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A people-centred Adult Disability Payment service

Empowering communities through tech

When powers for setting social security policy were devolved to the Scottish Government to be administered by Social Security Scotland, it created an opportunity to do things differently.

Supporting Social Security Scotland, we’ve helped to design a new social security system for Scotland, working in partnership with the people who’ll use it.

Using technology to support inclusive processes, the service puts peoples’ needs front and centre so that they have a positive, compassionate experience when applying for the new Adult Disability Payment.

Life-changing decisions

Adult Disability Payment provides important financial support to people who are disabled, have a long-term health condition or have a terminal illness. So, applying for the payment should be as fair and simple as possible.

Colette Hughes is service manager for the Scottish Government’s Social Security Programme.

With over 20 years of front-line experience at the UK Government’s Department of Work and Pensions, Colette and the team of colleagues who have worked on this project have focused on building a service that prioritises actively listening to clients, while supporting professionals too.

“One of the biggest challenges we have is creating trust,” says Colette.

“The people we see are often in complex, difficult circumstances. What they need is to be treated with dignity, fairness and respect. So that’s what we’ve set out to do with our health and social care consultations.”

For Colette, this ethos, backed by the right processes, holds the key to getting results.

“The changes we’ve made have given professionals new tools and guidance, to help them make quality decisions on applications for Adult Disability Payment first time.

“We’re invested in what we’re doing and really believe this process can be life changing for people across Scotland.

“I’ve been a civil servant for 35 years - and this is the best thing I’ve ever done.”

Based on user experiences

Adult Disability Payment is the twelfth Scottish benefit to be administered by Social Security Scotland since powers were devolved to the Scottish Government.

After a six-month phased rollout, the payment was launched across Scotland on 29 August 2022. Expected to support around 353,000 people nationwide, it’s the most complex and largest-scale Scottish benefit yet.

“Our job was to help the team create a service that’s flexible enough to meet a range of client accessibility needs, but also to evolve with Social Security Scotland, as its new services develop,” says Deloitte Digital director Debbi McLean.

“Bringing together Social Security Scotland’s insight and ambition to challenge the way things have always been done, with our tech and service-design knowledge, has created a new kind of consultation service,” Debbi continues.

“The aim is to support people as much we possibly can,” adds Colette.

“It’s early days and we’re really pleased with how it’s going so far. We’re keeping a close eye on how everything is working, so we can make the amendments needed to constantly improve the service.”

Service design principles

Listening and learning

Before the service was built, Social Security Scotland conducted over two years of in-depth user research with people who have either had experience of the UK Government’s benefits system or who have lived experience of disability.

This shaped and informed the development of Adult Disability Payment and continuous research and consultation with users will keep feeding into service improvement plans. A simple example of a change that’s designed to support clients, is that they now have access to an online tool where they can change their scheduled appointment to a time and location that best suits them.

The right technology for the job

Adult Disability Payment needed a new, flexible tech solution to support it. Together we introduced a simple, intuitive tool for health and social care professionals to use when leading a consultation. Designed to support one-to-one consultations, it enables information to be presented and gathered with ease.

This was an important service design decision to enable both the client and the health and social care professional to get as much benefit from the conversation as possible. And to help Social Security Scotland support people across Scotland, it also works offline in remote locations.

So far, this tech solution has been well received and is already being considered for use in other services throughout the organisation. Alongside it, new tools for clients include an app that supports people with the application process.

Tailoring the service to individual needs

In the newly-designed service, in-house specialists in areas including mental health, physical disabilities, learning difficulties and autism carry out consultations that relate to the needs of each client’s particular condition.

This means consultations are tailored and that health and social care professionals have a deep understanding of how a client’s condition can impact their everyday lives.

“If the tech used in consultations is simple and intuitive, it takes a lot of burden off the health and social care professional. They can focus on the client, not on the tech.”

Colette Hughes
Service manager for the Scottish Government’s Social Security Programme

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