By Meike Beckford, Financial Advocacy Manager for Dosh
Here at Dosh, we’ve been thinking about what it means to be an appointee for someone’s benefits. In part 1, we talked about the basics of what you have to do as an appointee. Now, we are going to give you some tips, as well as some warnings, about how to avoid problems and be a successful appointee.
|Check they are on the right benefits!
Don’t assume that the job centre or previous appointee has it all right. The benefits system is complicated and changes over time, as do the person’s circumstances, so what was right 5 years ago, may no longer be the best option. One of the most common changes we see missed is moving out of hospital or residential care – if the person moves into their own home, the family home or ‘supported living’, they can get more benefits than when they were in a care home. They won’t get these automatically though; you need to apply for them.
If someone isn’t very active and likes a simple life at home, it’s easy for their savings levels creep up. DWP won’t always ask you to report their savings, so you need to keep an eye on them and report them when they go over £6,000 (for working age means-tested benefits) or £10,000 (for pension age means-tested benefits). The DWP usually finds out eventually and if they’ve been overpaying they will take the money back, so it’s best to stay up-to-date. It also avoids you getting a £50 civil penalty for not reporting.
|Respond to letters
For example requests for savings information or an invitation to apply for PIP. The person’s benefits will often get suspended if the DWP doesn’t get an answer and it is a lot harder to sort out afterwards.
|Check who is actually appointee
If you are the official appointee, you should receive the benefits letters directly and you should be able to contact the DWP without the person having to give you permission each time. If you are not sure if you are appointee (or someone else is), ask for a BF57 – this is the form that the DWP send when you become appointee. Making sure it is official makes it easier to manage the person’s benefits and makes it clear who is responsible for dealing with the claim.
|Be confident about appealing decisions
With the volume of benefit applications and complicated rules the DWP deals with, it’s not surprising that mistakes and misunderstandings happen. If you’re not sure about the person’s benefit award, ask questions and get more information to make sure it is right. Speak to the benefits or job centre, look online, use a benefits calculator or get advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau or Local Authority.
|Use a Motability car effectively
Motability cars are a way for people on the higher / enhanced mobility rate of DLA or PIP to lease a vehicle, with adaptations if they need them. They can be a great way to help people get out and about, but at a cost of £58 per week, it’s important to make sure they are right for that person. Think about how much they are using their car – if it’s only one journey a week to the supermarket, would a taxi be cheaper? Also make sure they are the ones using it and getting the benefit, as it is their benefit money that is paying for it.
|Pay their fair share of joint costs
This can go either way, with some people paying nothing for fear of getting it wrong, and others paying for a whole group. Common sense should rule here – if they go for a group meal, they should pay for their share and if they are living in a shared house with family or friends they should contribute to bills and food they use. As a rule of thumb, what would you be happy someone doing with your money?
|Acting on the person’s behalf
Dealing with other companies can be tricky, as appointees are only authorised by the DWP – it is not the same as Power of Attorney or Deputyship so you don’t have authority to manage their bank accounts, mortgage or tenancy agreements. That being said, you are responsible for spending the person’s money for them, for example to pay their bills. If you need to deal with a particular company, explain your role and ask to speak to their disability or vulnerable customer team who may have more experience in this area. If they require evidence, you can send your BF57 to show you are appointee and if you have problems, you may wish to speak to your local Citizens Advice Bureau or other advice centre.
Appointeeship is a great way to ensure that people who can’t manage their own benefits still get the money they need to live their lives.
We hope these simple tips will help you stay on top of your role and be confident in managing their money.
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