AdvoCard have a dedicated Welfare Reform Advocacy Worker, Arlene Astley who provides individual and collective advocacy support to those who are being effected by Welfare Reforms. If you feel that you need support to be listened to throughout the process of claiming benefits please call Arlene. Below are examples of the help that Arlene can provide. You may be interested in this report on Welfare Reform Advocacy:
Individual Advocacy Support
Employment and Support Allowance and Personal Independence Payments
ESA has replaced Incapacity Benefit and Income Support, (if claimed because of incapacity). ESA is based on assessing what work, if any, an individual is capable of carrying out and involves completing a work capability questionnaire and attending an assessment. Personal Independence Payments have replaced Disability Living Allowance and are awarded to those who need additional support to manage their condition.
The ESA and PIP application processes and assessments can be distressing and confusing for those with poor mental health and because of the difficulty that many with mental health conditions have in explaining how their condition affects them, there is a risk that they will be wrongly assessed. The responsibility for collecting medical evidence also lies with the claimant. Individuals who do not have a good relationship with their care team may have difficulty in collecting this information.
How we help with this
We will meet with you beforehand to discuss your condition with you. We will then agree what aspects of your condition need to be highlighted and what you would like to be included in the claim. We will then attend the assessment with you to make sure that you are listened to throughout the assessment and are given the chance to have your say.
For those who contact AdvoCard at a different stage in their claim we can provide support to draft a mandatory reconsideration request to have the benefit decision reconsidered, attend advice appointments with you and, if necessary, attend work focussed interviews or workfare appointments with you to ensure that the you are listened to at all times.
Conditionality – sanctions and the claimant commitment
Although most claimants who face sanctions are Jobseekers claimants it is also possible to be sanctioned whilst claiming Employment and Support Allowance. Claimants in the Work Related Activity group can have their benefit sanctioned if they fail to make mandatory appointments. Ways that we can help include meeting with you and discussing the problems that you are having, attending jobcentre appointments with you, making sure that you are given the opportunity to be heard and calling the DWP on your behalf.
Discretionary Housing Payments and the Scottish Welfare Fund
DHP and the SWF are administered by City of Edinburgh Council. DHPs are in place to mitigate the effect of the bedroom tax and to help with housing costs for those in need. The Scottish Welfare Fund administers payment of Crisis Grants and Community Care Grants. We can support you to seek proper advice on what you are entitled to, help make a claim and help with any payment problems by contacting CEC with you.
Collective Advocacy – Welfare Reform
AdvoCard Welfare Reform Reference Group
This is a new group that is in the process of being set up to feed into any upcoming Consultations and research that is being carried out as a result of the new benefit powers being devolved to Scotland. We understand that meeting in a group is difficult for some so aim to keep group contact to a minimum. Members are emailed whenever there is anything that they can feed into and they have the choice of attending events or simply emailing their responses that they would like Arlene to take to an event for them. If anyone is interested in joining the mailing list please contact Arlene on 554 5307.
We are members of The Disability Benefits Consortium – for more information visit their website
The DBC are a national coalition of over 50 different charities and other organisations committed to working towards a fair benefits system. Through the DBC we can feed into any collaborations and lobbying campaigns at Westminster. Current work includes
- Campaigning to have the proposed changes to the Work Related Activity Group of ESA taken out of the new Welfare and Work Bill.
- The Big Benefits Survey- a national survey aiming to capture effects of ESA / PIP assessments.
Arlene sits on the steering group of the Scottish Campaign on Welfare Reform.
They are currently developing their strategy for the next few years in connection with the Scotland Bill and Devolved Powers. Meetings are held monthly and service users can contact Arlene with anything that they want her to take to the meetings.
AdvoCard are also members of the Scottish Human Rights Consortium. (see their website for more information) The SHRC have produced the “wee information notes” on 10 areas of human rights – one of which is on welfare. We have also fed into the Scottish National Action Plan for Human Rights under the Better Lives – Poverty as a Human Rights Issue. There will be more opportunity to feed into that next year. If anyone is interested in adding to this work please contact Arlene.
There are two bills going through Parliament that we are campaigning on.
- The Welfare and Work Bill – We are campaigning through the DBC to carry the tabled amendment to have clause 13 removed which would in effect mean there would be no changes to ESA.
- The Scotland Bill – this outlines the powers that will be granted to Scotland in 2017. The Scottish Government are looking to the third sector to provide feedback on how these new powers should be used. We will be campaigning both as AdvoCard and through SCoWR on this.
There is work being done by the Scottish Parliament on the Fairer Scotland Conversations. The Government are looking at what we would like to see change in Scotland. We have recently sent in a submission to this on the changes we need to see in Scottish Social Security.
The Welfare Reform Committee
We have submitted evidence to the consultations under consideration at the moment but there is still the open “have your say stream” that is looking at the Work Programme and PIP if anyone would like to feed into that.