Ms S came to see Big Local Works (BLW) after being referred by a Children’s Centre. She is a mother to 2 young children under the age of 3. English is not her first language and she struggles with reading and writing.
Her UC account was set up for her by a Southwark Council worker in 2016 but she went to withdraw money from a cash machine recently and saw that her Universal Credit Payment failed to go through. She had telephoned The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to explain her situation but was still unclear why no payment had been made.
BLW established, after helping Ms S to access her online accounts that DWP had been trying to contact her without success. Ms S had not received any other correspondence from DWP and was not made aware that she needed to check her Universal Credit Journal frequently. Ms S had been sanctioned and her claim was no longer active. To reactivate her claim she would need to fill in a new application and fulfill new claim commitments. BLW spoke to the DWP Freephone helpline: they were very apologetic and explained that a case manager should have contacted Ms S by letter as this should have sounded alarm bells when they were unable to make contact via the journal.
BLW helped Ms S with a Mandatory Reconsideration as she was now in rent arrears. This was successful. Ms S now attends BLW regularly for help and support with her UC claim.
Mr R attended Big Local Works (BLW) after hearing about the work we do via a friend who we had helped in the past. Mr R suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and other mental health disorders. He explained that he had been refused a Personal Independence Payment award that he was previously entitled to and explained he felt like people were out to get him.
We were able to reassure Mr R that we are here to advise and help support local residents in Southwark with benefit decisions they feel have been wrongly applied, whilst undertaking any challenges with a soft touch approach and breaking information down into bite-size chunks that are easier to understand. It took several weeks for Mr R to feel safe and comfortable, but we were able to start the first steps of compiling all relevant medical information and undertaking a Mandatory Reconsideration asking the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to look at their decision again. This was not successful.
Taking into account Mr R’s mental health and feelings of frustration against the DWP we needed to take our time in addressing the next steps following this decision. An appeal to HMRC tribunal services was completed with confirmation from Sutton Tribunal Services.
It was brought to our attention that there was a 30 week wait for appeal hearings, but with some thoughtful consideration we made contact with the tribunal and expressed our concerns that Mr R’s mental health was worsening and in the likely hood that he would need to wait the estimated 30 weeks, there was no saying how he might deteriorate and we kindly asked them to consider an earlier hearing. This was successful and Mr R’s hearing was heard at 20 weeks. Mr R was extremely anxious, but our senior support and information officer was able to attend this hearing alongside him which offered much reassurance to Mr R. Throughout the hearing our senior support and information officer was able to give a detailed description of Mr R’s ability to carry out daily activities and his limited mobility on most days and the type of support he requires when visiting BLW.
Mr R’s appeal was successful and has now been reinstated his award with a higher entitlement of the daily living component and has also been awarded standard mobility component. All money will be backdated to when he’s claim was stopped.
Ms S was signposted to me by a support worker from South London Maudsley Hospital. Ms S was struggling to meet her daily expenditure needs and is a full-time carer for her daughter who has severe mental health problems. Ms S wanted to apply to Southwark Council for an Emergency Hardship Fund as she was finding impossible to replace household white goods and beds.
It was appropriate to carry out a benefit assessment to see if Ms S was in receipt of the right benefits. In that time Ms S has been in receipt of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and was transitioned on to this benefit from Incapacity Benefit around 10 years ago. When this transition took place, Ms S was placed in the contributory based ESA group, this group is for those who have been in work for 2 or more years and who have paid income tax and are out work due to ill health, this can be temporary or permanent.
Due to Ms S having always been in receipt of income-related benefits, she should have been transitioned on to the Income Related ESA group. Depending on the group a person is placed, they could be entitled to additional premiums, in Ms S’s case, she was losing these premiums due to being in the wrong group. We were able to make contact with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and expressed our concern that this had happened.
The DWP sent out a form, which we were able to fill out together and send off. In less than 5 weeks, Ms S received 5 cheques payments into her bank account to the amount of £23,000, which was owed to her. This money cannot be classed as savings or capital as it is money owed to her that she was surviving without.
Ms S was suffering from ill health, physical and mental health problems and I asked her if she has ever heard of Personal Independence Payment, a non-means tested benefit that assists people with disabilities and health-related issues. Ms S is now in receipt of the correct benefit amounts and is no longer struggling like she was before.