Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018: benefit take-up strategy - October 2021

This take-up strategy is the second to be published under the provision of the Social Security (Scotland) Act, and outlines our work on take-up to date, as well as setting out our next steps

5. Principle 2: Communicate and engage effectively

In applying this principle, we will:

  • Use evidenced-based communication and engagement that ensures we tailor our approach to the needs and habits of specific groups.
  • Work in partnership with other organisations to broaden the reach of our messages, and integrate into local advice services networks and within local communities.
  • Use a tailored communication and engagement strategy for each benefit to optimise the dissemination of information and get the relevant information to people in the right place at the right time.
  • Ensure that our communications approach and our overall service is inclusive, making use of different formats and languages, and allowing people to engage with us and access our services in the ways they want and need.
  • Take specific additional action to get messages through to seldom-heard and so-called 'hard to reach' groups.
  • Continually strengthen our evidence base, trial approaches that insight and research suggests may be effective and continually monitor our impact, improving and adapting as required.

Right information, Right people, Right places, Right time

Multidisciplinary teams

Communication and marketing is a central element to the design of any new benefit. A first principle of benefit delivery is to make sure that people know that it is available, understand that they may be eligible for and know how to apply. We will also ensure that people are clear on what to expect from the service ahead of applying and throughout their interaction with it. To achieve this, communication and marketing professionals will be embedded in multidisciplinary teams, working collaboratively with policy and service design teams to make sure that we are getting the right information, to the right people, in the right places and at the right time.

Communications and marketing specialists will supplement the findings of user research with market research – including experience gained from delivery across live benefits – and use this to add value to communications and marketing activity. This includes contributing to things like drafting the content of application forms in a way that helps to remove barriers and deliver the straightforward service we are aiming for.

Strategic and tailored communication and marketing planning

We will tailor our communication to the target audience of individual benefits. We know that low-income families face different circumstances to carers or recently bereaved people. That is why as part of preparations for the introduction of new benefits, communication and marketing specialists will produce a tailored strategy and plan for each benefit, which will take into consideration the different target audiences and unique aspects of service delivery, and which will be reviewed and adapted as campaigns unfold.

Our communication and marketing plans will not be built around our internal structures and how we want to work but rather around how citizens want to access information and how they behave. For example, parents are more likely to stop and read an advert or search for "money to help with costs of starting school" rather than Social Security Scotland. As such, we lead with this kind of message and, for example, work to appear as high up as possible in a search when people look for this information online.

We will strive to make sure that information is available in places that we know our target audience are already accessing. We will use data and insight gained to select the channels we use, online and offline, and to choose where we place paid-for marketing. We will consider other services that people may be accessing across the Scottish public sector and make sure information can be accessed there – for example, leaflets covering the Five Family Payments are included in the Scottish Government's 'Baby Box' and are in NHS midwife and heath visitor packs. In addition we will work with partners who already interact with our target audience and engage with established communities through local delivery service to get information to those who need it.

Each of our benefits has a tailored communication and engagement strategy in order to optimise the dissemination of information. These strategies set out our audience, communication messages and the partners we will work alongside to raise awareness and increase benefit take-up. We monitor the progress against each plan to inform and improve our approach.

Social Security Scotland is working closely with its stakeholders under each of these communication and engagement strategies to:

  • Prepare them for the changes being made to the Scottish social security system. This ensures stakeholders can provide people with the right information and advice. Social Security Scotland runs a range of information events and provides learning and guidance materials to support this.
  • Broaden the reach of Social Security Scotland's communications. A wide range of organisations across the public, private and third sectors are actively sharing information about our benefits and encouraging take-up amongst the people they work with.
  • Build trust in our new service. Stakeholders have existing relationships with many of the people who will be eligible for Scottish benefits. This means they have been able to play an important role in addressing stigma and lack of trust in institutions.
  • Get tailored communications to under-represented client groups or people who need information in different formats.

Insight driven

We will gather insight through primary and secondary research. In addition, having a central social security communication and marketing team enables us to share lessons learned across activity for different benefits.

It is worth noting that proactively marketing benefits is not something that has been done extensively under the existing UK benefit system. So, although we can look to previous and ongoing campaigns on subject matters like financial assistance or where we have been trying to target similar audiences – for example the Scottish Government Parent Club campaigns - there is not a ready-made body of evidence on what does and does not work when looking to promote benefits. As such, we are committed to building this body of evidence as our campaign unfolds, commissioning further research where relevant and appropriate and using this to continuously improve.

This means we will trial tactics that insight suggests may be effective, and examine, over the coming months and years, how certain approaches are working in practice. We will analyse the impact a new approach is having on raising awareness and supporting take-up, and refine our marketing approach accordingly to deliver best value.

Since the launch of the first Benefit Take-up Strategy, we have applied a number of lessons and transferrable insights. For example:

  • We have consistently found intermediaries with established audiences to be key in getting information to those who need it. This is why providing information and resources to stakeholders will be a priority across all of our plans.
  • Speaking to our clients via user research and Experience Panels, we know that using plain English to get across messages informed by lived experience helps to mobilise people to find out more and apply for benefits. For example, during user research clients did not understand "assistance" or "entitlements" but quickly and instantly recognised "benefits" and what it meant for them.
  • We are also gathering insight on what doesn't work so well and, for example, have found through the delivery of Carer's Allowance Supplement that "glossy" leaflets included with our own letters are often disregarded so not an effective way to provide further information or signposting.

Social media

We know that Facebook is a place where people tend to connect with others they know, and it is a place of conversation, whereas Twitter is more about disseminating real time information, sharing ideas and trending news. As such, we have found that Facebook is an effective and low-cost channel in driving people to our applications forms. For example:

  • Across 21 separate market pushes Social Security Scotland made more than 16 million Facebook impressions.
  • 15.2% of visits to mygov benefit pages as a result of clicking on a Facebook link resulted in an application being started, compared to 7.7% from Twitter.

    50,018 applications were started directly from Facebook in financial year 2020/2021

Case study: marketing Scottish Child Payment as part of Five Family Payments

Communication and marketing material for Scottish Child Payment was developed as part of wider 'Five Family Payments' campaigns, which also covers Best Start Grant (Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payment, Best Start Grant Early Learning Payment, Best Start Grant School Age Payment) and Best Start Foods.

Bringing five different benefits under one banner not only provided a chance to explain a simplified 5-in-1 application process that supports families along their child's journey – from pregnancy to starting school – helping families to appreciate the range of support on offer. It also helps to improve value for money as we are able to target more people with each intervention.

Focus group research on this campaign shows that users responded positively to the 5-in-1 application process for the 'Five Family Payments' explained in the messaging and visuals and a simplified process was welcomed with open arms as most dreaded applying for multiple benefits. Therefore, our messaging positioned the application as a simplified and streamlined process to received multiple benefits with one application.

We will undertake in-depth evaluation of our approach to marketing Scottish Child Payment later this year. This will go beyond looking at the performance of paid-for marketing activity and we will conduct follow-up qualitative research of people with lived experience. Communication and marketing material will be adapted and improved accordingly in keeping with our commitment to put client experience at the centre of our approach.

Inclusive communication and reaching seldom-heard groups

When we develop our communications and marketing campaigns, we will be mindful that we aim to reach as many people as possible and that we consider people who may not access the most common channels of communication or those who have particular communication requirements.

We will incorporate ways to meet different communication needs and use methods to reach seldom-heard groups . We will proactively produce materials in 11 community languages, including British Sign Language, that have been agreed with stakeholders, with more than 100 languages available on request including Braille. We will also provide information on all of our benefits in Easy Read, which is an accessible document format which simplifies complex words and phrases and uses supporting pictures and icons to explain any technical language in a clear way so that everyone can understand it. Easy Read makes information more accessible to people with learning disabilities, but has added benefits of assisting people with communication difficulties.

To make sure these materials reach those who need it, we will provide products to stakeholders so they can help ensure they reach those who need them..

For example we are collaborating with MECOPP to produce a series of bespoke videos for the Gypsy/Traveller communities.[11] These video resources, which are being made by, and for, members of this community, cover a wide range of topics including help for the self-employed, help for carers and explainer videos on changes to the benefit system.

Promoting forthcoming disability and carer benefits

2021 saw a major milestone in Scotland's social security service with the introduction of Child Disability Payment in three pilot areas of Dundee City, Perth and Kinross and the Western Isles in July 2021. In the lead up to the Child Disability Payment pilot we worked with local authorities, NHS boards, third sector organisations and a range of advice and support services to raise awareness of the benefit and encourage take-up. This included delivering regular online roadshows covering all aspects of Child Disability Payment including specific sessions on case transfer, Special Rules relating to Terminal Illness and supporting information.

We continue to receive positive feedback on Child Disability Payment from families and stakeholders since the launch of the pilot. Both parents and support workers have said that the application process has been easy and accessible, and have praised the support offered from Social Security Scotland.

Child Disability Payment is the first phase of delivering much more complex and larger disability benefits commencing with the national rollout of Child Disability Payment across the nation from December. 2022 will also see the introduction of Scottish Carer's Assistance. We are committed to developing systems and processes with the people who will use them. As our first application-based Carer's benefit, unlike Carer's Allowance Supplement which is paid automatically, we will work to ensure those eligible are aware of this assistance and supported throughout the application process. We will work closely with our Carer Benefits Advisory Group, Inclusive Communications Working Group and Carer Voice officials network to make sure our policies and communication activity are designed in a way which supports the demanding lives of carers.

Like all our previously introduced benefits, communication and marketing material will be insight driven and collaboratively designed, and will be developed with the stakeholders and clients who will be accessing our disability and carers assistance.

In the same way that we have brought our package of benefits supporting low-income benefits under an "umbrella" Five Family Payments campaign, we plan to create a single campaign on disability assistance once all these benefits are live. When each benefit is first launched, we will support take-up of that benefit with a bespoke programme of messaging and marketing but this will be done with a view to all the disability benefits eventually coming together as part of another umbrella campaign. As more disability benefits go live, this umbrella campaign will help us talk to anyone with a disability or health condition, and then direct them to the relevant and appropriate benefit once they access our service either online or by phone. Mass and high cost channels, such as TV advertising, will showcase this umbrella campaign but where we can target specific audiences through filtering by demographic, such as through Facebook advertising, we will take this opportunity when it is relevant to do so.

We will, however, always be responsive to stakeholder views where more niche and bespoke materials are required. As we build recognition of the Social Security Scotland brand we will collaborate with influential stakeholders in these areas. This will be particularly relevant when, for example, we need to speak to distinct audiences in a different way. Promoting support available to a parent of a child with terminal cancer will need a very different approach to speaking to a parent of a child with autism. Working with our in-house creative team and relevant stakeholders we will be able to produce bespoke products to meet the needs of the target audience.

Understanding how to communicate to seldom-heard groups

We will make sure that seldom-heard groups are included within our approach and we are committed to delivering bespoke products if we know they will be effective. If results show that we cannot reach seldom-heard groups through our normal marketing channels, we will develop bespoke approaches to engage with these audiences.

As well as applying the learning from our experience of delivering communication and marketing campaigns, we will commission social research to explore how we can reach and engage these audiences better. This will include gathering insight from our experience panels, drawing on experience of other public services including the NHS and also direct research that engages these audiences. We will use the insight gained to develop a plan for communication and marketing that best works for different seldom-heard groups.

Strengthening our evidence base

We will keep building our body of evidence to make sure that we are targeting our investment towards the places that bring the best value. We will continue to strengthen our insight and analysis so that we make smarter decisions to make the most the available marketing budget and ensure our activity is reaching as many of the right people as possible.

Based on our existing body of evidence, we will make use of story-driven media and marketing because we have seen that it is a good way of securing print and broadcast coverage and increasing "shares" and engagement on social media.

We will to make sure that our messaging emphasises that social security could be needed by any of us at any time, and will regularly make use of case studies in our media, social media and marketing activity to tell the story of people from all walks of life who have accessed our support.

Financial wellbeing

Going beyond social security, we will collaborate to support a marketing campaign focused on financial wellbeing. Our primary audience will be those people who have been impacted unfairly by the Covid-19 pandemic, and are struggling financially as a result. This campaign will have three core strands:

  • To challenge stigma and encourage people to take-up the benefits to which they are entitled;
  • To highlight the availability of free debt advice services, and how they can be accessed; and
  • To highlight the availability of affordable credit, and how this can be accessed.

We want people to recognise their rights and be empowered to access the support that is available.

Stakeholder Engagement and Trusted Intermediaries

Social Security Scotland will lead the stakeholder engagement around take-up of existing benefits through the benefit specific communication and engagement plans. A number of Reference Groups have been established to help identify and overcome any policy barriers that are preventing people from accessing benefits.

Low-Income Benefits

Five Families Payments Stakeholder Reference Group

A new Five Families Payments Stakeholder Reference Group will meet as part of our ongoing activities to improve, evaluate and support the positive evolution of Best Start Grant, Best Start Foods and Scottish Child Payment policies. Its first meeting was held on 21 July 2021.

The new stakeholder group will:

  • Work to further align rules and regulations across these benefits - so that entitlement is clear, making it easy to apply.
  • Provide feedback on current communication and awareness raising activity.
  • Help to inform future activity to drive take-up, particularly in terms of targeting the 6 priority families set out in the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan.

Funeral Support Payment and Funeral Poverty Reference Group

We will work with stakeholders in the Funeral Support Payment and Funeral Poverty Reference Group to raise awareness of Funeral Support Payment. Through collaboration with Social Security Scotland we recently completed a review and update of guidance for Funeral Support Payment and after publishing presented an overview of Funeral Support Payment to enhance stakeholder understanding so that they can help as many people take-up their entitlement as possible. We will actively encourage our stakeholders to promote Funeral Support Payment and seek feedback on how we can further improve policy and raise awareness. Working closely with our stakeholders will also allow us to identify and target future activity for promoting Funeral Support Payment.

Carer Benefits

Carer Voice officials network

This summer we established a Carer Voice officials network which brings together and considers the range of analysis in this area, and considers next steps to move from identification of issues to practical steps to bring about change on the ground. As a result of this work, we are looking at how to better understand the needs of particular groups of carers in respect of benefit take-up.

The Carer Benefits Advisory Group agreed to establish an Inclusive Communications sub group which will help direct this and wider work. We are also holding the first of our annual Equalities Review workshops this year which will further enhance our thinking on making sure our benefits reach everyone who are entitled to them.

Disability Benefits

The Ill Health and Disability Benefits Stakeholder Reference Group provides a forum for us to regularly engage with stakeholders on the development and improvement of our new forms of disability assistance.

Members of the Ill Health and Disability Benefits Stakeholder Reference Group were invited to join a short-life working group with the aim of reviewing a number of draft chapters of the Child Disability Payment Decision-Making Guidance in September 2020. The feedback was generally positive and provided reassurance that the Decision-Making Guidance will provide the information, guidance, and clarity needed to (a) process complex cases correctly and consistently and (b) support third sector organisations in providing support and advice on Child Disability Payment to disabled people in Scotland. Stakeholders from various disability organisations were invited in September 2021 to review ADP decision-making guidance for the Daily Living and Mobility Component Activities, and Reliability Criteria.

Partnership Working

Social Security Scotland will continue to work in partnership with its stakeholders to raise awareness of Scottish benefits and encourage take-up. Investing time and energy in these relationships helps Social Security Scotland to build people's trust that it delivers a high standard of service to its clients and listen and improve if it needs to. We have consistently found intermediaries with established audiences to be key in getting information to those who need it.

  • Stakeholders helping to share information about our benefits through their communication channels;
  • Attending stakeholder events and meetings to share information about our service and benefits;
  • Specific projects to improve benefit take-up amongst under-represented groups;
  • Working together with other local partners to support the delivery of strategic plans such as Child Poverty Action Plans;
  • Co-locating Social Security Scotland's local delivery service with stakeholder organisations.
  • Provide a range of tools and materials to make it as easy as possible for stakeholders to help with awareness raising activities.

Referral Partnerships

Developing signposting and referral arrangements with a range of organisations will help clients to learn about Social Security Scotland's service and encourage them to apply for the benefits they are entitled to.

These partnerships will take time to develop but our ultimate vision is that people are automatically referred to Social Security Scotland when things happen to them that could make them eligible for our benefits. This could include things like having a baby or being diagnosed with a health condition. These streamlined and proactive referral approaches will be picked up in our mainstreaming good practice work set out in chapter 7.

Social Security Scotland will also ensure that it is able to refer our clients to partner organisations that deliver other sources of financial or emotional support. It will try and make that referral process as simple as possible so clients do not have to repeat the same information to lots of different people.

Inclusive Communication

We will continue to design our services so that as many people as possible understand what we do and can communicate with us and access our service in the way they want to. This will help to increase trust and tackle issues around complex access to social security which present a barrier to benefit take-up.

Social Security Scotland's clients, staff and stakeholders understand information and express themselves in many different ways. We will ask people where, when and how they want to receive information and to communicate with us. We will offer the support they need to communicate effectively with us verbally, in writing or face-to-face.

Social Security Scotland aims to be a leader in inclusive communication. It has a programme of work in place to embed inclusive communication across everything it does. It is working alongside a range of expert partners to inform its approach and continually improve its service.

Future actions will include:

  • further development of staff training, building on the success of our first e-learning module;
  • ensuring Social Security Scotland buildings support inclusive communication;
  • increasing our use of visual images such as icons and photographs to support understanding; and
  • asking people about their experiences and making changes when needed.

Social Security Scotland – Local Delivery

Local Delivery staff will provide pre-claims advice across the country and support and encourage people to take-up the payments that they are entitled to.

During the pandemic over 80 of our Local Delivery staff were temporarily redeployed into operational and corporate roles to support Social Security Scotland deliver and pay benefits to clients.

A small number of staff were retained to work with programme colleagues to prepare for the launch of the Child Disability Payment Pilot and the provision of our face to face client support service. Alongside this work we continued to engage and maintain our local stakeholder relationships through digital channels to support the take-up of low income benefits and promote the early application process, launch and take-up of Scottish Child Payment.

Local Delivery Relationship Leads were maintained in their roles and have been building relationships with local authorities, health and social care organisations and the third sector in order to understand the local advice service landscape. We have integrated into local advice services networks, participating in financial inclusion, child poverty, and poverty reduction groups and within local communities.

Local Delivery locations have been identified based on feedback from experience panels and by working alongside Local Authorities, Health & Social Care, and Third Sector organisations. This insight helped to identify venues to co-locate that are easily accessed and are already known to many of our clients.

The Local Delivery service commenced on 26th July 2021 in the three Child Disability Payment Pilot areas - Perth and Kinross, Dundee and Western Isles.

Seldom-Heard Groups

We have focussed our engagement across Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities, resulting in collaboration with communications colleagues to create factsheets to support Stakeholders enabling connections to be made.

Collaboration with Visibility Scotland. Local Delivery co-hosted a series of sessions for clients, carers and professionals. Visibility Scotland provided extremely positive, valuable feedback and shared success via twitter. Reciprocal sessions offered to colleagues, facilitating valuable insight on sensory impairment and associated challenges.

We are working to engage with the Gypsy/Traveller community via MECOPP and local Housing Associations and we have visited the settled traveller's site just outside Lochgilphead (Argyll and Bute). We are trying to raise awareness regarding a variety of benefits to help support the families living in the Gypsy/Traveller communities.



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