels data, unless they are over 16 and have requested to be part of the wider Experience Panels work also.
Email: Catherine Henry