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.

Additional needs

Circumstances where additional support could help

Other than disability, clients may have times in their lives when they have more complex needs.  Almost all survey respondents (95 per cent) said they agreed or strongly agreed that staff should be trained to recognise suicidal feelings, alcohol or substance abuse, and vulnerability to financial abuse.

Table 7: Do you agree or disagree that staff should be trained to recognise the issues outlined above? (n=234)
Strongly agree 77.4
Agree 17.9
Neither agree or disagree 2.6
Disagree 1.7
Strongly disagree 0
Total 100

Focus group participants and survey respondents were asked to think about other experiences that could affect how a client interacts with Social Security Scotland.  A range of examples were given with much overlap between the types of experiences discussed at focus groups and mentioned in survey responses.  Some participants reiterated needs related to disability or long-term health conditions.  In terms of other experiences, mental health was frequently mentioned, particularly anxiety, and the potential impact this could have on a client's interaction.  Participants also mentioned experiences of abuse, including domestic and financial abuse, and how these could impact how a client interacts with Social Security Scotland. 

"If someone is suffering from anxiety, it would be good for staff to know how to calm them and make them feel at ease." (focus group participant) 

"Signs that someone is in a coercive or abusive relationship,  particularly if their care giver or 'support' is involved." (survey respondent) 

Other experiences mentioned by participants include:

  • Addiction
  • Autism
  • Bereavement
  • Caring responsibilities
  • Changes in financial circumstances including redundancy
  • Dementia
  • Experience of the care or prison systems
  • Health concerns that can cause trauma such as: cancer, HIV, and PTSD
  • Homelessness
  • Previous military experience
  • Relationship breakdown
  • Social isolation
  • Trauma connected with experiences with DWP

"Post-traumatic stress disorder.  People who are soldiers home from active duty and could not find work. People who have brain injuries from car accidents, homelessness, bereavement." (focus group participant) 

"When someone has a new diagnosis they can be particularly fragile, breakdown of relationship, moving, death of loved one, claiming new benefit or for first time can all be very overwhelming." (survey respondent) 

Telling Social Security Scotland about additional support needs

Survey respondents were asked if they would disclose information about additional needs resulting from personal experiences.  Most respondents (88 per cent) said they would tell Social Security Scotland if it was relevant. 

Table 8: If it were relevant to you or the person you care for, would you want to tell Social Security Scotland about these needs? (n=234)
Yes 88.0
No 0.4
Don't know 11.5
Total 100

Some focus group participants also said they would be happy to tell Social Security Scotland about any additional needs that were relevant.  Some participants thought this would be important for clients to share practical needs that would help them in accessing benefits, and to allow Social Security Scotland to find suitable ways to help clients in the best way possible.  

"If they don't have a fixed address they don't have access to a bank account so won't be able to get the money." (focus group participant) 

"If you're going to answer people's needs, you need to know what their needs are in the first place." (focus group participants) 

Some focus group participants noted however, that some clients would not want to disclose certain personal information and that this should be respected.  Others noted that whilst it could be helpful to have a record of needs, it was not necessary for Social Security Scotland to know details of personal experiences.  Some participants also questioned whether it was appropriate for Social Security Scotland to know about or act on clients' personal circumstances that were not directly related to their benefit application.  

"Depends on person.  Person has right to say, I don't want that information on the system but it might be on their best interest to have it on the system. It's down to the client." (focus group participant) 

"The people who are in the grip of alcohol and substance abuse, some will present that, but some might not want to disclose it. Same with HIV in case they might face any stigma." (focus group participant) 

"You are an agency that is providing a service, but it's not AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] or gamblers AA but it's not for SSS to intervene in that way." (focus group participant)

How and when to tell Social Security Scotland

Survey respondents who said they would disclose additional needs were asked how they would prefer to tell Social Security Scotland.  Respondents were able to choose multiple options.  Just over half said they would want to do this online (58 per cent).  Half said they would want to do this face to face (50 per cent), on a paper form (47 per cent) or on the phone (46 per cent).  Email was mentioned as an alternative way to tell Social Security about additional needs. 

Table 9: How would you want to tell us? (n=206)[5]
Online 57.7
Face to face 49.6
Paper form 47.0
On the phone 45.7
Other 3.0

Most respondents (68 per cent) who said they would disclose additional needs said they would want to do this alongside an application.  An equal number (40 per cent) said they would want to tell Social Security Scotland before they apply or when arranging an appointment.  

Table 10: When would you want to tell us? (n=206)[6]
Alongside application 68.4
Before you apply, on your first contact with Social Security Scotland 40.2
When arranging an appointment 40.2
Other 6.0

Respondents also noted that they would want to inform Social Security Scotland about additional needs following a change in circumstances.  Respondents said that it should be possible to do this at any time and suggestions on how to do this included an online form and via email.

"At any stage, and it should be noted, not 'lost'." (focus group participant)

"Through an online form I can update any time those needs arise." (survey respondent) 

Recording information on additional needs

Focus group participants were asked to give their thoughts on how information on any additional needs that could affect how a client interacts should be recorded.  Discussion mirrored the themes discussed above with regard to recording accessibility and disability needs, with some participants unclear that these would only be used by Social Secuirty Scotland staff.  As before, participants thought a combination of a drop down menu and text box would be the most suitable way to record informaiton on additional needs on the Social Security Scotland system.  

Participants also again highlighted the importance of purpose limitation and confidentiality. They noted that information on additional needs should be kept up-to-date and secure, used to help the client, and restricted to only relevant staff.   

"The drop downs with the further info we discussed earlier. If there is consistency, that's better for the call handlers." (focus group participant) 

"The access needs should be available to everyone. This stuff should only be available to case workers [or] face to face staff." (focus group participant)



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