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The benefits of checking benefits

VOICES benefits of checking benefits
By Karen Dunn, Specialist Benefits Advisor, Citizens Advice Over the last four years VOICES and Citizens Advice Staffordshire North & Stoke on Trent have worked in partnership to provide in house specialist benefits advice for our customers. Working this way provides VOICES customers with the expert advice and support that they need, when they need it, ensuring claims are up, running and correct and any queries or appeals are dealt with promptly.   Karen Dunn, specialist benefits advisor of the Citizens Advice Bureau, explains why ‘getting it right’ the first time and checking/maintaining claims is so important, as well as the interconnected nature of access to finances and other potential support needs.   The advantages of resolving welfare benefits issues for customers experiencing multiple complex needs is widely recognised however, when support workers are few on the ground understandably the focus can be on the more visible needs of the customer.  Add to this the complex system of welfare benefits (Universal Credit has not simplified things at all) and, new entitlements are missed, existing awards are not maintained, and claims are terminated or sanctioned.   For example, a customer moves into supported accommodation, they are asked if they are receiving any benefits, and quite rightly, a claim… Continue Reading

Appealing a benefit decision? You need to read this….

VOICES benefits 2
By Karen Dunn, Specialist Benefits Advisor, Citizens Advice Stoke North and Staffordshire   Following a recent discussion around a case involving benefit entitlement it became apparent there was some learning to be shared regarding claiming the correct benefit during the transition from the legacy system to universal credit, when appealing decisions is necessary. Karen Dunn, specialist benefits advisor from the CAB tells us:   Getting income related Employment & Support Allowance (a legacy benefit) or Universal Credit while challenging a limited capability for work decision If the person we are supporting has had their income related ESA claim stopped because of a ‘limited capability for work’ decision, it is often the case that we rush to help them make a new claim for ESA when this is not the best course of action. It can sometimes leave the customer with no money at all. As part of the Welfare Reform programme, regulations concerning making a new claim for income related ESA when someone has failed the work capability assessment; failed to return the ESA50; or failed to attend/take part in the work capability assessment, came into force affecting all repeat claims made on or after 30/03/2015. Payment can now only be made in very specific circumstances.   Income… Continue Reading

Appealing a benefit decision? You need to read this…

VOICES benefit advice
By Karen Dunn, Specialist Benefits Advisor, Citizens Advice Staffordshire North and Stoke   Following a recent discussion around a case involving benefit entitlement it became apparent there was some learning to be shared regarding claiming the correct benefit when a previous ESA claim has stopped. Karen Dunn, specialist benefits advisor from the CAB tells us: Getting income related Employment & Support Allowance (a legacy benefit) or Universal Credit while challenging a limited capability for work decision   If the person we are supporting has had their income related ESA claim stopped because of a ‘limited capability for work’ decision, it is often the case that we rush to help them make a new claim for ESA when this is not the best course of action. It can sometimes leave the customer with no money at all.   As part of the Welfare Reform programme, regulations concerning making a new claim for income related ESA when someone has failed the work capability assessment; failed to return the ESA50; or failed to attend/take part in the work capability assessment, came into force affecting all repeat claims made on or after 30/03/2015. Payment can now only be made in very specific circumstances.   Income Related Employment & Support Allowance repeat claim on… Continue Reading

Ensuring our customers achieve their financial entitlement with a SAWBA

VOICES courtroom
By Karen Dunn, Specialist Benefits Advisor, Citizens Advice Staffordshire North and Stoke on Trent At VOICES the customer risk assessment process involves giving much consideration to a person’s levels of safety and wellbeing in addition to other risks identified and is termed a Safety and Wellbeing Assessment (SAWBA) in preference to ‘risk assessment’.   Each SAWBA identifies the level of risk to: the emotional well-being physical health of the customer risks associated with their substance misuse, behaviour, offending and homelessness / housing risks from others   The SAWBA also considers the financial capability for each person. These are all highly relevant factors for PIP and ESA claims and can be used to support entitlement and other criteria; for example:  evidence of why a customer is unable to attend an assessment and / or evidence of why a customer is unable to return a completed form in time.  The SAWBA includes information contained within each risk category that provides the reader with valuable context, background and history.  Being able to communicate a ‘bigger picture’ is particularly useful when medical evidence is not available. Once a SAWBA is completed I am able to use the information to prepare for my first meeting with the customer. It provides me with… Continue Reading

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Coordinating services with people experiencing homelessness, mental-ill health, addiction, and offending in combination.

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What would you do in an impossible situation?

If you are struggling with mental ill health whilst using substances, accessing mental health support can be very difficult. This is the impossible situation thousands of people in England find themselves in right now. We think everyone should be able to access mental health support, when they need it. If you do too, sign our petition and help us make the case for change.

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