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.

Recording disability and accessibility needs

Focus group participants were asked to give their thoughts on how Social Security Scotland should record information on clients' disability and accessibility needs.  Participants were shown three examples of how information could be recorded on the Social Security Scotland system: an open text box, a drop down menu, and a combination of both.  These examples can be seen at Annex B. 

The purpose of the discussion was to explore how these formats might best operate as part of the internal Social Security Scotland system, seen and used only by staff members.  At times during the discussions, there was some confusion among some participants some of whom framed their responses by discussing how easy or difficult they thought it would be for clients to navigate and fill out the different formats.  Researchers guided the discussion to explore the potential benefits and limitations of the different formats, as used only by Social Security Scotland staff. 

Drop down menus

Some focus group participants thought a drop down menu with a list of needs was a good way for disability and accessibility needs to be recorded.  Participants noted that a drop down menu limits the detail that is captured about a client to only the relevant need.  Participants also mentioned that this would make it easy for Social Security Scotland staff to see quickly and clearly what a client needs.  

"It is a case of keeping it short and sweet without going into screeds of detail." (focus group participant)

"Coming from a sight point of view, the drop box is easier. Can scroll through, the open text you need to read every word and it's easy to misread that if you're in a hurry.  I think it would be easier, having a drop down like this – the advisor could ask at first point of contact.  Keep it as short as possible but to cover as many things as possible." (focus group participant)

Some participants noted that each client will have individual needs that may not be captured in a drop down menu.  Participants were concerned that if the drop down menu was limited, this could miss important detail about a client's needs.  Participants also questioned how feasible it would be to have a menu that included too many options. 

"Drop down is too box ticking, not tailored to you." (focus group participant)

"It's easy enough if you're on this side to think that you've given all the information but you know there's other things on this list that you might not be aware of, so would an adviser actually go through everything on the list, how long is the list going to be." (focus group participant) 

Open text box

Some focus group participants thought that an open text box would allow a good level of detail to be recorded about a client's needs.  Participants also felt this would be more tailored to the individual client. 

"Open text box is much better.  Level of detail is more helpful.  More tailored to the individual." (focus group participant) 

Some participants however, were concerned that an open text box would capture too much information and/or detail and would be too time-consuming for staff to read carefully.  Participants were also concerned that comments in an open text box would rely too heavily on interpretation by staff. 

"[A] text box requires more effort for staff, more guidance for professional use etc. This might not work when they get really busy." (focus group participant) 

"They [staff] would need to have training to understand the conditions fully. So I prefer the drop downs where you can add the information." (focus group participant)

Drop down menu and open text box 

Some focus group participants said that a combination of both a drop down menu and an open text box would be the best option to record information about a client's disability and accessibility needs.  These participants thought that combining an open text box to the drop down menu struck a good balance between efficiency and ability to record important detail.  Participants also noted that where drop down menus could not cover all possibilities, an open text box would allow this to be recorded. 

"Drop down with open text…can get quick detail of need in the drop down and can look into more info. on open text within the drop down for more information." (focus group participant) 

"I prefer both of them…I think you need a free text box because you might have something that comes up that doesn't go into your tick box option." (focus group participant) 



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