Social Security Experience Panels: meeting people's needs - report

Report on findings from research with Social Security Experience Panels members on how Social Security Scotland can support clients’ accessibility, disability and other needs.


Disability and accessibility needs

Participants agreed that it would be beneficial for clients to share information about their needs with Social Security Scotland.  Issues around accessibility were the most frequently mentioned needs. These often related to physical accessibility at Social Security Scotland locations as well as examples of measures that could be taken to ensure a comfortable environment and atmosphere for clients.  

Participants also discussed communication needs such as communication channel preferences and flexibility in call handling and appointment times.  They felt this would allow clients to engage in a way that suited them and at their own pace.  Feedback also covered a range of aspects related to the experience of living with a disability or long-term health condition.  Participants said it was important that staff understood the individuality of each client's experience.  This included how health and wellbeing can fluctuate and that not all disabilities, and associated needs, are visible.     

There was a range of opinions on how much detail Social Security Scotland should request or record.  Some participants said they would be happy to share all information relating to their needs.  Others thought it wasn't necessary for Social Security Scotland to capture detailed information about the circumstances behind, or reasons for, needs-based adjustments.   

When asked how they would tell Social Security Scotland about any disability or accessibility needs, the preferred option was online and at the same time as making an application.  Opinions were mixed when it came to updating the information with the most popular option being only when the client offers more information.   

Focus group participants were shown three examples of how information on disability and accessibility needs could be recorded on the Social Security Scotland system: an open text box, a drop down menu, and a combination of both.  Participants thought a drop down menu would be an efficient way to record information but wasn't suited to capturing the potential range of clients' individual needs.  Participants thought an open text box would allow more tailored information to be logged but care should be taken not to record excessive detail.  A combination of both a drop down menu and an open text box was favoured by many participants.  Participants thought this could strike a good balance between efficiency and ability to record important detail.  

Additional needs

Participants gave a range of examples of experiences in a client's life which could be shared with Social Security Scotland to allow them to provide additional support.  Examples include: mental health conditions, abuse, addiction, bereavement, and experience of the prison system.  

Most respondents said they would tell Social Security Scotland about additional needs resulting from personal experiences where it was relevant.  Respondents did note that some clients may wish to keep certain personal information private and that this should be respected.  As before, the most popular time to tell Social Security Scotland about additional needs was online alongside an application. 


Participants were asked about measures Social Security Scotland could take to support the needs of clients.  Participants agreed that information on available adjustments such as language interpreters should be available via a range of methods such as online and in leaflets.  Almost all survey respondents thought that staff should be trained to recognise suicidal feelings, alcohol or substance abuse, and vulnerability to financial abuse.  Almost all participants also thought it would be helpful for Social Security Scotland to have in place staff with extra training and experience on various topics known as Subject Matter Experts.  

Participants also considered signposting to other support agencies or groups to be an important way Social Security Scotland could support clients.  To support clients visiting Social Security Scotland, participants thought it was appropriate to share certain accessibility needs with front of house staff, but not detailed personal health information.  Finally, participants took the opportunity to highlight that clients should always be treated with empathy and understanding, as embodied by Social Security Scotland's commitment to Dignity, Fairness, and Respect.  



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