Social Security Experience Panels - appointments and local delivery: report

This report outlines the Social Security Experience Panels views expressed in a survey and focus groups on Social Security Scotland appointments and local delivery.

This document is part of a collection

Local delivery

In addition to headquarters in Dundee and a base in Glasgow, Social Security Scotland will be delivering services in local communities across Scotland. This means delivering an accessible and person-centred service by providing a local presence across Scotland to meet people’s needs. Local services are being located wherever possible in buildings people already use. 

We asked focus group participants what the local delivery of Social Security Scotland should be like and their expectactions of the term ‘local’. 

Accessing local services 

Participants were first asked about the type of area they live in and where they would expect a ‘local’ service to be. The most common response from participants from both rural and urban areas was that they expected a local service to be easily accessible. 

“People don’t have mobility or funds to travel to (city). To make service work well there has to be something more geographically accessible. Needs to be physically reachable.”  

“Somewhere if you don’t have a car, it’s easy to get to by bus.”

“It’s not a question of looking at distance; it needs to take into account how well a person can travel.” 

Participants from rural areas expected a local service to be near their area but acknowledged that services were more spread out in these areas. 

“Nearest biggest town.”

Some participants who came from urban areas told us they felt that local services for them was within the city, with a few mentioning the city centre to be local. For other participants, this was not the case. These participants felt it depends on how easily someone is able to travel.

“Town centre of city. Like where jobcentre is, main street and accessible.”

“Some people who live in the city even think coming into city centre is not local.” 

We asked focus group participants how would they usually expect to get to a local service. Participants mentioned a variety of travel methods to get to a local service. Many focus group participants felt that public transport could present a barrier to accessing a local service. A few participants told us that buses are unreliable and inconsistent. The affordability of public transport was also a concern for a few participants. 

“You need to be aware of transport issues - trains late or cancelled. Some sort of flexibility needed in case of emergency - train delays, etc.”

“Buses can be once an hour.”

“Experience change in bus time tables from summer and winter, less buses in winter.”

“Price can be a barrier.”

Some participants discussed driving as a means to travel to get to a local service. The most common issue with driving was parking. Participants told us that parking could cause problems, particularly in the city centre. 

“A lot of people don’t like driving in [city] and struggle to park.”

Focus group participants felt that there were some factors that could affect what is deemed local. For example, some participants said that health conditions and disability can affect getting to a local service, especially if it involved unreasonable distances. 

“Health conditions people cannot sit in a car for a certain length of time, useful to have satellite regions where this is a possibility for not having to travel so much.” 

“3 to 4 hour journey for 1 hour meeting is unreasonable.”

We asked focus group participants how they would want to speak to their local services. The most common response to accessing local services was face to face within a private space. Participants repeated the importance of having local services in well-known community buildings and venues.  A few participants suggested a mobile service. 

“Pop up options in local schools, after hours/weekends, church halls, community centres, etc.”

“Place people know, council or other service.”

“A van that can go around with a staff member with leaflets and resources.”

Participants told us that the venues should be welcoming, accessible, accommodating to each individual, and with parking available.

“To be as accessible as possible both in transport and in physical access.”

“Be like a community centre - a place where you can go in and there’s a community feel about it, a café etc. so if it’s busy you can have a cup of tea to wait.”

Participants were asked if there was anywhere they would not want to meet with Social Security Scotland staff through a local delivery service. The most common response from participants was that local services should not be in a DWP building, or a job centre. Participants also felt that the local services should not have any religious connotations or any security guards.

“I wouldn’t go to DWP or institution - traumatic for people to go to due to previous experiences.”

“People not happy to go somewhere with religious connotation.”

“Not like [organisation] with security staff who can come across as aggressive.”

Expectations of a local service 

We asked focus group participants what sort of services they would expect to get from a local Social Security Scotland service. Some participants said that they would expect to ‘drop into’ a local Social Security Scotland venue to speak to a member of staff face to face.

 “It’s really important that you can talk to someone face to face and that person has the capacity to answer your questions.”

“Want to be able to walk into an office and be dealt with rather than being pushed about from pillar to post.”

Whilst most participants envisaged a local delivery service as being face to face, some participants raised the importance of other options such as skype. 

“Some folk with autism prefer computers such as skype, Facebook, FaceTime”.

Participants would expect to use this service to get help with application forms, get information about their eligibility to particular benefits and about timescales for the different stages of the application process.  Some participants wanted to be signposted to other local services and organisations. As discussed above, these are the same topics that Experience Panel members said they would use drop-in sessions for. 

“Not everyone knows that being entitled to one thing can mean you are entitled to more.”

“Advice and support on how to complete the forms.  Where to go for extra advice over and above that.  Pinpointing way of where to go.”

“Local service should look at tying up with CAB, help with the knowledge base.”

Participants expected there to be written materials such as information sheets and leaflets available at local delivery venues. 

“A self-service option would be good if no advisors free – either a folder with information and FAQ or a touch screen device with info held electronically.”

Participants therefore wanted a local service to provide both general information about the social security system and information and help specific to them. For that reason, some participants noted that it is important that a local service have private, sound proofed areas where people can discuss private and personal information.  A few participants said that it would be useful to take away written notes of their meeting.  

“Even for drop in and enquires I would want screens/ private booth so others cannot overhear my name or details.”

“It would be good to come away with a note of what was said when you’ve seen Agency staff so you can look back and know what will happen next and what’s expected.”

“Private space to speak confidentially.”

Above all, participants said that they expect Social Security Scotland staff providing the local service to be fully trained, knowledgeable and willing to help.  

“Staff should be trained to answer your questions and be knowledgeable about a range of issues.”

“Friendly receptionist, can trust, smile, wants to be there.”

Focus group participants were told that there were some things a local service would not be able to do, for example, make a decision on an application or help with UK benefits.  Participants were asked how Social Security Scotland should make people aware of this and the services provided by local delivery.  Participants gave various suggestions. Some participants proposed having posters and information leaflets in local delivery venues and other local, community venues such as sports centres, supermarkets, and advocacy services. Other participants suggested advertising through TV, radio and social media. 

“Green tick and red cross something visual and graphic for people to realise what does come under.”

“Leaflets in writing in local delivery space, library, and child care centres. Posters showing what is devolved to Scottish Government or with UK Government, what they are responsible for.”

TV adverts, radio adverts. Newspapers.”

Participants noted that people should be clearly signposted and that information should be available in a range of accessible formats. 

“Some in braille, some online, TV campaign, media campaign broad range of formats.”



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