Universal Credits

Preventing the mental health spiral resulting from Universal Credits

Alterations to the benefits system has resulted in many struggling to cope with changes in Universal Credits. One of the most vulnerable groups to be affected by this are those with mental health conditions.

Unable to deal with the new system, many fail to complete forms correctly or on time, dropping them to minimum payments, resulting in a spiral of worry, unpaid bills, failure to collect benefits, refusal to open mail, the need to rely on food banks, and mental crisis.

 

With our support, we break that damaging pattern, providing both help and advice, including access to our Personal Independent Payment (PIP) and benefits adviser who also assists with Disability Living Allowance, Employment Support Allowance and Universal Credit, navigating the confusing waters of the benefits system to ensure that our clients get the benefits they are entitled to, helping them on their road to recovery and independence.

 

Assisted by our friendly and helpful team of one-to-one assistants, we check that our clients are on top of the basics. We give them the confidence to open and respond to mail, a vital part of any move towards independence.

We check that our clients are on top of the basics

Unlocking Universal Credits

In cases where Independent Living West Country helps clients access Universal Credit, we find that few are able to cope with the process themselves. Some may be IT illiterate while others struggle with the depth of information required in a digital age. It’s not uncommon for our PIP and benefits expert, Jacob Lewis, to receive texts forwarded by clients perplexed by the system.

It's a complex process. First, you need to apply for a work capability assessment. Once done you're placed in to one of four different groups. It is not uncommon for clients that are simply incapable of work to be placed into the wrong category. In this case, Jacob steps in to appeal the decision.

 

For those clients that are incapable of work, Jacob assists them by completing and uploading sick notes and arranging meetings with their Work Coach to explain why the client is sick and shouldn’t be working.

 

This results in Jacob receiving a Work Capability Assessment form, enabling him to explain at length the medical issues that prevent his clients from being able to work. This, in turn, results in his client being invited for a medical assessment, which can take 4-5 weeks, while the client remains on a lower band of benefits.

 

Jacob then needs to present evidence – letters from doctors, specialists, family and friends to create an iron case, which will typically result in the client being put into either a ‘No Work Required’, or ‘Limited Capability Work’ group.

To find out more about how Independent Living West Country could be helping you, a member of your family, or a client suffering from a mental health condition, contact our helpful team today.

Once all that is done, Jacob takes a further step by applying for benefits to be paid every 2 weeks as opposed to a lump sum each month, as many clients spend the money without budgeting, leaving them in financial difficulty. Requesting payments every two weeks helps spread their money across the month. Jacob also requests for landlords to be paid directly to prevent issues with accommodation. Again, this requires a separate process and a further form to be completed.

 

“Applying for Universal Credits is a very complicated process and you have to be diligent, which most clients with mental health conditions are not,” says Jacob. “And there are additional complications too.  

 

“If you’ve paid National Insurance and earnt more than £120 per week for the last two tax years you can receive New Style Employment and Support Allowance. It’s a fortnightly payment which can be claimed with Universal Credits if you are ill, but again, this has to be manually applied for. 

 

“It’s a maze of processes and can be a very confusing, so it’s no wonder that those with mental health conditions simply can’t cope. As a result, those in most need more often than not fail to get the benefits that should. We’re here to change that. It's all part of the service."

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