Publication - Research and analysis

Social Security experience panels: others speaking to Social Security Scotland for clients - main report

Published: 17 Aug 2020

Outlines the Social Security experience panel's views expressed in a survey on the process for someone else being able to contact Social Security Scotland on behalf of a client.

Social Security experience panels: others speaking to Social Security Scotland for clients - main report
Others speaking to Social Security Scotland for clients

Others speaking to Social Security Scotland for clients

Respondents had mixed experience of someone else contacting an organisation on their behalf. Over half (54 per cent) had no experience of this, compared to over four in ten (45 per cent) who did.

Table 9: Have you ever had someone else contact an organisation ( e.g. Department of Work and Pensions) on your behalf? (n=246)
%
Yes 45
No 54
Don't know 0
Total 99[8]

We asked respondents who said yes what their experience of someone contacting an organisation on their behalf was like. Many respondents said someone else contacted the DWP on their behalf during a benefit application process or when appealing a decision. Others said they needed someone to speak on their behalf to resolve a specific issue.

"CAB called the DWP on my behalf as I had been suffering from mental health issues and was not able to fully understand what they were asking me for. The CAB advisor was taking the question and explaining it to me and then giving the DWP advisor my answer in an appropriate way but with my agreement."

Respondents said people from various organisations had made contact with another organisation on their behalf: help and welfare rights organisations, disability specific charities, advocacy workers and social workers. Some respondents said that a family member had contacted an organisation for them.

"It was my husband who spoke to them with my permission. It actually helped me as I was feeling very stressed that day and so was unable to speak to them without getting upset. My husband could then relate the conversation to me himself afterwards."

"I was ill and had a timed response to a letter. My daughter had to phone them to explain the situation."

As in the excerpt above, some respondents described why they needed someone else to contact an organisation for them, with a few saying that their disability or health condition meant that it was necessary either on certain occasions or all of the time.

"The member of staff phoned on my behalf because I am hearing impaired."

"I am autistic and do not speak on the phone. This makes contacting organisations extremely difficult as normally the only contact method is phoning. In the past I have to rely on carers, family members, medical professionals phoning for me. Often people don't understand why I can't speak on the phone which causes many issues. The normal procedure seems to be having to send a letter giving written permission of a named individual to speak for me."

Some respondents described more than one occasion when someone else contacted an organisation on their behalf.

What went well

We asked respondents with experience of people contacting organisations on their behalf what went well about the experience. The most common response was that they felt that those who spoke on their behalf were in a better position to liaise with the organisation in question. For some, this was because they thought the person speaking knew more about the benefits system or they felt they were better at communicating key points and dealing with any challenges. For respondents who described applying for a benefit or appealing a decision, having someone speak on their behalf and support them through the process gave them reassurance that their query was being dealt with efficiently.

"I felt the person contacting the DWP were listened to more than myself so it went well as everything was factual and she spoke up for me."

"They were able to communicate with them as they knew all about benefits, which I didn't."

"That person could communicate my problems better."

Some respondents said that someone else speaking on their behalf also helped relieve some of the feelings of stress and anxiety which could accompany contacting an organisation. Referring to a benefit application or appeal process, some respondents said the person speaking on their behalf provided emotional support, that 'having someone there' reduced the stress of trying to 'cope doing it all alone.' Other respondents said that what went well about someone else speaking on their behalf was that they got the result they hoped for.

"I did not have the stress of trawling through a mountain of 'guides', often written in a way that's difficult to comprehend, fit to personal circumstances, or, see which of various options, best suited me individually. I was taken through options in a calm, stress-less manner and information conveyed to the appropriate authorities/agencies, on my behalf."

"The advisor from CAB helped me to win each appeal. He knew what to do and when whereas I was simply overwhelmed with the process and the paperwork. He enabled me to speak when I had to and spoke for me when I couldn't."

Finally, some respondents said that their experience of someone contacting an organisation on their behalf went well because it was easy to set up and that the organisation were understanding of their need for this.

"The DWP staff were generally polite and accepting of my need to have someone else handle the call. The project workers accurately relayed what was said or used speakerphone."

"Once I've named someone and given written consent in a letter it normally works well and my Mum usually speaks for me and I give her any written notes of what I want saying."

What could have gone better

We also asked respondents with experience, what could have gone better with their experience of someone contacting an organisation on their behalf. Some respondents described a negative experience or difficulties, often because the organisation being contacted would not speak to the person they had asked to speak for them.

"It was quite difficult as they insisted in talking to me and not the person who was speaking on my behalf."

"Not great. They always want to speak to me despite me being unable or unwilling to call them due to my conditions. I've had this issue every time trying to call the DWP. With support workers or husband it's the same, are you an appointee, no. We can't tell you anything other than there'll be a letter in the post. Sometimes they'd let me agree to let whoever was supporting me hear but they always tried their hardest to keep talking to me despite my need for a support worker or husband to speak on my behalf. Not ideal."

Most of these respondents therefore felt the process of nominating and verifying the person they wished to speak for them could have been made easier and quicker. Respondents said it would have been better if they could nominate someone in advance and not have to verify this so thoroughly during a single communication. Other respondents said that communication should have been quicker, for example, shorter waiting times on the phone or between letters.

"Have people on file that are authorised to speak on your behalf."

"Less having to repeatedly confirm my mentor to talk on my behalf every time the call was transferred or called back etc."

Someone contacting Social Security Scotland for clients

Eight in ten of all respondents (80 per cent) said they thought they might, at some point, want someone else to be able to speak to Social Security Scotland on their behalf. 16 per cent said they would always want this, just under half of respondents (49 per cent) said they would sometimes want this, and 15 per cent said they would rarely want this. Over one in ten respondents (12 per cent) said they would never want someone else to be able to speak to Social Security Scotland on their behalf. Eight per cent said they did not know.

Table 10: Do you think you would ever want someone else to be able to speak to Social Security Scotland on your behalf? (n=245)
%
Always 16
Sometimes 49
Rarely 15
Never 12
Don't know 8
Total 100

Of respondents who said they would never want someone else to be able to speak to Social Security Scotland on their behalf, two thirds (66 per cent) said they would not need it.

"I would rather speak myself."

"I feel confident enough to know what to say and why."

Just under three in ten (28 per cent) said they would not feel comfortable.

"I sometimes don't like to ask."

"I would rather deal with such private matters myself as long as I am able."

No respondents said they would not know who to ask.

Table 11: Why would you never want someone else to speak to Social Security Scotland on your behalf? (n=29)
%
I would not need it 66
I would not feel comfortable 28
Other 7
I would not know who to ask 0
Total 100

Who could speak on a client's behalf

Of respondents who said they would want someone else to speak on their behalf, just under eight in ten (79 per cent) said they would want a professional supporter, for example, a support worker, advocate, Citizen's Advice Bureau or local authority worker, to contact Social Security Scotland on their behalf.

"The system at times can be very complicated to work round so a professional adviser is always a good thing they have all the knowledge."

Seven in ten respondents (72 per cent) said they would want a friend or family member to speak to Social Security Scotland.

"Family members know you better than anyone else. They know your symptoms and how to help you."

Just under two thirds (65 per cent) said they would want a medical professional to do it.

"I think that doctors should be able to speak on behalf of clients as, everything is assessed based on medical need or disability and apart from the applicant themselves, doctors will know the most accurate information."

7 per cent of respondents said they would someone outside of these groups to speak to Social Security Scotland on their behalf. These respondents said they would want carers, charities, employers or MSPs.

Table 12: Who might you want to speak to Social Security Scotland on your behalf? (tick all that apply) (n=215)
%
A professional that supports you (e.g. support worker, advocate, Citizen's Advice Bureau, local authority worker) 79
A friend or family member 72
A medical professional (e.g. doctor, nurse, or occupational therapist) 64
Other 7

What someone might speak on a client's behalf about

Just under nine in ten of those same respondents said they would want the person contacting Social Security Scotland on their behalf to talk about a redetermination or appeal (88 per cent). Around eight in ten said they would want the person to seek an explanation of a decision (81 per cent) or get help with an application (79 per cent). Two thirds said they would want the person to report a change of circumstances (66 per cent) and just under six in ten have any ongoing contact with Social Security Scotland on their behalf (59 per cent).

Table 13: What would you want the person contacting Social Security Scotland for you to talk to staff about? (tick all that apply) (n=213)
%
Supporting with a redetermination or appeal 88
Seeking an explanation of a decision 81
Helping with an application 79
Reporting a change of circumstances 66
Any ongoing contact 59

Contact

Email: Socialsecurityexperience@gov.scot