Select Committee on Social Security Second Report


Why a specially designed questionnaire was used

8.1  The need to eventually produce statistically valid results from the exercise led to the decision to use research-type interview techniques to gather the data. The most effective method of ensuring consistency and avoiding bias in the data gathering process is to use a highly structured interview format.

8.2  A specially designed questionnaire was therefore produced for testing in the FAMC pilot review. InDepth Consulting Group were responsible for designing the questionnaire, with assistance from ASD.

Design of the Questionnaire

8.3  The primary aim of the Benefit Review questionnaire was to collect information to measure the extent of under and overpayments associated with FAMC. It was designed to structure the interview to make it as impartial and non-judgmental as possible and to produce the type of data that could be coded and analysed.

8.4  The questionnaire was designed to capture all discrepancies, whether they existed at the start of the claim or arose through a change in circumstances.

How the Questionnaire was Used

8.5  The questionnaire broadly followed the same structure and questions as the FAMC claim pack. Use of the questionnaire, however, ensured that all interviewers asked the same questions in the same way, and, as far as was possible, recorded the responses in a uniform manner.

8.6  The questionnaire was used in the following way:

  • before the interviewer visited the customer the columns headed CLAIM DATA and ISSUES TO PROBE FROM PREVIEW were completed using information already held by the Department
  • in the first part of the interview the customer was asked for evidence of identity — 1 piece of primary evidence or 2 of secondary. A list of acceptable evidence of ID is contained in the first part of the questionnaire
  • the interviewer then asked all the questions on the left-hand page and recorded the answers in the column headed INTERVIEW DATA
  • if the information given during the interview and recorded under INTERVIEW DATA differed from that recorded under CLAIM DATA the discrepancy was noted in column headed ACTION and the relevant page number noted in the back of the questionnaire for easy reference. The interviewer also marked where further verification was required.
  • the interviewer continued asking the closed questions in the order they appeared on the questionnaire. No attempt was made to discuss any discrepancy at this stage because it may have influenced answers given to later questions.
  • once all the closed questions had been asked the interviewer returned to questions where a discrepancy had been noted in the ACTION column (indicated by a note at the back of the questionnaire)
  • all discrepancies were then probed using a structured set of questions. Customers were first asked when the change took place. If the change was a non-reportable change then the date was noted and the interviewer proceeded to the next discrepancy. If the change was reportable, or the discrepancy existed from the start of the claim, then the customer was asked if they had told anyone, who and when. All discrepancies were probed in the same way.
  • in the final part of the interview, once the structured questions had been completed, the interviewer was free to return to any areas remaining unresolved. These were discrepancies which the customer had not satisfactorily explained or other information that had aroused suspicion, such as that noted in the ISSUES TO PROBE FROM PREVIEW column. To help the interviewers ask appropriate questions, and therefore gather relevant information, additional guidance was provided on some of the more complex areas of benefit rules in the ADDITIONAL GUIDANCE column of the questionnaire. This further questioning was unstructured and if appropriate followed the pattern of a normal fraud interview (but not an interview under caution). The responses were not necessarily recorded on the questionnaire but the interviewer recorded details in separate factual reports and if appropriate on a signed statement from the customer. This information was used at the centre to determine whether referral to an adjudication officer was appropriate and which classification the case fell into.

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Prepared 4 February 1999