Social Security experience panels: Personal Independence Payment health assessments part two - main report

Outlines the Social Security experience panel's views expressed in a survey on the current and future health assessment process for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

This document is part of a collection

Background and research methods

The Scottish Government is becoming responsible for some of the benefits currently delivered by the Department for Work and Pensions. This includes PIP, a benefit designed to help people with the additional costs incurred as a consequence of living with a disability or long term health condition.

As part of the work to prepare for this change, the Scottish Government set up the Social Security Experience Panels. Panel members are people from across Scotland who have recent experience of at least one of the benefits coming to Scotland. Over 2,400 people registered as panel members when Experience Panels launched in 2017. The Scottish Government is working with Experience Panel members to design a new social security system that works for the people of Scotland, based on the principles of dignity, fairness and respect.

The Scottish Government has already made a number of decisions in the process of developing a new approach to assessments when Social Security Scotland takes over responsibility for PIP. Most relevant, the Scottish Government has committed to significantly reduce the number of individuals required to attend a face to face assessment to determine their eligibility for PIP.[3] When people apply, they can tell Social Security Scotland about the health and social care professionals who already support them. Social Security Scotland would then contact those professionals or their organisations to collect supporting information for clients. When it is the only practical way of collecting the information or where it is not possible to gather enough evidence to make a decision, a minority of clients would be invited to a discussion with a health and social care practitioner. Other commitments made include:

  • Not using private sector contractors to deliver assessments. All face to face assessments will be delivered by Social Security Scotland.
  • Providing suitably qualified health and social care practitioners to undertake assessments.
  • Offering a choice of an appointment date, time and location that suits clients, home visits will be available when they are required.
  • Giving people the right to be accompanied to an assessment, and to have that person participate. Social Security Scotland will also ensure access to advocacy support for disabled people.
  • Providing people with a copy of the assessment report without having to request it. Assessments will be audio recorded as standard.

These decisions and the design of the new service have been informed by research with people who have direct lived experience of disability and long-term health conditions and those who support them. This has mostly been through the Experience Panels across numerous projects. This has included asking Experience Panel members about their experiences of PIP assessments[4] and their views on how assessments and appointments should work in Social Security Scotland.[5] In this project, we have supplemented this work, using a survey to ask Experience Panel members their experiences and views on assessments, including:

  • Views on having an assessment over the phone
  • Preferences for having someone at an assessment to support them
  • Preference for seeking and receiving information about assessments

Respondents were recruited from the Scottish Government Experience Panels. All Experience Panel members who have told us they have experience of PIP were invited to take part in the survey.

The Social Security Experience Panels are a longitudinal research project. The panels are made up of volunteers from the Scottish population who have relevant experience. The results of this work should be regarded as being reflective of the experience and views of the participants only, and are not indicative of the views of a wider Scottish population. Percentages are given only to show a broad sense of the balance of opinion across participants.

Information from the survey was added to information from the 'About Your Benefits and You'[6] and 'Social Security Experience Panels: Who is in the panels and their experiences so far' [7] surveys. The demographic data collected in these surveys was linked to the information supplied by respondents of this survey as part of the longitudinal data set for the wider Experience Panels project. This data was only available for around two thirds of survey respondents. This is because demographic information for newly registered Experience Panel members was not yet available at the time of writing. The following demographic information is given to provide context to the findings from the survey.

One third of respondents who we have demographic information for identified as 'man or boy' (35 per cent) and two thirds (65 per cent) identified as 'woman or girl'.

Table 1: Gender of survey respondents (n=225)
Gender %
Woman or girl 65
Man or boy 35
Total 100

Over half of survey respondents were aged 45 to 59 (58 per cent) and one quarter were aged 60 to 79 (26 per cent). 16 per cent of respondents were aged between 25 and 44.

Table 2: Age of survey respondents (n=226)
Age %
Under 25 0
25 - 44 16
45 - 59 58
60 - 79 26
80 or over 0
Total 100

Almost nine in ten respondents (87 per cent) had a disability or long term health condition.

Table 3: Disability status of respondents (n=228)
Disability status
Disabled 87
Not disabled 13

Just over two thirds of respondents had a physical disability (67 per cent) and chronic pain (68 per cent). One third had a mental health condition (34 per cent) and around one in ten had a severe hearing impairment (13 per cent). Under one in ten had a severe visual impairment (7 per cent) or a learning disability (5 per cent). Around two thirds told us they had some other kind of disability or long term health condition (64 per cent).

Table 4: Disability types of respondents (n=229) [8]
Disability Types %
Has a physical disability 67
Has chronic pain 68
Has a mental health condition 34
Has a severe hearing impairment 13
Has a severe visual impairment 7
Has a learning disability 5
Has another kind of disability or long term health condition 64

Half of respondents (50 per cent) said they were a carer.

Table 5: Caring status of respondents (n=227)
Caring status %
Carer 50
Not a carer 48
Prefer not to say 2
Total 100

Of respondents who said they were carers, 86 per cent cared for an adult friend or relative. Three in ten was a carer due to old age (30 per cent). Two in ten cared for a child (23 per cent).

Table 6: Who do respondents care for? (n=113)
Care status %
Cares for an adult 86
Cares for a child 23
Carer due to old age 30

Survey respondents took part from all 32 local authority areas in Scotland. The majority lived in an urban area (84 per cent).[9]

Table 7: Location of respondents (n=366)
Location %
Urban 84
Rural 16
Total 100

Survey respondents who took part had experience of claiming or helping someone else to claim a wide range of benefits. The most common benefits claimed by survey respondents were Personal Independence Payment (99 per cent) and Disability Living Allowance (72 per cent). The least common benefits claimed were for Funeral Expenses (8 per cent) and Industrial Injuries Disability Benefit (1 per cent).

Table 8: Respondents benefit experience (n=249) [10]
Benefit %
Personal Independence Payment 99
Disability Living Allowance 72
Carer's Allowance 44
Cold Weather Payment 36
Winter Fuel Payment 35
Discretionary Housing Payment 27
Scottish Welfare Fund 21
Attendance Allowance 18
Universal Credit 18
Severe Disablement Allowance 18
Funeral Expenses 8
Sure Start Maternity Grant 26
Industrial Injuries Disability Benefit 1

More detailed demographic information on the Experience Panels as a whole can be found in 'Social Security Experience Panels: Who is in the panels and their experiences so far.'[11]



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