Apr 20, 2017
We were made aware of a young Mum with two children, one of whom has been formally diagnosed with autism, but who also has special requirements regarding food. She'd been prepared for the holiday, but unfortunately a large amount of money left her account to pay a bill, earlier than she had budgeted for. They'd tried to get the payment stopped but it was too late, it had already left her account. This left her without money for food for herself and her two children, and the oldest child would be unable to eat the food she could get hold of from the local foodbank. We agreed to send across £60 to tide her over until her next payment of Employment Support Allowance, reached her bank account.
Feb 27, 2017
We were contacted urgently about a man from Poland who has terminal cancer. He has been living and working in the UK for the past 15 years, however because he left the UK between 2006 and 2008 and returned to Poland to care for his dying mother, he is now being refused the opportunity to claim Employment Support Allowance. His rent is in arrears, but our agent is dealing with the landlord over that, who is cooperating fully, so it is hopeful that he won't be evicted. He has no remaining family in Poland and wants to live out the rest of his days here in the UK. We agreed to send across £150 as he has no food, gas or electricity. Our agent is now able to converse with the DWP directly about his case so is hopeful the decision to refuse him can be overturned.
Feb 23, 2017
Today our agent told us of a lady who has been homeless in the past and has lived in homeless shelters. She was finally offered a permanent place to live, but in order to be able to move in she had to clear some outstanding arrears. She did this using her Employment Support Allowance payments, but by doing so this left her without any money for food, cleaning materials, or money to put on her gas and electric meters. She has Chron's Disease, so has to have a careful diet to stay on top of it. We agreed to send £100, so that she could put £15 on each of her gas and electric meters, and the remaining £70 to buy food to stock up with, as well as some cleaning materials.
Feb 23, 2017
We were contacted about a lady who had returned her completed Employment Support Allowance (ESA) forms to the DWP as requested. She didn't though send them recorded delivery, which she later regretted when the DWP claimed not to have received them. She discovered this when her ESA payments stopped without warning. This went on for a while as last month she had to borrow enough money to be able to pay her bills and buy food. She had sensibly sought a nil income form from her local authority to cover her rent and council tax payments. Eventually the DWP 'found' the forms and agreed that her payments would be reinstated, however they then cancelled them again just a few days later and she is still in the midst of trying to understand why this has happened or for the DWP to be able to explain why, as they don't appear to know why either.
As she is completely without money and needs to buy food, top up her gas and electric meters and buy some medical items we agreed to send across £100, which will hopefully tide her over until the DWP can reinstate her payments again.
Feb 17, 2017
We came across a man with mental and physical health issues. He'd been refused Employment Support Allowance back in August last year and forced to apply for Job Seekers Allowance. Unfortunately his mental health had worsened and he'd developed bronchitis which had left him unable to leave his home, and on some days his bed even. His adviser at his local Job Centre Plus was insisting he attend the job centre every single day which was not possible for him to achieve. He reapplied for ESA, and was immediately rejected for that, but they also stopped his JSA as well. Instead of investigating his current claim of ill health, they have used the assessment carried out last year all over again (where they rejected him then) and basically ignored any new information he has submitted.
We agreed to send him £100 as he had no food, or any credit on his gas or electric meters. He has sought the help of Citizens Advice to request a Mandatory Reconsideration, to get his ESA reinstated, or for them to at least assess him properly. He also has a local to him advocacy service that are going to come out to visit him this week to try to help arrange some support with his benefits.
Feb 9, 2017
We were approached about a young man, who had previously been street homeless but was now in accommodation, safe and dry. However, his crippling depression and anxiety moved in with him and things have got on top of him. His finances had got out of control and after paying his bills, his remaining money was sucked up by his bank overdraft, leaving him and his dog without food, or any money for the gas and electricity meters. We agreed to send across a sum of £80 to allow him to top up his meters and buy some much needed food. Also, he was supposed to have been previously supported in terms of financial budgeting, but this will now be taken over by a new agency that will fully support him going forward.
Feb 8, 2017
We were contacted today by an agency that are working with a man suffering with anxiety and depression. He had got himself into some quite serious debt and had effectively switched off to it all, shoving his head in the sand. He hadn't claimed any benefits at all for the past two years, relying instead on family who had been putting him up and feeding him. These debts have begun to catch up with him and the relentless letters chasing the debts are only serving to increase his anxiety and feed his depression. The agency are now in the process of helping him to apply for employment support allowance, and seek much needed medical help. They are also helping him deal with his debts, urging him to apply for a debt relief order, as he has no assets or savings. Unfortunately, though with no money to his name he is unable to raise the £90 needed to pay for the fees for the order. We agreed that by sending the money across to cover this, it would allow him to have some relief from stress and begin to rebuild his life again.
Feb 1, 2017
A young pregnant mother, 21 years old, had been in receipt of employment support allowance, until November last year, when she failed to attend a meeting with her work coach at the job centre, which is a requirement of being placed in the work related activity group of ESA. The young woman has aspergers and anger issues and is usually accompanied to her meetings by her Grandmother, but she was unfortunately unwell herself and couldn't attend. Missing the appointment meant that the ESA payments were stopped immediately. There is an agency now helping the family to get the payments reinstated but it will take some time for any payments to arrive again.
This young woman's father had died when she was 11 years old, and she continued to live with her mother but that relationship had completely broken down by the time she was 16 so her Grandparents took her in and looked after her, which is where she still is today. The loss of the ESA payments has put a huge strain on the whole family, so we agreed to send across £150 to be split between the Grandparents and the young woman.
Jan 25, 2017
We became aware of a family, parents and their four children that were being supported by a local to them welfare rights group. The father had been in receipt of Employment Support Allowance, receiving the basic assessment rate of £73.10 per week. He had been trying to get his wife added to this claim but they were having issues with her national insurance number, so that had not been possible and in fact this meagre amount had been stopped so they were without any money at all. They are being supported to get this resolved and to get Child Tax Credits put into place as soon as possible so that they might have enough money to survive on. We agreed in the interim until the DWP could restart the payments to send across £100 to help them.
Jan 10, 2017
We were contacted about a 60 year old man who had been kicked off Employment Support Allowance (ESA) despite being not well enough to work. He had with help submitted a request for a Mandatory Reconsideration (where the DWP Decision Makers look at the assessment data again) but that too had been refused. All his benefits payments had been stopped and could not be reinstated until an appeal has been lodged. In normal circumstances you would claim Job Seekers allowance while you wait to hear the outcome of the appeal and if it has been accepted to go to tribunal. We agreed to send across £100 to keep him going until his appeal can be lodged and accepted.
Jan 9, 2017
Our agents told us of a lady, that although she owned her own home and wasn't therefore claiming Housing Benefit (there is a claim for council tax relief though), she was unable to afford to pay for any heating in her home at all. Her hot water was heated using the gas boiler, so without gas, there was no heat nor hot water for washing even. The lady is in the process of applying for a Mandatory Reconsideration of her Employment Support Allowance, which she was kicked off after her last assessment and forced to claim Job Seekers Allowance while this is being looked at*. We agreed to send across £50 to top up her gas and electricity meters so she could at least have some heat again.
*Currently when a person is assessed for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) a large number of people are refused, even if they had been claiming ESA before. You cannot claim ESA without a fit (sick) note from your doctor, so your own doctor deems you sick/disabled/mentally unwell enough to not be working, yet individuals are still refused ESA. Their only alternative is to apply for Job Seekers Allowance (JSA), while they apply for a Mandatory Reconsideration (MR) where a Decision Maker at the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) looks at the claim again. If the first decision is overturned, then the claimant can be put back on to ESA, and any monies due to them is paid, less the amount they have been paid in JSA. There are currently no guidelines as to how long a MR can take, and it can be weeks. Many times the case is overturned at the MR stage, if that fails, then the claimant has the right to take the matter to Tribunal, where a great many of the cases are overturned, and the claimaint is then paid what is owed to them, again, minus the amount they've been paid in Job Seekers Allowance. Many of these claimants would not be safe to be employed in a work situation, for their own sakes and others around them, yet the DWP states they are when they are refused ESA.
There is a great deal on TV in the UK where those on disability or out of work benefits are demonised. Yes, you will see individuals that 'milk' the system, but those individuals are few and far between. Many people stuck at home, looking at four walls on disability benefits would love to be able to go out to work again and miss that work environment. To have individuals like that on TV though, wouldn't 'up the ratings' for the TV producers, so they go with the sensationalised cases instead, and quite possibly edit the programmes to make things look even worse than they really are. Many illnesses are invisible, just because a person doesn't look sick, doesn't mean they aren't. Many people put a brave face on depression, not wanting to drag others down to that pit of despair they find themselves in, because knowing how bad it feels for them, they wouldn't wish that on their worst enemy.
So please, be kind, you are not walking in that person's shoes and don't necessarily know how they feel.
Dec 27, 2016
Our agent told us of a homeless man who had lost his award of employment support allowance and with it his housing benefit, so was evicted from his home. He came to attention when he stayed with a homeless project over the Christmas period. Turns out he has extremely ulcerated legs from standing and walking constantly. In fact the two nights he stayed at the Christmas homeless shelter was the first time in 3 months he had slept laying down. He's spent the last 18 months sleeping rough in a church porch. He had fought with the assistance of a local to him advocacy group to get his ESA reinstated, but his local authority were unprepared to help him with housing to get him off the streets, and the advocacy group closed down. Our agent, with the help of the Christmas Homeless Project managed to find somewhere for him to live, that will be prepared to accept housing benefit for the rent. We were glad to help out with the £200 necessary to cover the deposit. Hopefully he will now be able to be somewhere safe and warm, where he can begin to recover.
Dec 22, 2016
Our agent made us aware of a man, homeless with only the clothes he was stood up in. He suffers with PTSD, depression and anxiety. Currently he is able to stay with a friend. He failed an ESA work capability assessment and while requesting a mandatory reconsideration he attempted to apply for Job Seekers but he was unable to fulfill the job search obligations due to his mental health issues. He has reapplied for ESA with a new diagnosed condition, but this is failing because he is unable to supply the DWP with a fit (sick) note as his doctor is too far away from where he is currently able to stay. His anxiety won't allow him to travel via public transport and he does not have the money to be able to afford a taxi to get there. He had with the help of our agent applied for financial assistance from his local welfare support, but with the Christmas closures it is unlikely it would happen in time and also might not happen anyhow, due to previously being supported this way. We agreed to send across £100 to allow him to get to his doctors and get the fit note and to have some money to buy some food and clothing.
Dec 20, 2016
Our agent made us aware of a single mum with a teenaged daughter. This lady has been refused ESA three times, been all the way to tribunal and still been refused. However whenever she attempts to sign on for Job Seekers she is refused as they say she is too ill to fulfill their obligations. So caught between a rock and a hard place she only has child benefit and child tax credits for them both to live off, as she has also been refused PIP too. With little or no money to pay for food, gas or electric, she and her daughter have been living off food vouchers given by a local to them organisation. We agreed that we should send across £200 to help her out at such a difficult time.
Dec 16, 2016
Our agent told of us a man who had sent his Fit Note to the DWP to fulfill his Employment Support Allowance (ESA) obligation, but it was not received. The first he knew of this was when his payment did not arrive in his bank account as he expected it to. As they hadn't received the fit note, his ESA payments had stopped leaving him without money for gas, electric or food. He phoned the DWP who has requested that he sends a replacement fit note, and having done that his payments should begin again next week. In the meantime we sent across £50 so he could top up his gas and electric meters and buy some food.
Dec 12, 2016
Our agent told us of a lady who had missed a Work Capability Assessment (WCA) for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) because she was very ill with glandular fever and was hightly contagious, so unable to attend. The assessor and DWP found her fit for work though, so she was kicked off ESA. She has a young son, so is in receipt of child tax credits and child benefit, but that is all. Her council tax and housing benefit was being looked into, to get that reinstated, as the ESA stopping will have informed her local authority, so her housing benefit will have stopped, along with the counci tax relief. This all happening has caused the lady to have panic attacks as her anxiety levels have been stressed beyond belief. We agreed we would send across £150 to help her and hopefully ease some of her fears that her son might be taken from her if she is seen as being unable to feed him adequately.
After she had received the money, this was her reply "I'm lost for words I've gone from suicidal to hopeful in seconds - I can't thank you enough xx I just can't believe it, please pass on my massive thanks it means more than just the money, I was ready to give up xx"
Nov 29, 2016
We became aware of a man in his late 50s who had been forced to leave his previous job as a carer as his health was so poor, with a long list of physical ailments. He applied for ESA but was unsuccessful and forced into claiming Job Seekers instead. He is keen to try to find some employment as he feels this will help improve his mental health, but trying to get back into employmentt means interviews and suitable clothing. We made them aware of the flexible fund which is set up for purposes such as this. As we began to find out more about this man we realised that life had dealt him many unfortunate blows. It was decided that the fund should send him £50 as an exercise in hope. When you are struggling so much, just to survive, finding any spare money to even buy a shirt becomes nigh on impossible, so hopefully this will allow him to see that there are people that do care.
Nov 14, 2016
A single mum with four children had her tax credits cut as Tax Credits told her that one of her children had been inputted twice on to their system, which meant that her payments had been incorrect. While Tax Credits investigate this administrative error they stopped her payments. As she had also moved to a new doctors she'd been unable to supply the DWP with a fit (sick) note, so they have suspended her Employment Support Allowance payments until a fit note can be obtained. The appointments system at her doctors means having to wait a week before she is able to see a doctor to get whats needed. We agreed to send across £150 to buy food for her and her children.
Nov 11, 2016
Our client had been in receipt of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and in the support group (which usually means that the condition they are suffering with is unlikely to improve so that they might be able to return to work). Following a Work Capability Assessment he was immediately removed from ESA and consequently his income disappeared, along with his housing benefit and council tax relief.
A Mandatory Reconsideration had been put in for him on his behalf, to get him put back on to ESA, but as his condition is now even worse, an appeal is going in for him to request that the DWP reconsider his application for ESA, with a view hopefully to him being placed back in the Support Group. With COPD and a major issue with his knee which means he is unable to get about he needs all the help he can get.
We agreed to send him £50 so that he could buy some fresh food and also some extra to put food in his freezer, while he waits for his application for Job Seekers Allowance kicks in.
Nov 1, 2016
Having just got off the phone to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) this woman found out that they had stopped all her Employment Support Allowance payments, stating she had capital in the bank and wasn't seen to be in need. She tried to explain, this capital, a small inheritance following in the death of her Father was several years ago and none of it was left now, she had nothing in fact. They wouldn't listen though and her benefits were stopped regardless, meaning she had nothing at all to live off. This, unsurprisingly had left the poor woman distraught and stating she felt suicidal. We were assured though that she'd promised she would not act on these feelings.
We agreed, following the news that there was some local support in her area, that we would send £100 to purchase much needed food, with the option of a revist of a further £100 if that was seen to be necessary.
Oct 30, 2016
A young mother, married with two children attended her work capability assessment, after losing her full time employment due to her disabilities, no longer being able, in their opinion, to do her job. So her employer considers her unfit to work, yet the ESA (Employment Support Allowance) assessor felt differently and found her fit for work. This lady's husband had quit his job in order to care for her and so consequently their tax credits payments had ceased. The whole family were relying on the pre-assessment rate of ESA and child benefits payments to survive on. Now they were reduced to the child benefit only. A nil income form from their Council will help with the rent and council tax (which will have stopped due to the ESA being stopped). A local support group have stepped in to help guide them through the maze of requesting a Mandatory Reconsideration on this decision. She put in a request to apply for Job Seekers Allowance and turned up at the due time to sign on, only to be told that her appointment had been missed as it was a different time to that which she was told.
We as a group decided that something needed to happen and quickly, so we agreed to send them £150 to purchase food for the family.
Oct 18, 2016
We came across a lady who had been off work since earlier this year, having been taken to hospital suddenly in a desperate situation and needing life saving surgery. Unfortunately her sick pay (SSP) ran out in early October, and so she requested to claim Employment Support Allowance, but that wasn't as straightforward as she thought it might be. Initially refused, they then agreed she could claim ESA but that it would not be paid until she had received her last payment from her employer, and as she was paid in arrears, this meant that she would be left for a period of time with no money coming in whatsoever. What made matters worse was that her daughter was now 18 years of age and about to begin studying at University. This of course means that the child tax credits and child benefits payments that were being received stopped in August, as her daughter was no longer eligible to claim. This changeover often catches parents out, but for this to happen as well as everything else for this lady meant that she and her daughter were really in a desperate situation, with no money for even food. We agreed a sum of £100 so they could buy some food until her ESA payments started being paid.
Oct 5, 2016
A couple finding themselves without their expected Employment Support Allowance payment rang the DWP to find out why this hadn't been paid in, only to discover that their ESA payments had been stopped on the 22nd September, a form for them to fill in had been sent to them on the 26th September, along with a reminder to fill in the form on exactly the same day! To stop the ESA payments without allowing adequate time for the claimant to fill in the extensive form (usually a month is allowed to complete and return this) let alone before they'd even received a form to fill in is not normal DWP policy. They admitted to the claimant that this should not have happened, but the decision to reinstate the payments and allow time for a new form to be sent, completed and returned would be up to a decision maker to decide on, not the person that answered the phone at the DWP. Unfortunately, this meant the claimant would be without any money to be able to buy food. Both the claimant and her partner are diabetic and have to take their medication with food, otherwise it would cause them problems. To not take the medication would be worse as it could case them further complications
Thankfully the claimant had had the sense to contact her Housing Association for a nil income form, to cover her housing benefit and council tax relief payments, as the ESA payments stopping, would have triggered these payments to stop also.
We decided this was a critical case and needed an urgent decision, so we agreed to send them £150 to allow them to purchase some food and have some money available until the DWP could sort this mess out and reinstate their payments. She and her partner were both moved to tears to the generosity of strangers, willing to step in and lend a hand at such a scary time.
This case for us was very alarming as many people do not have a buffer of money to fall back on as most are living from one benefit payment to the next.
May 24, 2014
Gosh, it’s been a while since we wrote one of these! While we’ve not been writing, though, we’ve not been idle.
Here is a story from each month this year so far that touched our hearts.
Mrs W’s son had his JSA sanctioned – because he had just been diagnosed with cancer and missed an appointment, despite calling them beforehand to explain that he couldn’t attend. Sadly his cancer spread and, on advising the job centre that he was now receiving intensive chemotherapy, they took him off JSA and said he wasn’t entitled to anything else, leaving him with nothing for over a month – over Christmas, no less. He was later helped to fill in an ESA claim, which was still pending when we found his mum. We gave him £120 to tide him over until his income was reinstated, as well as offering our usual practical support.
Ms S, a disabled lady on basic benefits who was very good at budgeting them, fell foul of an internet scam, which took funds from her bank account without permission (we asked for more details, and this was something any one of us could have been taken in by). The bank were looking into it, with a view to refunding her in time, but her bills were about to go out by direct debit the next day, leaving her overdrawn with bank charges on top if that happened. She had already gotten excellent advice on fraud and contacting the bank from friends, so we sent her £100 to cover the shortfall in her bank, with a little extra to show that not everyone on the internet is a bad egg.
D was sanctioned for not doing enough on his work search. He was actually doing more than the law requires. His girlfriend W suffered the same fate the following month. Because they didn’t know about the nil declaration for Housing Benefit (and no-one at the Job Centre bothered to tell them) they fell into £1500 rent arrears with the threat of court. W was terrified of court and brought to tears by the thought of it. One of our agents assisted with the Nil income housing benefit claim, which cleared most of the rent arrears. We gave them a gift to clear the rest in full.
Mr J, a disabled man with a young child, was found fit for work. His ESA was stopped, leaving him and his son with only £20 a week to live on. We sent him £100 so he and his son could be well fed for a few weeks. Another good job jobbed.
Ms D was very concerned that her son, who has mental health problems and physical disabilities, would join the ever growing list of suicides linked to welfare reform. His ESA was stopped for over a month and a reconsideration turned him down, saying his conditions did not qualify, even though he was often unable to care for himself and suffered from hallucinations and delusions. We put him in touch with practical help, and gave a gift of £200 to assist with a backlog of bills and rent that were stacking up, giving him some space to get the help he needs, and his mum some peace of mind.