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

Background and research methods

The Scottish Government is becoming responsible for some of the benefits previously delivered by the Department for Work and Pensions. As part of the work to prepare for this change, the Scottish Government set up the Social Security Experience Panels. Over 2,400 people from across Scotland who have recent experience of at least one of the benefits being devolved to Scotland registered as Experience Panel members.

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. 

To deliver the benefits devolved to Scotland, the Scottish Government have established Social Security Scotland who will be responsible for administering Scotland’s new social security system. As part of the creation of Social Security Scotland, we have worked with Experience Panel members to understand their expectations around appointments and local delivery of services. 

This report details the key themes which emerged from a survey and 14 focus groups which took place in February 2019. The research explored:

  • Views on how to book and change appointments;
  • What information should be provided before an appointment;
  • How appointments could be made a positive experience for social security clients;
  • What types and formats of appointments should be offered;
  • Expectations around home visits; 
  • Views on potential ‘drop-in’ seminars to be offered by Social Security Scotland in future; and
  • Views on what the local delivery of Social Security Scotland should look like, including accessing a local service and expectations of the service.

Participants were recruited from the Scottish Government Experience Panels. All Experience Panel members were invited to take part in the survey and focus groups. For the appointments theme, the survey and focus groups covered broadly the same content, with the survey being used to understand general opinion and the focus groups exploring particular topics in more depth. The local delivery theme consisted of focus groups only.  

This project formed part of a larger series of work which took place throughout February 2019 and covered various other topics. 

Within this paper, ‘participants’ refers to those who took part in focus groups and ‘respondents’ refer to those who completed the survey. Some Experience Panel members may have completed the survey and also taken part in a focus group.

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

Focus Groups

Seven focus groups on appointments and seven focus groups on local delivery were held in locations across Scotland.[1] Post-its and flipcharts were used to facilitate discussion with participants. A Scottish Government official acted as a note taker in each session. In the interest of maintaining privacy, the focus groups were not recorded. The analysis is based on notes taken from each focus group.

Survey Method

All 2,456 Experience Panel members were invited to take part in the appointments survey. Participation in Experience Panels research is optional, and in this case 550 people chose to complete the survey (a response rate of 22 per cent).

This information was added to information from the ‘About Your Benefits and You[2] and ‘Social Security Experience Panels: Who is in the panels and their experiences so far[3] surveys. The demographic data collected in these surveys was linked to the information supplied by participants of this survey as part of the longitudinal data set for this project. We could match this data for about half of survey respondents. 

One third of survey respondents who we could link with demographic data identified as ‘man or boy’ (34 per cent) and two thirds as ‘woman or girl’ (66 per cent).

Table 1: Gender of survey respondents (n=355)



Man or boy


Woman or girl




Eight in ten survey respondents were aged 45 or over (80 per cent) with just under two in ten aged between under 45 (19 per cent). No respondents whose age information we could link were aged 80 or over.

Table 2: Age of survey respondents (n=363)



16 – 24


25 – 44


45 – 59


60 – 79


80 or over




Almost nine in ten survey respondents (89 per cent) considered themselves to have a disability or long term health condition.

Table 3: Disability status of survey respondents (n=362)

Disability Status




Not Disabled




The most common disability or long term health condition reported by respondents whose disability information we could link was chronic pain (64 per cent), however a high number had a physical disability and/or a mental health condition (60 and 40 per cent respectively).

Table 4: Disability types of survey respondents (n=359-362)[5]

Disability Type


Has chronic pain


Has a physical disability


Has a mental health condition


Has a severe hearing impairment


Has a severe visual impairment


Has a learning disability


Has another kind of disability or long term health condition


Just less than half of respondents acted as a carer for a family member or friend (48 per cent).

Table 5: Caring status of survey respondents (n=363)

Carer Status




Not a carer


Prefer not to say




Most respondents were a carer for an adult (40 per cent), with less than two in ten a carer due to old age (17 per cent). Just over one in ten were a carer to a child (12 per cent).

Table 6: Who do survey respondents care for (n=135)[6]

Person who they care for


Cares for an adult


Cares for a child


Carer due to old age


Over four fifths of respondents were from urban areas (81 per cent). [7]

Table 7: Location of survey respondents (n=320)









Respondents took part from 31 of the 32 local authority areas in Scotland. 

Figure 1: Heat map of survey respondent location

Figure 1: Heat map of survey respondent location

Respondents had experience of applying, claiming, or helping someone else apply for a range of benefits, the most common being disability benefits such as Personal Independence Payment (71 per cent) and Disability Living Allowance (70 per cent). Less than half of respondents had experience of the other benefits, such as Carer’s Allowance (40 per cent), Cold Weather Payment (35 per cent) and the Winter Fuel payment (33 per cent). The least frequently experienced benefits were Funeral Expenses, Sure Start Maternity Grant and Industrial Injuries Disability Benefit, with less than one in ten respondents having experience of these.

Table 8: Respondents benefit experience (n=362)[8]



Personal Independence Payment


Disability Living Allowance


Carer’s Allowance


Cold Weather Payment


Winter Fuel Payment


Discretionary Housing Payment


Attendance Allowance


Universal Credit


Scottish Welfare Fund


Severe Disablement Allowance


Funeral Expenses


Sure Start Maternity Grant


Industrial Injuries Disability Benefit


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’[9].



Back to top