In 2011/12 NatCen undertook an evaluation of the questions asked in the benefits section of the Family Resources Survey (FRS) to explore the reasons for under-reporting of certain benefits. Recommendations resulting from this evaluation included revising the grouping benefits and changing the terms used to refer to certain benefits.
A pilot carried out towards the end of 2012 tested the implementation of revisions to FRS benefit questions. It also provided an opportunity to make additional changes to the survey to reflect those taking place in the benefits system, in particular, the amalgamation of Tax Credits and many benefits into Universal Credit. For the pilot a sample was drawn of FRS respondents who had participated in the FRS between July and December 2011, and had agreed to be contacted for follow-up studies. The geographical areas included in the pilot were purposely selected because of to large numbers of potential respondents claiming Pension Credit (PC), Attendance Allowance (AA) and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) – benefits typically subject to high levels of under-reporting. Pilot interviewers feedback showed that changes to the benefit block improved the flow of the survey and that respondents had been better able to understand what was being asked of them. Interviewers were also positive about the new benefit groupings seeing these as more logical and self-explanatory than the old benefit variables. Overall the results from the pilot study were encouraging. Interviewers felt that revisions to the benefit block had a positive effect for themselves and for respondents.