Case study 1
Client is single and vulnerable. She has ulcerative colitis, a muscolo-skeletal problem, a thyroid problem and memory loss. High rate mobility DLA. Her English is poor, especially her written English.
In Feb 2014 the client’s ESA was stopped after she failed a DWP medical. She scored 0 points. Her Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefits stopped as well.
We helped her to complete a Mandatory Reconsideration request on the 25th Feb which was eventually received by the DWP – over a month later.
In the meantime our client tried to apply for JSA but was told she should apply for ESA again. This she did but she was phoned later to say she wasn’t eligible because she’d failed her medical. This didn’t stop the DWP awarding her JSA, then stopping it again because she had claimed another benefit and telling her that she could request another Mandatory Reconsideration….
After several weeks of phoning to the DWP, food bank vouchers and rising rent arrears, the client’s JSA was eventually sorted out. The DWP Notice in response to her Mandatory Reconsideration request of 3rd March was issued on 15th May , over 2 months later. We helped the client complete the SSCS1 form to send off to the Tribunal. It took another 2 months – and frequent chase up phone calls from the bureau – before the client was able to come off JSA and back onto the assessment rate of ESA.
On 29th August 2014 our client won her ESA appeal. She was awarded 18 points. Client absolutely delighted. She said she had been suicidal during the long process of sorting out her benefit.
Case study 2
Client is single, Somali torture victim, disabled, poor English. She had been offered a new flat by NHHA as current one was damp. Given 3 days to move or would lose flat. New flat unfurnished.
We contacted Local Support Payments team late on a Friday afternoon. We arranged for a sofa, cooker, new carpet, wardrobe and chest of drawers which were all delivered on the Monday (bar the carpet which was fitted by the end of the week). We arranged the fitting of a new gas meter as health and safety issues with one.
Client now happily living in new flat, warm and safe.
Case study 3
Client is a male who lives in same household with estranged partner and one child. Relationship broke down but due to financial hardship cl was forced to remain the family house. Client does not speak to ex partner at all. Tenancy in joint names. Client had multiple debts, rent arrears, CT arrears, gas and electric arrears, TV licence, magistrate’s court fine and various other non priority debts. Problems due to separate lifestyle but joint debts. Client had a date for possession.
JSA and HB stopped as council and DWP said he was co-habiting. Ex partner was working but client did not know what income etc. Client lives separate life, no sharing of finances, food, cooking washing etc. Client came into the bureau with no income and a large amount of priority debts and felt totally hopeless and overwhelmed.
We assisted client to get JSA reinstated after completing Mandatory Reconsideration and HB for his half the rent as a joint tenant. Applied for EDF trust fund grant and got over £1000 paid which cleared client’s fuel debts. Arranged affordable repayments of priority debts. Mag’s fine and TV now paid off and rent arrears being paid off weekly after negotiating with housing officer – suspended possession order. Non-p debts on hold until client has paid his CT debt (last of priority debts). Client looking for work and going on training now. Completely different person to when he first came in.
Case study 4
Client lives with his wife in temporary accommodation after making a homeless application, severely disabled (limited mobility due to ankle arthritis). He and wife on ESA, HB, CTS and application for PIP made. Client’s issue is he had been placed in a hotel (one room) and had very little space to move about. More importantly he had extreme difficulty in accessing the property due to his condition. This meant he stayed in the room all day as he could not get in and out without difficulty and making his condition worse. Hospital refused to operate as they deemed current accommodation as unsuitable for recovery, this meant cl would not get treatment.
We assisted client with housing review (challenging suitability of temporary accommodation). This was supported with client’s medical evidence and citing housing/homeless legislation. Also arranged occupational health assessment through social services and used the report as additional evidence.
Council responded and accepted property as unsuitable. Client rehoused into one bed housing association. Client extremely happy, and is now listed to get operation. New property allows cl to move around and is on the ground floor.
Case study 5
Client paid holding deposit to estate agent (contract said non-refundable). Client’s references not satisfactory and gents kept deposit. Client tried to get her deposit back but agents would not respond and said they were within their rights to withhold this as cl was made aware of what she was signing at the time. Wrote to agents and explained client’s situation (as this is an unregulated area) requesting deposit be returned as this was an unfair term. Agents offered half the deposit back. Client accepted and was happy. Other alternative would have been court action and no guarantee of successful outcome here.
Case study 6
An elderly very disabled and vulnerable client who lives alone, who came to us worried that she was being asked for money by a friend who was in debt. She said the friend said because they had cared for her for some time and for no payment it was the least she could do. She had written a cheque for several thousand pounds and had now changed her mind.
We explained a person cannot decide they are owed money for services rendered in the past if there was no written or verbal agreement to do this at the start. Therefore no money was owed to the friend and no favour owed unless client ‘wanted’ to help. Client did not want to help and was feeling pressured and requested help from the bureau.
We assisted client to stop the cheque. Next, as it appeared client was vulnerable and being coerced and likely to continue, we made a social services referral, who immediately put steps in place to safeguard the client. We informed the client she could arrange for official Carers via the council for day to day care which would end the problem of feeling like she owed the friend for the care she got, and end any awkwardness. We discussed the friend’s potential to claim Carers Allowance which would resolve issues about payment for future care. Client knows she can return at any time should she need bureau help.
Case study 7
Client is a single lady. She had her ESA stopped and needed help to appeal. She had asked for a mandatory reconsideration which had failed. Client only got 6 points and needed 15 to get ESA. Client was extremely unwell with rheumatoid arthritis, sickle cell, breathing difficulties and mobility problems. We assisted client with her appeal went through descriptors to analyse whether her appeal had merit and what evidence she could utilise. We then represented her case to the Free Representation Unit who took it up. Due to evidence provided which showed in more detail how client’s illnesses meant she was too sick to work, client subsequently won her appeal and was awarded 18 points – (she only required 15 so this showed how vulnerable and disabled this client actually was). Backdated ESA and an ongoing award meant the bureau achieved £6084 for this client.
Case study 8
Client is disabled. She had priority and non- priority debts which she had difficulty repaying. Client was afraid to open her letters and had not noticed that bailiff had written a Notice of Enforcement to her to state they would pay her a visit. When the bailiff visited, our client gave them entry. While they were on her premises the very distressed client called the telephone gateway line for advice.
We were able to advise the client as she is disabled she is vulnerable and therefore, under the new rules which came into effect on 6th April 2014, bailiffs should not enter a home or premises where a vulnerable person is present. The assessor stayed on the line with the client to provide on-going advice with the bailiff present. Our client relayed the advice to the bailiff who left the client’s property immediately.
Bailiff did not tell client what future action they would take with respect of the outstanding debt. But they did promise to comply with new rules and not to return to client’s home.
Case study 9
Client was very relieved and grateful to bureau for the advice and guidance we gave her.
Client had worked for employer for less than two years. Employer’s company was the subject of a Transfer of Undertaking (TUPE). New company did not want client to work the hours she was used to working with the first company. Client objected to stated hours by transferee employer and refused to work the requested time and hours. As a result she was dismissed. As this came within a reason which could be regarded as an economic reason for the organisation and as the client had not worked for the requisite two years to claim unfair dismissal, there was nothing much she could have done. She could not have claimed unfair dismissal. There were also no issues of discrimination.
However, bureau successfully negotiated with transferee employer to reinstate client and for her to work the hours she wished to work. Client also stated she would also work the time and hours the employer wanted to work.
We receive a wide range of queries. Some examples include:
- Can my client get Pension Credit to top-up their State Pension?
- What happens to Housing Benefit if our tenant goes abroad to visit their daughter?
- Which partner in a couple should claim to maximise entitlement?
- My client has just had an accident at work – what help is available?
- A carer has just gone into hospital, what will happen to her Carer’s Allowance?
- My client’s son has just been diagnosed with autism. Is there any help with the extra costs the family face?
The Welfare Benefits Unit also provides broader support, assisting those who work with members of the public and advising on complex benefit issues, as shown in the following case studies:
Mr A is a 68 year old man with chronic health problems including heart and neurological disease. He lives with his working adult daughter.
Mr A was overpaid Pension Credit over a period of 8 years due to his daughter being in the household and the Pension Service having no record of this. He was very distressed after a Pension Service Visiting Officer informed him of the overpayment.
Mr A was very anxious whilst also coping with reduced income. He already had an Individual Voluntary Arrangement to help manage his debts.
The Welfare Benefits Unit were contacted by his Neurology social worker. She forwarded the relevant paper work and we were able to advise quickly and explain how the overpayment had occurred. The outcome was unfortunately correct but Mr A was reassured when he understood more about how the amount would be recovered and was able to contact his IVA adviser who in turn contacted his creditors.
As Mr A now had the correct advice he was able to budget accordingly.
Mr and Mrs P
Mr and Mrs P live in a housing association property with their five children. Mrs P has underlying health problems and is unable to go out to work, however she is not entitled to a disability benefit. Mr P gets seasonal low paid work. They are affected by the Benefit Cap during the times he is out of work. This has a dramatic effect on being able to maintain a stable budget. When work ceases, their income drops and in turn Working Tax Credit stops and as a result they have to pay increased rent. They have rent arrears and a Notice of Seeking Possession has been served.
One of the children has behavioural problems. The family are working with social services due to problems at school. A diagnosis has not yet been made. A housing support worker has been provided to help the family with budgeting. She has successfully helped the family claim a Discretionary Housing Payment which resulted in a short-term award. A claim for Disability Living Allowance for the daughter was unsuccessful.
The Welfare Benefits Unit were able to read through the paperwork, provide template letters for evidence gathering and prepare a submission.
Mr and Mrs P attended the appeal and it was successful. This resulted in an increased income for the family and protection from the Benefit Cap.
Mr S lives in a 3-bedroom housing association property. He has long-term medical conditions, literacy and comprehension problems and a chaotic lifestyle. He has been unable to pay the under-occupancy penalty and is in rent arrears.
He was referred through the Single Access Point to an Independent Living Officer (ILO). Her role is to help him access choice-based lettings and manage his budget. She visits once a week. Mr S is asked to leave his paperwork out and over time the ILO regularly has to take action about his benefitst. Examples include assistance with claiming Employment and Support Allowance, help with completing his ESA50 questionnaire and calls made to establish why it was stopped unexpectedly. Assistance was also given in relation to Mr S asking for a mandatory reconsideration.
Mr S claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance whilst waiting for a decision on his Employment and Support Allowance. The ILO noticed that his Claimant Commitment was not manageable (it took no account of his mobility issues or illiteracy).
The ILO received support from the Welfare Benefits Unit with asking for a review of his Claimant Commitment, challenging a sanction decision and appealing the Employment and Support Allowance decision when the review was unsuccessful.
Mr S’s Employment and Support Allowance was reinstated at appeal. He was also successful challenging the sanction decision and altering his Claimant Commitment.