A system designed by the Scottish public is supporting those most in need
People have been at the heart of Social Security Scotland since its inception in 2018. In just four years of operations, we have built a brand new social security service for Scotland from the ground up.
We designed it in partnership with people who needed social security support and listened to their experiences of the UK government benefits system.
Their invaluable input helped us to design our Charter, which underpins all of our work, including our commitment to taking a human rights-based approach to delivering our service, while treating everyone with dignity, fairness and respect. Since then, we have undertaken an annual Client Survey to ensure we are performing well against the commitments we made in our Charter.
Despite the challenges we have all faced over the past few years, and the rapid rate at which our service has grown, this year’s survey results are very encouraging, showing year on year consistently high scores across a number of very important areas of our work. I am proud to say the results of our 2021-22 Client Survey, which was published alongside our Annual Report, underline our commitment to getting things right and highlights the positive experiences many people have had in their dealings with us.
There were 7,534 respondents to this year’s Client Survey and of the people who had been in contact with us, 94% ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ they were treated with kindness while 93% of people told us that their experience with our staff was ‘very good’ or ‘good’ and, importantly, 92% of people felt they were listened to. What these figures really mean is that our staff are living our values every day.
Treating people well means getting things right – of the clients surveyed who had applied for a benefit, 89% said they agreed with the decision made on their application. Providing the correct decision first time will not only reduce anxiety for those applying but it will also make us more efficient.
Making the right decision, particularly for disability payments, can sometimes take a little longer as we gather the evidence on behalf of applicants and our in-house health and social care practitioners focus on understanding individual circumstances. If it means we don’t cause someone unnecessary stress and fewer people need to appeal decisions, then this extra time is a worthwhile investment. The effort we have put into this shows in our client survey with 97% of people surveyed telling us they received the right amount of payment first time.
I am proud that 93% of people surveyed said they did not feel discriminated against at any point and this is testament to the diverse workforce we have built of people who share our commitment to serving communities across Scotland.
I am always moved when people share with us what mattered to them in our Client Survey. One parent told us that receiving a letter about Child Disability Payment which did the simple thing of referring to their son by name, made it feel personal rather than ‘generic’ correspondence. Another client told us that being treated with empathy while applying for Funeral Support Payment, made, in their words, ‘an awful experience better’.
As our recently published Annual Report shows, we delivered £3.48 billion worth of social security payments comprised of the direct payments we deliver and through Agency Agreements with the Department for Work and Pensions
Social Security Scotland is now an established organisation but we are not complacent, as we still have much to do. Next week, we are looking forward to the extension of Scottish Child Payment which already supports 104,000 children under 6. Extending eligibility to all children under the age of 16 will support an additional 300,000 young people.
This year has been our busiest yet but we have always put the people who use our service at the heart of all we do and will continue to do so in the years ahead.
David Wallace is chief executive of Social Security Scotland