Equality, Poverty and Social Security: Research Findings No.29/2019: Social Security Experience Panel: Overpayments Survey Visual Summary
The Scottish Government are becoming responsible for some of the benefits previously delivered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). As part of work to prepare for this change, Scottish Government set up the Social Security Experience Panels. There are more than 2,400 people on the panels who have experience of these benefits.
Department for Work and Pensions → Scottish Government
The Experience Panels are made up over 2,400 people from across Scotland who have recent experience of at least one of the benefits that are coming to Scotland.
The Scottish Government is working with Experience Panel members to create Scotland's new social security system.
- 2,400+ Experience Panel members
About the research
This report details the findings of the 'Overpayments' research carried out with Experience Panels members. An overpayment is when you are paid more money than you are due.
- 2,456 invites
- 141 survey responses
- The research took place in October to November 2018
The research explored:
- What went well and what went wrong in participants previous experience with overpayments
- How participants would like to be contacted by Social Security Scotland about an overpayment
- How participants would like to pay back an overpayment and why
Participants were between 25 – 79 years old
- 33% Man or boy
- 65% Woman or girl
- 80% lived in an urban location
- 20% lived in an rural location
- Participants took part in 27 out of 32 local authority areas
Just over 8 in 10 survey participants had a disability or long term health condition, including:
- chronic pain
- severe hearing impairments
- severe visual impairments
- other kinds of long term health condition
More than half of survey participants had experience of receiving an overpayment e.g. from DWP
We asked participants who had experience of an overpayment to rate it on a scale from 'very poor' to 'very good.'
- Three quarters of people said their experience was poor or very poor
- Just over 1 in 10 said their experience was good or very good
We asked participants to tell us about their experience
- Participants told us that it took a long time to resolve and pay back an overpayment
"when they overpay you they don't want the money back right away, sometimes it is months before they ask for the return by which time it is spent""
- Many participants told us that they had trouble contacting DWP about their overpayment and that communication was poor.
"Communication and response to the overpayment to resolve was awful, took numerous letters and phone calls over a 6 month period."
- Participants also told us that they were poorly treated by staff when trying to resolve their overpayment
"I was treated very badly with the majority of staff I dealt with."
- Many participants also told us that the overpayment that had occurred was not their fault
"It usually happens through no fault of the claimant!"
Being contacted by Social Security Scotland
We asked participants how they would like to be contacted by Social Security Scotland if they were to receive an overpayment
- Post was the most popular option with almost three quarters (73 per cent) of participants saying they would be happy with this method
- Email was also popular with around half (49 per cent) of participants selecting this option
- 1 in 3 participants said they would be happy to be contacted by telephone to tell them about an overpayment
- Being contacted in person and by text message were not popular options.
- Only 17 per cent wanted to be contacted in person
- Only 14 per cent wanted to be contacted by text message
- Less than 1 in 100 (1 per cent) participants said they would be happy to be contacted through social media
Paying back an overpayment
We asked participants where they would like to go to return to return an overpayment
Over the internet was the most popular option with around half (48 per cent) of participants saying they would be happy with this option.
Where were survey participants happy to repay an overpayment?
- Over the internet: 50%
- Social Security Scotland Building: 40%
- Visiting your local bank branch: 30%
- Over the phone: 30%
For the participants that said they would be happy to repay the money over the phone, we asked them how they would like to do this
- Just over 2 in 3 (69 per cent)participants said they would be happy doing this by talking to an operator
- 1 in 3 (33 per cent) participants said they would be happy entering their card details into an operated system over the phone
- Around 1 in 3 participants (31 per cent) said they didn't care how they repaid an overpayment
We then asked participants how they would like to pay back an overpayment
- Agreeing to have the overpayment taken from future benefits was the most popular option with two thirds of participants (66 per cent) saying they would be happy with this option
- Half of participants (51 per cent) said they would be happy setting up a direct debit or standing order
- 37 per cent of participants said they would be happy to pay back an overpayment by using a debit card
- Around 1 in 4 participants said they would be happy to repay an overpayment in cash
- Repaying an overpayment by cheque was the least popular option with around 1 in 10 participants choosing this option
We asked participants if they would prefer to pay back an overpayment in full or in installments. We also gave them an 'it depends' option
Responses were mixed with almost half (47 per cent) of participants saying they would prefer to pay the overpayment back in installments
Participants told us why the selected this option. Reasons included a one off payment being unaffordable and that paying in installments would be easier to manage.
"It's more affordable to pay back in installments when on benefits."
"a longer term repayment would be best as some people find it difficult to budget"
Around half of participants (48 per cent) selected the 'it depends' option. The most common reason for selecting this option was that it depends on the amount of the overpayment.
"It depends how much I've been overpaid by. I'd prefer to pay it back in full but if it's a lot I'd like to do it by installments."
Another common reason given was that it would depend on how soon they were notified they were overpaid
"If the overpayment was not noticed immediately some may have been spent accidentally and an individual may then be unable to pay back the full sum in one."
Finally, only 1 in 20 participants (5 per cent) said they would want to pay back an overpayment in full. The most common reason for this was that participants did not wanting to be in debt.
"Do not like debt."
The next steps for overpayments involve adding in more ways to make a payment. This will include deducting a debt from any reoccuring benefits. We are also looking at how we will work with DWP where a client has a debt from them and Social Security Scotland.
The Scottish Government will continue to work with the Experience Panels in the development of Scotland's new social security system. This will include further research on individual benefits in addition to work to assist in the development of how Social Security Scotland works.