Benefits assessment service design underway amid high satisfaction levels

A contract to design Scotland’s new social security assessments system has been awarded as figures revealed high satisfaction levels with the new service.

Benefits assessment service design underway amid high satisfaction levels

Shirley-Anne Somerville

The Deloitte contract, worth £2.3 million over two years, will focus on design of the assessment centre network across Scotland, including working with users to look at what major improvements on the current UK system are necessary.

Once devolved, assessments for disability assistance will be carried out by Social Security Scotland and fully supported by public sector healthcare professionals.

When this service is fully operational people will be given greater choice and flexibility over their assessments, including times and locations that suit them wherever possible, and the option of home visits for those who need them.

Social security secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “Nobody should doubt the stress and anxiety associated with the DWP’s current assessment process and the impact this has on people with disabilities. We are using our powers to deliver something better. 

“We have already made significant progress in identifying improvements to ensure that we deliver an assessment service that prioritises people’s welfare. I am pleased we are able to award this contract, which will help us design the service itself and improve the experience of disabled people in Scotland who need support from the benefits system.

“We have always been clear that no-one in Scotland will be forced to have a private sector assessment for disability benefits and that we will reduce the need for face-to-face assessments. This is a key part of our rights based approach, ensuring all users of our new system are treated with dignity, fairness and respect.”

A contract for the development of the client facing online application system was awarded in November.

Meanwhile the telephone service from Scotland’s newest social security service has been rated as ‘good’ to ‘very good’ by 100% of respondents to a new survey. The online service also scored highly at 98%.

When commenting on how they found the service, common words used were ‘easy’, ‘straight forward’, ‘simple’, ‘quick’, ‘helpful’, ‘good’ and ‘happy’.

This report also showed that 22% of Social Security Scotland staff have a long standing physical or mental health condition, illness, impairment or disability, compared to 19% in the population.

Ms Somerville said: “These figures show that we are not only putting money in the pockets of people who need it but we are doing it in a way where they feel that they have been treated well.

“The work that Social Security Scotland is doing to deliver a service that is inclusive, welcoming and there for all of us - when and where we need it - fills me with great pride.

“These results are testament to the value added by getting user feedback and testing services upfront. This allows us to do what we said we would – make this system better from day one. And this improvement isn’t just about making a form simpler – it is about how filling in that form makes people feel.

“We will continue to gather insights, learn and get even better and to build a public service that we are all protected by and protective and proud of.”

Social Security Scotland chief executive, David Wallace, added: “These first results are really encouraging. I am incredibly proud of our service and the people who are delivering it. We have our work cut out to maintain this high standard but we are determined to deliver an excellent service to our clients.

“We have invested a lot in creating a culture built around dignity, fairness and respect. This includes getting it right from recruitment right through to ongoing training and development.

“Creating a diverse workforce is also a priority for us and getting this right will help us to deliver a better service. We have made good progress and we will look to build upon this as we continue to grow.”

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