Social Security Experience Panels: Social Security Scotland staff

This report details the themes and findings from research into client expectations of staff members working for Scotland’s social security agency.


Social Security Scotland staff

Participants were asked about what they would like Social Security Scotland staff to be like.

Participants felt that staff should look 'friendly and approachable'. When broken down, this term included staff clothing which struck a balance between formal and casual, positive body language and facial expressions and how they talked to clients. Participants used words such as 'open', 'natural' and 'warm' when describing their ideal staff member.

Participants told us that staff should be dressed in a 'appropriate' and 'presentable' manner. In practice, this meant different things to different participants. For some, it meant 'smart casual clothing' of a polo shirt and work trousers. To others, it meant more formal clothing such as a open-collared shirt. Some participants felt that 'overly-formal' clothing, such as suits could make them feel 'intimidated' or 'nervous' however for others, formal clothing projected a 'professional' and competent image of the agency. In general, participants felt that the clothing should be appropriate to the situation – not too formal and not too casual.

Participants tended to not want staff to wear uniforms, pointing out that they were not necessary to gain clients trust. At worst, uniforms could make some clients reluctant to interact with agency staff in shared buildings as they wouldn't want anyone to identify who they were talking to.

Most participants could recall a time when they had felt the attitudes of staff within DWP to be poor. They expected Social Security Scotland staff to be 'open-armed', 'non-judgemental' and be 'willing to help'. They did not want staff to make assumptions about them, and felt that the default position of staff should be one of trust.

Staff would ideally be 'knowledgeable' and 'well-informed' about the services they provide, with clients receiving consistent answers to questions no matter who they ask. Some participants felt that staff should have a wider knowledge base, including on the human rights of clients and on the way devolved and reserved benefits interacted.

Participants also felt that knowledge and understanding of the client's experience of claiming social security was critical in getting staff to be supportive. Participants wanted Social Security Scotland staff to recognise and understand that claiming benefits could be 'degrading' and that many clients were at a difficult point in their lives. Participants wanted staff to recognise the stress and anxiety many clients were feeling, and to try and be reassuring and patient.

Finally, participants felt that staff should have a good knowledge of disabilities and how they could impact an individual's life. Participants felt it would be useful if staff knew about their client's accessibility needs before they met them.


Email: James.Miller@gov.Scot

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