Travelling to the health assessment
Many of the themes covered by respondents in this topic mirrored those stated by respondents as part of the Social Security Experience Panels - Agency Buildings research and therefore have not been repeated here. A detailed consideration of Experience Panel member expectations on agency buildings - including health assessment locations - can be found in that paper. Where themes have been expressed in different terms, or have not previously been expressed, they have been included below.
We heard that the location of assessment centres was 'hugely important' for reasons of accessibility, privacy and cost. Respondents told us that they felt the location of assessment centres did not meet their needs, with some respondents saying they had been asked to travel far from home.
"The location is also important, why should we have to travel 40 miles as is the current arrangement for an assessment…"
For some, being asked to travel far from home made an already stressful experience worse. It was felt that assessment centres should be located in areas that were easily accessible to all.
"If an assessment is required, then a location that does not impact on getting there should not cause stress or strain before what is obviously a stressful process."
Many respondents told us that travelling to an in-person health assessment was difficult as a result of their health condition. Some respondents told us they only have a small window each day where they are able to travel. Respondents who required a carer to travel with them felt that flexibility was vital in order to allow sufficient time to arrange a travel companion.
"With wheelchair and dementia, flexibility […] is vital as carers have to be organised…"
"I am a wheelchair user and need someone to accompany me anywhere I go. To allow for such, I need to arrange for my partner to take time off work or employ a carer to be with me. Such arrangements take time to get in place and it cannot always fit the date and time assigned by the DWP."
Other respondents told us that they would value the ability to book a parking space, as they could not use public transport.
"The ability to book a parking space is important to a wheelchair user…"
"I need to be able to drive to an assesment and park very close to wherever it is as I can't use public transport. Not being able to do this makes the difference between being able to attend and not being able to attend."
It should then be easy to get from the car to the front door.
"My local assessment centre has almost no parking and is impossible to get car doors open enough to get a disabled person out safely. […] …further to this, It has a cobblestone surface that is like an ice rink at the first sight of rain leading to both myself and my wife falling in the past."
Respondents told us they would value having an assessment in a familiar location, closer to home. This would, for some, reduce the stress of having to travel a long way for an assessment:
"If I did not know how to get to the location I would panic about being late or getting lost."
Many respondents told us that the time of travel was also important to them. For some, early morning appointments were unsuitable as it could take them a long time to get ready to start the day, or their health condition was worse in the mornings. Having an appointment later in the day allowed time for their medication to 'kick-in', their 'brain to get in gear' and ensured their sometimes lengthy morning routine would not be curtailed or rushed.
"Time of day is important as he is less able to function in the morning."
"Early mornings are very difficult for me, so if I was called for an early appointment it would entail painful inconvenience."
For others, early morning appointments were preferable as it meant they were less likely to be tired.
Overall, respondents suggested that they should be able to choose the location and time of the health assessment, and that Social Security Scotland should understand and be prepared for the inevitable need for flexibility that is inherent to their client group.