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.
Jan 28, 2017
So today we helped a lady living on her own. She had been in receipt of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and as she receives Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and no one claims carers allowance for her, then she was entitled to be paid a Severe Disability Premium (SDP). Her PIP is still in payment, however at her last face to face assessment, the assessor rushed her through the assessment and wouldn't allow her to elaborate on any of her questions, telling her to hurry up and just answer yes or no! So despite she has PIP in payment, because she was considered by a different assessor to be in need of additional help, this assessor for her ESA felt differently and contradicted the previous assessor and found her fit for work. The consequences of this decision was that her money went down considerably as she lost the ESA and the SDP, and had to sign on for Job Seekers, despite the fact that she is too poorly to work. When we came across her, she told us she was having to stay in bed because it was the only way she could keep warm as she couldn't afford to top up her meters, or buy any food. We sent across a small sum of money to help tide her over until her advance payment of JSA could be made. We gave her some contact details of places she could go to on Monday in her local area to get some help in appealing this dreadful and quite stupid decision.
She later told us this:
Because of what you did with your kindness today, I have realised there are people out there that care and can help, I thought I was alone. I'm going to check out the links you sent me and get some help. I realise now it is okay to ask for help. I need help with a lot of things but I'm now going to ask for it in future. I thought if I ignored the problem long enough it would go away, but it didn't. Your help to me today truly has made a massive difference.
Jan 12, 2017
A lady we were aware of had told the DWP that she would be moving her boyfriend in to live with her on a permanent basis. She was at the time in receipt of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and low rate Disability Living Allowance. Being in receipt of ESA meant she was able to claim housing benefit and council tax relief. DWP responded to her honesty by immediately stopping her ESA payments, which then triggered her housing benefit and council tax relief being stopped also. Her partner had only part time work, 20 hours per week, which was too few to be able to claim working tax credits, currently 30 hours per week, so that wasn't an option. Also because the work he was doing was as a self employed person, he was struggling to get any proof of his income to give to their local authority to satisify their demands for proof of earnings. All this happened just before Christmas, and he was left with no work at all over the Christmas period, so no income beyond the low rate DLA she received. Her rent was in arrears, and she was close to losing her home. It was just a struggle too far. So we agreed to send across £300 to cover the rent arrears and an extra £50 so they could get some food. Their Christmas meals over the whole of the Christmas period consisted of only baked beans and potatoes, all they could afford. Hopefully this money will help them get straight with their rent. We discovered they now have some proof of income, so hopefully the relevant authorities can be satisfied and they can begin to get on with their lives together.
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 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 22, 2016
We were contacted about a man in his forties who had suffered two strokes earlier this year, leaving him with speech and memory problems. As he had only been working on a casual basis he wasn't entitled to any sick pay. He'd applied for ESA but his forms had been lost and his claim closed in error, meaning he'd received no benefits payments since July this year. Also he was on the point of eviction as his housing benefit hadn't been paid. Our agents have managed to get his housing benefit put in place and also have made inroads into getting his ESA payments paid again, but this is unlikely to be paid until the New Year, leaving this man with no money for food over the Christmas period or for utilities. We agreed to send across £100, and hopefully some of his faith has been restored.
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 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 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.