Social Security Experience Panels - panel members: full report - 2020 update

This report provides demographic information about the Social Security Experience Panels. It also summarises feedback from panel members about their experiences of being a member of the panels and how this could be improved.

Feedback on the Experience Panels

Respondents to ‘About You 2019a’ were invited to provide feedback on their time as panel members. They were asked both what has worked well in relation to taking part in the Experience Panels, and what could be improved.

What has worked well?

There were a wide range of thoughts from respondents about what had worked well when they had taken part in the Experience Panels. Around two-thirds of survey respondents provided an answer about what had worked well.

Having a say

The most common view from respondents was that they valued that their voice was being listened to. Some said that they felt like, by taking part in research, they were having a direct impact in designing a system that they would soon be using. Others were pleased that they had the opportunity to explain their experiences and concerns fully.

“It has been really positive to feel that we are being heard, as the people who have first-hand experience of the system. It gives me hope that the inherent problems and mistakes in the current system will not be part of the new system.”

“It’s been good to have a say and put my points of view across. I feel my opinion has mattered and feel valued for contributing.”

“For me, it has been the ability to explain things properly and hopefully having our voices heard and experiences listened to. Hopefully, this means that our new social security system will be a more emphathetic and accessible system, not like the hostile one that’s currently in place.”

Many respondents also described how they had appreciated being well-informed about both the work of the Experience Panels and ongoing design of Social Security Scotland.

“It’s been good to be kept informed of your work and the outcomes of your research.”

“Getting feedback which confirms the new set-up is going to be more user friendly and less confrontational is very reassuring.”

Meeting other panel members

Several said that they had particularly liked meeting other panel members who had similar experiences during Panel events. These respondents felt that meeting other people gave them a chance to listen, learn, and sometimes be challenged.

“It’s been amazing to be able to sound off and speak with others who have been treated badly.”

“Meeting people involved either as staff or as participants has been stimulating. Hearing of other people’s experience and how our views will be used to design good approaches is very satisfying.”

“I’ve learnt a great deal from other Experience Panel members.”

“I’ve enjoyed being in a setting where my views can change, being challenged by what others say.”

Different types of research

Many also commented on the variety of research opportunities that were available. There was positive feedback for quick surveys – particularly online surveys. Many respondents felt that surveys were easy to access and complete. Several said that they liked that surveys gave them the chance to respond in their own time without any pressure. A few commented that online surveys worked well with any assistive technology that they used on their computer.

“The surveys have all been very well-designed, in particular by allowing me to give nuanced and in-depth responses to questions.”

“I like the fact that I can choose which surveys I can take part in at my leisure and at my pace and hopefully my small part helps to shape a better and fairer system.”

“Taking part in the online surveys has been a piece of cake! The format of the surveys has been easy to understand and to complete using voice recognition technology.”

Some said they that struggled to get to events, and that surveys gave them an opportunity to input at a time that suited them.

“Online surveys are easiest for me. I work 32 hours a week over 4 days as well as being a carer for my husband, so attending events has proved difficult.”

Others felt that face to face events and focus groups had worked well. These respondents enjoyed discussing their experiences with others and having a variety of discussions on different topics.

“Actually meeting face to face with interviewers has worked well.”

Several respondents said they appreciated the flexibility of research opportunities and ways to communicate.

“I like the flexibility to participants in surveys or face to face sessions and other events depending on time availability.”

Communication and staff

A number of respondents also felt that communication between panel members and the Experience Panels team had worked well. This included the clear language used as well as the frequency of contact with panel members.

“It’s easy to respond. I’ve never felt under pressure to take part, and emails don’t come too often.”

“When I’ve asked questions, you’ve always responded promptly.”

Many were also positive about the way that they had been treated by the Experience Panels staff at research events.

“The actual workers who have enabled this work to be done have been wonderful. They have listened and cared for everyone, changed things when suggested, and genuinely fostered confidence for the entire process. The ought to be commended for the things that might have been on the job description, but also for their authentic energy and positive regard for us all. Smiles in the right places and ways were most appreciated by me.”

“Very friendly staff and very helpful. Good workshop style events, and allowing everyone to have their say during the event.”

“I have enjoyed meeting the staff. I have felt heard and appreciated the level of fine attention given to everyone attending.”

What could be improved?

When asked about what could be improved about the Experience Panels, respondents had a number of suggestions. Just under half of survey respondents provided a suggestion about how the Experience Panels could be improved. The remainder of respondents either did not provide an answer, or said that they could not think of improvements to be made.

Events and venues

A number of respondents had thoughts on how events could be improved. Some described different reasons why they had been unable to attend events. These included being unable to travel long distances to the locations where events were being held. Travelling long distances was said to be difficult for those who lived in rural areas, had limited travel options, or had other responsibilities during the day such as childcare or work. Several respondents suggested that this had limited them to online participation only.

“One thing is that it would be good to have more events round about Scotland – in Perth specifically. On my part, it can be very difficult, or in many cases impossible, to balance going further afield with my duties as a carer for my mum.”

“I appreciate there has been venues across Scotland to go to, but for individuals whom have physical disabilities and are unable to attend due to distance, it would be appreciated if possible to have venues within easier access. This would enable individuals to participate more. At present, I can only contribute online.”

“I’d ask for more morning workshops as my daughter is still at school and I can’t do afternoons.”

“I can’t always participate due to work.”

Other respondents said that they were unable to attend events due to a health condition or a concern that attending would be too fatiguing.

“I would like to be able to take part in workshops but owing to fatigue / health issues I doubt I would be able to. At least I can still do the surveys which is better than nothing.”

“It is very difficult for me to attend as there is a limit as to the length of time I can physically sit on a bus and waiting times for buses can be long.”

There was also a view that event venues needed to be more carefully chosen in the future. Several respondents described having difficulties finding accessible on-site parking at venues. While others discussed the need to have suitable table arrangements for wheelchair users, along with clear-marked exits and toilets.

“Maybe just a bit more room for wheelchair users in the meeting rooms – i.e. table positions.”

“Just getting the building suitable for easy wheelchair access and suitable disabled toilets. Also being clear as to how long the meetings take as I had to leave the last one early.”

Several respondents suggested streaming Experience Panels events via video-link, so that those who couldn’t attend physically, could still tune in and take part. There was also a suggestion for speakers to use microphones in busy events so that their voices could be clearly heard by all.

“I have unfortunately not been able to attend any of the briefing sessions of focus groups. I can’t imagine I’m alone in that and wonder if these events could be live streamed with the option of contributing by text.”

“Have speakers use a microphone and have two mics for audience members to use when asking questions. If this becomes normal, everyone will be able to hear!”

A number of respondents felt that it was a shame that some of the events that they had attended had not had a higher number of attendees. There were several suggestions to try and improve the attendance of panel members at events. This includes sending more reminders to panel members. There was also a suggestion that panel members could be given information about events earlier in advance.

“Perhaps for individual panel days, more could be done to contact participants prior to the event? I have been to a couple of days where very few people actually attended.”

“Longer notice of when the focus groups are scheduled. The last one only gave about 10 days’ notice for Glasgow. As I need to arrange for a driver for my vehicle, and for that person to help me access the venue, I need time to set up such arrangements. Notice of four weeks would be helpful.”

Surveys and focus groups

There were also comments about how to improve the specific research approaches of Experience Panels. A couple of respondents described small changes to the format of surveys. They felt that it would be helpful to see a copy of the full survey before answering it, so that they could understand what questions were coming and how best to answer them.

“For surveys – the current format does not allow me to see the questions in advance. I’ve often found that I’ve given a long answer only to find the next question addressed that better. Also you estimate that it will take 15 minutes to complete, but providing the number of questions would be better.”

Several respondents also had thoughts on how focus group formats could be improved. These included keeping the groups small and working to ensure that all voices in a focus group were heard equally.

“Smaller group sizes at the discussions with a maximum of 5 at a table to enable more discussion by the panel members. When the groups exceed this, the discussions become hampered by time restraints.”

“Sometimes only a few voices dominate the conversation. I think it is important that all participants are included in the conversations.”

There was also a comment from several respondents that panel members could be given more time to prepare for focus groups. This included providing a clear indication of topics that were going to be discussed.

“Provide an idea of topics 48 hours before meeting.”

“Perhaps a little more information on the subject under discussion beforehand. Sometimes I find it difficult to contribute from cold. I sometimes think of things after I’ve left and gone home which I’d have liked to contribute.”

“Perhaps being given some reading materials to allow for preparation before meetings and discussions.”

Other thoughts

One respondent warned about being over-consulted about smaller details and how this could be overwhelming.

“There is such a thing as consultation fatigue. I feel that we are being consulted constantly about every tiny item which we don’t need to be consulted about. You can’t agonise over the minutiae.”

Several said that they would be interested in being alerted about wider job opportunities in Social Security Scotland.

“Email people involved in the panels with job opportunity within Social Security Scotland. We are all motivated and engaged people and nothing beats expertise from personal experience. I would love to work for the new social security system supporting people to apply and know their rights.”

In addition, when asked about what could be improved about the Experience Panels, many did not provide any further suggestions. These respondents said that they were broadly content with the Experience Panels as they were.



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