Self-organising teams

Working for Dosh word cloud

By Meike Beckford, previous Lead Director for Dosh

This post builds on a previous post I wrote about self-leadership and here I will take you through an example of how team-level self-leadership (or self-organising teams) can be developed through a model called holacracy. I will share the experiences we have had so far in Dosh in piloting this in 2020 and the benefits I have found it can bring.

Overall, the principle of self-organising teams is quite a broad one, with the overall goal being for the team to manage, arrange and lead its own work. This ultimately builds on the idea that in our dynamic and fast evolving world, we cannot rely on the traditional approach of everyone repeating the same monotonous tasks on autopilot whilst leaving the thinking to one designated leader or the organising to one manager. As I mentioned in my innovation post over a year ago, no one person has a monopoly on knowledge or talent, and we are stronger when we involve everyone in contributing to the direction of the team. In addition, hierarchies can become slow and stifle innovation as they create an approval lag that means the team has to wait for a decision to go up the chain and pass back down before they can do anything. It therefore removes decision-making from those with the information and ‘live’ experience who cannot respond quickly to changing circumstances and needs on the ground.

Taking these processes and hierarchies away can raise some alarm bells of course – how do you stop it descending into anarchy, with everyone doing what they like, no overall direction, risk management or business planning? What about the team members? How do you still support, train and develop them if everyone is doing it themselves? It may be quite a scary concept, not only for managers used to telling people what to do, but for team members used to the security of someone else making the decision so they can just show up and carry out the day job.

This is where models like holacracy become useful, through a gradual adoption process that avoids the cliff edge that might risk a collapse into anarchy. Holacracy is an organisational structure based on creating holons, or circles (teams). Members document all the roles they hold (not just one overall job) and write the purpose and accountabilities of each one. These roles are visible to all and they are constantly evolving through a bespoke meeting and organisational structure that allows everyone in the team to develop the roles in response to what they and the organisation needs.

Having documented roles makes them explicit, transparent and gives a clear scope of authority to each – it takes away much of the misunderstanding about who is responsible for what and helps roles work together from a clear starting point. The structure (through governance meetings) for processing changes ‘holds space’ for everyone and ensures they each have a voice, but is skewed towards making changes by using the test of ‘will it cause harm’ (that cannot later be reversed) as the bar for objecting to a change. Thus, most things are ‘safe to try’ and the team (or circle) is empowered to give things a go and take responsibility for making (and reviewing) changes that will better enable them to achieve their goals.

The system distributes leadership and power across the organisation.

This is something we have trialled in Dosh in the last year, experimenting with the meeting formats and documenting the roles we fulfil. It has taken some adjustment but has brought a number of clear benefits:

  • A ‘refresh’ of roles by creating accurate role descriptions that reflect what people actually do day-to-day – this is open for all to see and has allowed us to address misunderstandings and discuss where tasks and responsibilities should fall, led by the teams when they spot something that doesn’t fit, rather than dictated by the manager.
  • Opening up team data through our regular tactical meetings. Teams are looking at how they are getting on at a team, not just individual, level, for example monitoring performance and capacity so that they can share workload across the team more effectively and be part of recruitment and work allocation decisions.
  • A sense of shared responsibility has developed from this, so that they are aware of how they are doing (and the competitive ones can compare themselves to other teams!) and support each other if someone is struggling. If something is blocking them from working effectively, they have a forum and the authority to deal with it themselves.
  • Pilot projects and new roles have emerged from these conversations, where the team have identified gaps – e.g. ‘we need a better way to quality check our own work’ and have implemented a peer checking project to try this out. Had this been introduced by management it might have appeared an imposition that creates extra work, or even a rebuke for poor practice, but as a team idea it developed into a tool for mutual support and development. This has strengthened our overall practice – showing again that many minds are better than one!

It has of course also brought its challenges, particularly the strange meeting format and terminology. People’s openness to the approach depends on where the team is in itself, so not all are ready to adopt at the same pace or with the same enthusiasm, but these obstacles can be overcome as we work on the system together, tailoring it to our own needs and developing it together so that everyone has a sense of ownership and control over our development.

For me, the biggest thing is that it reinforces and supports our existing culture and leadership practice where we all work together to achieve our overall purpose.

Whether your own team or organisation is already there, or this is somewhere you’d like to get to, exploring self-organising teams and holacracy might be the tool you need to find a turning point and build towards change.

 

Read more about Dosh’s leadership practice in Steve’s post on Leadership in the Raw.

To learn more about holacracy, try this video or read the founder’s book: Brian Robertson (2015) Holacracy : the revolutionary management system that abolishes hierarchy, London : Portfolio Penguin

 

Happy exploring!

February 8th, 2021

Posted In: News and Blogs

Tags: ,

Annual Review 2020 Results

By Joanne Davies, Charityworks graduate and Meike Beckford, Lead Director

 

The results are in for the Dosh Annual Review 2020 and they are excellent!

We asked all of the people we support, their support staff and families to complete a survey telling Dosh how we did this year. Almost 200 people replied with their thoughts and what they would like to see in future from Dosh. We asked you to tell us what you think about Dosh as a whole as well as lots of different parts of our service to see where our strengths lie and where more work needs to be put in to make sure you are getting the most out of Dosh.

The Annual Review results (which you can download here) show an overview of what you thought of Dosh’s work this past year. Here are some of the highlights:

  • 92% of people who responded were either Happy or Very Happy with the support Dosh offers.
  • 94% said Dosh kept their money safe.
  • 87% of people who responded said they were able to use their money to do the things they want.

“Manager xxx offers and recommends Dosh to all new clients and believes it offers best possible way for vulnerable people to have and look after money”

“I feel like [my advocate] knows me and understands me. But she will make sure I am not wasting my money unnecessarily which means my money is safe.”

“[My advocate] is amazing, she is very involved and makes people’s dreams come true”

  • 85% said their money plan included all the things they enjoy doing.
  • 85% of people who responded said Dosh sent them their money and paid their bills on time.
  • 85% agreed or strongly agreed that their advocates know them, their likes and dislikes

Learning from the review and what we do now

We also want to get better based on your feedback from the review.

“Bills paid and managed, budgets adaptive and person centred and maximising income means [the people we support] have money to enjoy life”

We know that payments and communication are working really well for most people, but we don’t get it right all the time so we could still get better. We have already increased the number of people working in our finance team, so they have time for everyone’s requests and we are reviewing our processes to help us make payments processes as smooth as possible.

We will keep working with you to make the Money Plan easier to understand and enable you to use it between visits and ensure you have access to this even when we can’t visit in person.

Our experience from the Coronavirus lockdown has shown how important online and card payments are and we are looking at new ways to enable more online payments and give people access to cards where needed if they can’t do this themselves. Our aim is to enable people to be as independent as possible with their money and be able to use money for the things they want. This means we will still support you to look at what options are already out there from banks etc. that would give you your own account. For those people that can’t manage this, we are piloting a debit card through the Dosh account and hope to be able to roll this out in 2021.

“[Our advocates] are lovely, they know [this person’s] likes and dislikes, speak to her with respect and never rush her”

As we have not been able to visit most people in person for a while, we wanted to ask how you had found remote support and what you would like going forward. Most people said they would like a mixture of in-person and remote visits. We will work with you in 2021 to test this and think about how we can still be financial advocates for everyone we support without seeing them so often.

 

You can download the full results here or read about our Dosh Promise to understand the standards we are working to.

 

December 8th, 2020

Posted In: News and Blogs

Tags: , , ,

Impact, Values and Influence: Our Strategy for 2020-21

By Meike Beckford, Lead Director

 

While we have been busy adapting our support to lockdown conditions with Coronavirus, we’ve been a little quiet on our other projects. We are now lucky enough to have our teams set up to work from home and in between continuing our core payments and advocacy work, we have been turning our attention back to our goals for the coming year.

When we started planning for 2020-21, we thought about what was really important in our work. How do we make a difference and achieve our mission to give people more independence and control over their money? We wanted to make sure that, whatever new opportunities and developments came our way, we remained focused on our core mission.

 

To do this, we came up with 3 strategic themes:

Strategy banner

 1.  Impact

Making sure all our work makes a positive, valuable difference for people with a learning disability.

2.  Values

Supporting people and making business decisions that fit with our values and vision, for example to promote people’s independence and control.

3.  Influence

Partnering with other organisations to share our knowledge and experience and speak up for the people we support.

 

We want to use this direction to help us make decisions about what we do over the coming year. How we decide which projects to take on, which areas to work in and how best to support people. So, this year, we’ll be asking:

Impact: how will this positively impact the people we support?

Values: how are we acting and what are we speaking up for?

Influence: how does this grow our voice to achieve our mission for people we support?

This isn’t something we can achieve alone, so we are excited to be working with our partners including the people we support and their families and circles of support; the over 200 support providers we work with across the country; social services and healthcare professionals; financial services and benefits agencies. We look forward to sharing our projects with you and welcome any ideas you’d like to share with us.

This is all working towards achieving our purpose to empower, give voice to and enable each person with a learning disability to be more independent and have more control over their money so they can live the life they choose.

 

Read more about our vision and purpose with the Dosh Promise.

 

May 15th, 2020

Posted In: News and Blogs, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , ,

Benefit rate changes for 2020

By Peter Smith, Financial Advocate and New Business Advocate for Dosh

April generally brings a review of benefit rates and this year is no exception. There is some welcome news for working age benefit recipients, and a one-off increase for Universal Credit recipients to reflect the current Coronavirus situation. Pension benefits continue to enjoy the ‘triple lock’, which means they increase by the most favourable amount calculated from three different elements. Let’s look at some of the changes, starting with working age benefits.

The then Chancellor George Osborne announced a freeze on the personal allowance element of benefits in 2016, but that has changed for 2020 and for the first time in five years the basic personal allowance element will increase by 1.7%. This change affects Jobseekers’ Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance (both personal allowances and the work-related activity component), Income Support, Child and Working Tax Credits, some elements of Housing Benefit and finally Universal Credit. You can see some examples of the increased figures on our benefits uprating poster.

For Universal Credit (UC) recipients only – so this does not apply if you are in receipt of any other benefit – there will be an additional amount of £20 per week, paid for the next twelve months until April 2021. As UC is actually paid monthly this means that the standard allowance for a person over 25 will increase from £317.82 per month to £409.89 per month. Other components of UC are also increased by 1.7%.

There is also welcome news for those who receive help with housing costs either via UC or through Housing Benefit. If you are subject to the limits provided by the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) – so if you rent from a private landlord, for instance – then the LHA will also increase by 1.7%.

This is also the first increase in this allowance for five years.

For pension age benefit recipients, then both State Pension and the minimum amount of Pension Credit increase by the triple lock figure, which for 2020/21 is based on the average earnings index, and brings an increase of 3.9%. Please see the uprating poster for some examples of what that means in pounds for Pension Credit. State Pension entitlements are all individually calculated, so people can have different amounts, but the full amount of the new State Pension goes up from £168.60 per week to £175.20.

Disability benefits like Personal Independence Payment and Disability Living Allowance have continued to be increased each year while the other benefits were frozen. This is also the case for 2020, and these benefits are also increased by 1.7%. Again, please see our uprating poster for some examples of the actual figures. This increase also applies to the disability premiums payable with some means tested benefits like ESA and Pension Credit, so they will rise too.

While most benefit increases lag behind the increases in earnings, it is good to see some relaxation of restrictions this year with the basic personal allowances and the LHA. Hopefully this will be of help to those who need it most.

 

If you are supported by Dosh, your Financial Advocate will include these increases on your next Money Plan.

If you manage your own benefit and want to check you are getting the benefits you are entitled to, you can use an online calculator: www.gov.uk/benefits-calculators or view all the relevant rates for each benefit at www.gov.uk/browse/benefits. For a more detailed review, Dosh can conduct a Money Check.

April 28th, 2020

Posted In: News and Blogs

Tags: , , , , , ,

Dosh support for managing your money during Coronavirus (COVID-19)

We have put together some information on how your support from Dosh will operate during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the UK and what we can do to help you buy the things you need.

 

Update 26/10/2020: We are gradually resuming some in person visits to people we support, where necessary. To do this safely, we are following strict risk assessment and review processes to ensure that everyone stays as safe as possible at this time.  We are restricting the number of visits we complete for now, so please bear with us while we make bookings as it may take some time before we can arrange to visit you. If you would like to request an in person visit, please speak to your Financial Advocate first.

Our aim continues to be to provide the best financial advocacy we can to each individual. We know for some people this is hard when we are not there in person, so we will prioritise those people to visit. If you are happy to stay with virtual visits for now, we can continue to do Money Plan reviews via phone and video call. If you need help accessing these, please let us know.

 

Dosh Advocates and office staff will continue to work and support you as best we can:

  • Your regular payments will go in and out of your Dosh account as usual
  • We are cancelling most in person visits and meetings
  • Please contact your Advocate by phone / email
  • Please request any extra transfers or online orders through your Advocate

We have some guides which you can download and we have summarised the main information below.

 

 

 

 

Options for getting cash and banking access

Speak to your bank and your Dosh Financial Advocate if you are worried about how you will access money at this time.

Some options you could consider are:

  • Request a debit card with contactless for your current personal account
  • Give others limited access to your account e.g. through an authorisation letter, or third party mandate. Speak to your bank about how to do this.
  • Look at a new account/card online e.g. prepaid card (Money Saving Expert guide here) or basic bank account (Money Saving Expert guide here)
  • Speak to your support provider about getting a cash advance, or company credit card
  • Use Dosh open credit (speak to your Advocate about this)
  • Ask Dosh Finance to make payments online e.g. for supermarket shopping and other delivery companies, or buy shop gift cards.

If you have any concerns about managing money at this time, please contact us.

For guidance from other Thera Group companies and more general resources on Coronavirus, please visit the Thera website.

 

March 17th, 2020

Posted In: News and Blogs

Tags: , ,

Your Money. Your Way. Dosh’s Financial Capability Workshops

FACET Cambs Group with certificates

By Michaela Le Bail, Project Manager and Financial Advocate

 

In 2018 Dosh Financial Advocacy received a grant from NatWest to deliver Money Awareness Training throughout the United Kingdom with a focus on the East of England.  The training was specifically for people with a learning disability aged between 18 and 30 and we also offered training to their main carers who could have separate training if they wanted or could attend the same training as the people they support. Thanks to the grant, we were able to offer this on a fee free basis throughout 2019.

The training was delivered by two trainers from Dosh to groups from one to 40 people, over 4 two-hour workshops and usually held somewhere familiar to the participants, such as their school or a local community centre.  The training aimed to build people’s independent living and finance skills and knowledge, as well as supporting people to become more confident around money. We wanted to make sure that there was a greater understanding of where money came from and how to keep it safe.

We discussed:

  • where benefits come from and the basics of benefit entitlement
  • how to make financial decisions, like deciding where to buy things from
  • how to budget
  • how to plan for the things you want after paying for all of the things you need
  • mate crime and who to tell should someone be taking money that shouldn’t be
  • how to keep safe online and avoid scams

 

Group at workshop

 

We used lots of different learning methods including lots of games with picture cards, creative activities, scenarios and sharing actual experiences, using questions, and giving key information in slides and learning booklets. We looked at generic bank statements to understand how to read them and then designed our own accessible ones! We also played games such as our Money Plan Game – this is a fantastic game with a really easy to read format which includes picture symbols (widgits) and it shows how to budget in an easy to understand way. This game is now available through our website at http://mymoneyplan.dosh.org/ and is free to use; it is a great way to learn budgeting.  We also have some free carers factsheets available which many of the carers found useful.

 

Many of the participants would have been easily scammed or financially abused before the training as they had not been shown what kind of things were not ok, whether it was from someone they already knew or a stranger. I feel that the knowledge they gained in this area will help many of them in the future not be in that position.

 

There was a huge variation in how much understanding the participants already came with and so we tailored each workshop to the ability of the group to make sure that everyone had the best chance to finish with as much new knowledge possible. Although it was quite detailed in some parts, we received lots of praise on how much had been learned by everyone who attended and most people looked forward to their sessions. We were lucky to be joined by The Quality Company who conducted a peer evaluation of the workshops.

They found that 87% of people said the course had taught them more about money and 73% felt they could make better choices with their money.

On the final workshop we gave certificates out to those who had attended all of the sessions – I have to say this was, by far, my favourite bit. Calling out people’s names and watching them walk up to the front to collect their certificates hugely proud of themselves for attending and learning.

It was like being at the Oscars!

We even had some people looking and waving back to the others and plenty of smiles, claps and hollers followed all around.

FACET Cambs Group with certificates

FACET Group with certificates

 

All in all we delivered the training to over 200 participants and their main carers, it was very worthwhile and we look forward to delivering more workshops in the future. Dosh provides training workshops for colleges, self-advocacy groups, carers groups, support providers and Local Authorities, from one-hour of money games, to a full day’s session on how to support people well with money, all tailored to the group’s particular needs. If you would like to know more about our training, please have a read and get in touch with us to discuss what you’re looking for.

 

We would like to extend our thanks to NatWest’s Skills and Opportunities Fund for providing the funding to deliver this project and all the groups that supported and attended our workshop sessions.

 

February 28th, 2020

Posted In: News and Blogs, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , ,

Find people who make you better

Dosh’s Managing Director for the past 10 years, Steve Raw, is moving onto a new post within Thera Trust and so we are saying a fond farewell, thank you and good luck to Steve for his leadership at Dosh. Meike Beckford is taking over as Lead Director from 1st November 2019 and is looking forward to working with the Dosh team, people we support and partners across the UK as financial advocates promoting people’s control and independence with money.

As Steve leaves Dosh, he has been reflecting on his time with us and has written this piece on surrounding himself with ‘people who make you better’. Here is his blog post on the subject, reblogged from www.leadershipintheraw.org.

 

I am interviewing our second candidate with Meike Beckford, Dosh’s Financial Advocacy Manager for a position with Dosh Ltd www.dosh.org  a company I have had the honour of being the Managing Director for over the last 10 years.  It is my turn to be asked a question by the interviewee and to be honest it is not one I was expecting.  “So what do you find is the best part of working for Dosh?”  My response comes to me immediately.  I say “it is reading the stories that my colleagues send me about how they have made a difference to another person’s life”  Before each Board Meeting each team member sends me a story about their most recent work and their involvement in supporting a person to have more independence and control with their money.  I always find their stories moving and inspirational.

The Dosh team come from a diverse background and they are totally committed and dedicated to people with a learning disability.  I am truly surrounded by talent and I will be a better leader and manager for this experience.  Working for Dosh has been the highlight of my second career.

How did that happen?

I started as a Community Support Team Leader (& Support Worker) supporting people with a learning disability, after retiring from the Army in 1996. I was inspired by my daughter Bettina (who copes with a learning disability) to enter this field of work.  I wanted to make a difference and I decided the best way to do this was to seek out the best people to work with and for.  If I was going to achieve success and be successful, I would need to surround myself with talent.  I knew from experience that doing this would make me better a person and a better leader too.

I subsequently became a Registered Home Manager, Area Manager, Operations Manager, Regional Director, and a Director of Learning Disabilities, before achieving my dream job in 2009 as Managing Director of Dosh (Financial Advocacy) Ltd a subsidiary company of Thera Trust.

If you have the ability to work with people smarter than you, always try to be the least smartest person in the room and surround yourself with talent, because iron sharpens iron.  Jake M Johnson

The purpose of this post is to share with you how I have personally benefited from finding people who have made me better and why this is a good thing to do.

Why should you endeavour to find people who make you better?

My 5 top reasons for doing this are as follows:

  1. You want to be the best person you could possibly be
  2. They will fill gaps in both your knowledge and expertise. You can’t possibly know it all.
  3. They will teach you new things.  In Dosh this has been a daily experience for me over the last 10 years.  I often tell one of my colleagues that every time I read one of her emails I am educated.
  4. They inspire you to do great things.   (As a leader you don’t always have to be the person inspiring).
  5. They stop you from being complacent.  Talented people have high expectations.  They expect something special from you, so it is important you deliver (every day).

How do you go about finding people who make you better?

  • Never stop talent spotting.  Even when I don’t have vacancies in a team I have been responsible for, I never stop looking for people who I would like to work with.
  • One Mentor is never enough.  Which areas of your life do you want to be better at?  Once you have identified these areas, find a Mentor for each one.

“I’ve got the attitude which I still have today that if I find someone that I really admire, someone that I think, I want to be you.  I want to do the things the way you do them.  I’ve always sort of been stupid enough or brave enough to go up to them and say, will you mentor me?” Rene Carayol – Businessman, Speaker, Author and Broadcaster

  • ‘Networking: it really is all about who you know’ my life has been enriched by the people I know and I have come to the conclusion that the success I have achieved in both my careers has often been due to the people I know.  My thoughts on networking.
  • Take the time to find out peoples gifts, qualities and interests they have.  I have found doing this, especially with Dosh Team members who have an abundance of talent and creativity, has made me a better person.
  • Seek out those people who have a stake in your company, they could be your ‘customers’ and or the people you support.  I talked about how Bettina has made me a better person in my blog the people I support have also made me a better person.  How they see the world and the hard work and determination to communicate their feelings is both humbling and inspiring.

“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” – Jim Collins, Good to Great

My 5 top tips on Talent Management

So you have found people who make you better.  How do you keep them close to you and involved in your life so you keep getting better because of them:

  1. Find out their aspirations and do your very best to help them achieve.
  2. Always put them before you.  (in my first career it was a sin if you went to the front of the queue for a meal – you eat last and sleep last)
  3. Go for democracy –   seek their advice, involve them in decision making, and then trust their judgements.
  4. Create a ‘culture’ (the way we do things around here) that people will want to be part and proud of.  https://leadershipintheraw.org/2016/03/01/the-culture-within-you/
  5. Part of that culture needs to recognise that failure and making mistakes can be positive and are there lessons to be learned from these.  You have a “no blame” culture and when you have that, it sets talented people free to be their most creative.

It happened

I found work that I was always meant to do and I got to do this for 10 years with Dosh.  From the 1st November (2019), I am moving to a new position within the Thera Group.  I will be their Head of Workforce Strategy and Engagement (the job title is still under negotiation as I type).  I feel fortunate to be given this opportunity as there is so much I want to achieve for people within my organisation.

As I handover to Meike our (excellent) new Lead Director and before I leave Dosh, I want to take the opportunity to thank the Dosh Board of Directors and each team member (past and present) for making me a better person.  I couldn’t do what I do without you!

November 1st, 2019

Posted In: News and Blogs

Tags: , ,

Summer Newsletter 2019

Welcome to the Dosh Money Pack newsletter for Summer 2019!

This edition of the newsletter was put together by Grace Calvert, our Dosh Financial Assistant.

Download the full newsletter to read all our updates and tweet us @DoshTweets or contact us to tell us what you think.

This is a quarterly newsletter and the next one will be out in the summer. If you have ideas for future newsletter pieces, please get in touch!

 

This edition includes:

 

 Dosh logo

The Dosh team

 

Dosh News

 support

Project 2000

 

Universal Credit update

WCAinfo and PIPinfo – benefits assessment websites

 cost icon - image of tag with picture of coins and paper notes

Supporting energy customers in vulnerable circumstances

 local authority

Council Tax guide

benefits

Support for Mortgage Interest Loan

PIP Benefits

 

Financial Advocacy in Action

August 22nd, 2019

Posted In: News and Blogs

Tags: , , , , , ,

Dosh Summer Newsletter 2018

dosh logo

Welcome to the Dosh Money Pack newsletter for Summer 2018!

This edition of the newsletter was put together by Lia Herbert, our Dosh Financial Assistant and Meike Beckford, Dosh Financial Advocacy Manager.

Download the full newsletter to read all our updates and tweet us @DoshTweets or contact us to tell us what you think.

This is a quarterly newsletter and the next one will be out in the summer. If you have ideas for future newsletter pieces, please get in touch!

 

This edition includes:

 

 Dosh logo

The Dosh team

 

Dosh News

 support

Help with PIP claims

 

Universal Credit update

 

New project launched: Your Money. Your Life.

 cost icon - image of tag with picture of coins and paper notes

Care charges explained

 

Dosh money awareness training

 

Financial Advocacy in Action

 

August 2nd, 2018

Posted In: News and Blogs

Tags: , , , , , ,

Getting ready for Universal Credit

By Meike Beckford, Financial Advocacy Manager for Dosh

Universal Credit is replacing some of the main benefits you and people you support receive.  There are some things you need to be aware of now and some actions to take to ensure you and the people you support continue to get the right benefits. Ignoring this now could cost them £1,000s and cause everyone more work later.

This is a basic overview to give you key facts. It does not include all criteria for Universal Credit and you should not rely on it as benefits advice for any individual person. This gives you some key highlights to help plan how to support people with Universal Credit.

Benefits

 

Key facts

Universal Credit replaces current means tested benefits:

  • Job Seekers’ Allowance (JSA)
  • Income Support
  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – income-related
  • Housing Benefit (except for social housing)
  • Working and child tax credits

It does not affect:

  • DLA, PIP, or Attendance Allowance
  • Pension Credit or State Pension
  • Housing benefit for people in ‘specified accommodation’: getting support at home and renting from a Housing Association, charity or non-metropolitan borough council (if you’re not sure, check the exact criteria for exemption)

 

Moving to Universal Credit

New claims for these benefits are now on Universal Credit.

People who already get the ‘old’ benefits, will be moved to Universal Credit in the next years under ‘managed migration’ – this protects their income so they won’t lose out – they will get a top-up if their Universal Credit award is lower than their old benefits.

Some people may trigger a Universal Credit claim earlier, in which case it is treated as a new claim and they don’t get any income protection.

who

 

Who it will affect

Once the area you live in is a “full service area” all new claims will go through the online Universal Credit system – you can check your area here: www.universalcreditinfo.net

Some people are likely to be affected earlier:

  • People who do not have an ESA (or other means-tested benefit) claim yet (e.g. people in transitions)
  • People who move Local Authority areas to a private landlord
  • People joining or leaving a couple where one person claims UC
  • People found fit for work (although this can be appealed)

 

When you apply

The person getting benefits (claimant) or officially managing benefits for them (appointee, guardian or deputy) will need:

  • ID – photo ID for the claimant like a passport or driving licence is best, but other (non-photo) documents are accepted. The person may need to go to a job centre appointment and answer some questions about themselves.
  • Email address – the claimant or appointee will need to apply using an email address and check this regularly
  • Online access to make and manage the claim

The person will be asked to sign a claimant commitment, for example to search for work. Make sure this includes any reasonable adjustments they need and if they have been assessed to have “limited capability for work” or “work-related activity” under ESA make sure this is transferred to Universal Credit. If they lack capacity to sign this, no-one else can sign on their behalf.

 

What to do now

Think about the support a person will need:

  • Do they need support managing post or filling in forms so they can respond to any letters about moving to Universal Credit? Make sure letters will be picked up quickly and support given to respond.
  • Do they need support to learn IT skills, get online and get an email address if they are going to manage their own claim?
  • Do they have capacity to manage their benefits? If not, they need an appointee (or guardian/deputy). You can tell if they already have an appointee by checking benefit letters.

If someone is planning to move, check if this will trigger a Universal Credit claim. Think about if it is a private landlord and change of Local Authority area. Involve their appointee early on to check this.

If you will be supporting someone new, particularly through transitions, ask if they already have a claim for ESA (or similar)? If not, a new claim for Universal Credit may be needed.

Look at what ID they have. Try to find documents like birth certificates, tenancy agreements and any photo ID while you have time. If they have nothing, think about applying for a passport, driving licence or other photo ID if you can.

Get benefits advice before starting any Universal Credit claim. Once it’s started you can’t go back to the old benefits!

support

 

Where to get help

  • If you have a Dosh advocate, speak to them about when Universal Credit may affect the person you support.
  • Dosh Money Check – speak to the Dosh office about getting a benefits assessment from Dosh which will include checking for Universal Credit
  • Look online at www.universalcreditinfo.net or www.gov.uk/universal-credit
  • Speak to local benefits advisors at the Local Authority or Citizens’ Advice Bureau.

 

Please note, while every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information provided in this factsheet, it does not constitute legal or benefits advice and cannot be relied upon as such. Neither Dosh Limited nor any other member of the Thera group of companies accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information given.

May 31st, 2018

Posted In: News and Blogs

Tags: , ,

Vote for Dosh to win funding for a new project!

We are really excited that Dosh has been shortlisted for the Natwest Skills and Opportunities fund! We have applied for funding to run a series of money and life skills workshops to young people with a learning disability.

Please vote for us to win in the ‘Midlands and East’ region!

Dosh believes that everyone should be able to use their money in the way they want, achieve their goals and live independent lives.

Moving to your own home, getting your first job, or planning the next stage of your life is an exciting and challenging time for any young person. ‘Your money, Your life’ will be a series of workshops across the Midlands and East of England to help young people with a learning disability become more confident with money.

Managing money can be complex and inaccessible, particularly when you have to deal with financial contracts, banks and the benefits system for the first time. These barriers can get in the way of young people with a learning disability developing the money skills and confidence they need to live independently.

Dosh workshops will make learning about money fun and friendly by using accessible tools and games to teach life skills like budgeting, saving and paying bills. Over the course of four workshops, each of the groups of young people will gain knowledge and confidence around money which will help them in their adult life.

Dosh wants people with a learning disability to have more control over their money so they can live happy, independent lives. We’re grateful to the Natwest fund for the opportunity to launch this new project and help young people with a learning disability at this key point of transition in their lives.

Group workshop

 But this can only happen if you vote for us, so please go to the Natwest Skills and Opportunities fund website and support us!

 

April 6th, 2018

Posted In: News and Blogs

Tags: , ,

Dosh Newsletter Winter 2018

dosh logo

Welcome to the  Dosh Money Pack Newsletter for Winter 2018!

This edition of the newsletter was put together by Lia Herbert, our Dosh Financial Assistant.

Download the full newsletter to read all our updates and tweet us @DoshTweets or contact us to tell us what you think.

This is a quarterly newsletter and the next one will be out in the summer. If you have ideas for future newsletter pieces, please get in touch!

 

This edition includes:

 

 Dosh logo

The Dosh team

 

Dosh News

 Account

Care and support funding

 

Measuring the impact of Dosh

 

Dosh Business Plan

 appointee

Becoming an appointee

 

Training from Dosh

 

Changes to benefit rates

 

Financial Advocacy in Action

March 19th, 2018

Posted In: News and Blogs, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , ,

Dosh’s commitments for 2018-19

Achieve

Dosh has been putting together our Business Plan for the next year: April 2018 to March 2019.

In our plan, we have written 6 commitments:

1.   We will show that people with a learning disability can lead our company
2.   We will make sure our systems and processes are ready to support more than 1000 people
3.   We will have a louder voice as financial advocates to make a difference for people through innovative research and ambitious projects
4.   We will develop new ways to support people with a learning disability aged 16-25 transitioning from child to adult services
5.   We will write a plan for Dosh from the point of view of people we support, building on the Dosh Promise to make sure we keep getting better at giving people the support they want
6.   We will keep growing steadily and make sure Dosh has long-term financial stability

We’re really excited about these commitments and our business plan and want to share them with you. We created a video that tells you all about them.

.

If you would like to talk to us about our plans, please get in touch.

February 16th, 2018

Posted In: News and Blogs, Uncategorized

Tags: , , ,

Being an appointee – part 2

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.

  • Care component of DLA or PIP. This is not paid if they are in a care home or hospital, so you need to tell the benefits centre when they move out so they can start payments for this.
  • Once you have this, you can then apply for the Severe Disability Premium on ESA. Speak to the benefits centre about applying for this as soon as they move (or ask for your application to be back-dated if they moved a while ago). There are lots of rules about who is eligible for this, so we can’t guarantee they’ll get it, but it’s definitely worth applying.
savings Report savings

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.

post 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.

appointee 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.

Car 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.

If you would like further information, read our appointeeship factsheet, or contact us to discuss a Money Check (for individuals) or Consultancy (if you are an organisation acting as appointee).

January 18th, 2018

Posted In: News and Blogs

Tags: , , , ,

Being an appointee

image of person getting money from purse

By Meike Beckford, Financial Advocacy Manager

Here at Dosh, we’ve been thinking about what it means to be an appointee for someone’s benefits. 100,000s of people across the UK have an appointee, many of whom are family members doing a great job for their relative without any training and only limited information. If you’re just starting on this journey, what do you need to do, know and have to be a successful appointee?

 

Firstly, what is an appointee?

An appointee is a person or organisation that is registered with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to manage a person’s benefits if they lack capacity to do this themselves.

Unlike a Power of Attorney, Guardian or Deputy, an appointee isn’t a legal authority over all of someone’s money; it just lets you manage their benefits. This can be great for people who only have benefits income as it’s much simpler and cheaper to set up and doesn’t take as much control away. It does come with its own challenges however; in particular when dealing with other companies to help them spend their benefits money and pay the person’s bills.

 

What does an appointee do?

Simply put, an appointee represents the person with the DWP. This means you do everything the benefit claimant would usually do, like filling out application forms, receiving benefit payments and reporting changes in circumstances. You are the one that receives benefit letters and is responsible for completing them. If that sounds scary, don’t panic just yet – there is plenty of help out there if you know where to look and we hope this article will help too.

 

Your main responsibilities are to:

  • Claim the right benefits – use benefits calculators, information on the gov.uk website and other advice websites to check what benefits are available and how to apply
  • Manage the transition from DLA to PIP – if the person you’re acting for has not already moved to PIP, they could be asked to move soon. Once you get the ‘invite’ letter, you will need to make the phone call and complete the assessment form to ensure they move over successfully. Read our article on PIP for more on this. In the next few years, you may also need to move over to Universal Credit.
savings
  • Report changes in circumstances – this is easy to forget about, but it is your job to proactively report changes. This means you can’t wait for the benefits centre to ask for their latest savings amount for example; if their savings have changed (over £6,000) you will probably need to report this. Other key things to report are changes of address, going into hospital and starting work. Reporting promptly means the person gets on the right benefits more quickly, you don’t have to pay money back later and you avoid a fine.
bank
  • Receive benefit money – to help make things as transparent and clear as possible, set up a separate account (some banks offer specific appointee accounts) for the person’s benefit money. This helps you to clearly show how much money they have and how they are using their benefits. Keep an eye on this account to check payments are going in regularly as you expect and monitor the amount saved in the account. Go to our banking pages for more help.
budget
  • Spend the benefits in the person’s best interests – this means considering their wishes and feelings and involving the people around them. Their benefits should be used to enable them to meet their needs and do the things they enjoy. Create a budget and make sure they can pay for essential costs like energy bills, rent and food. If they live in the family home, they can pay a contribution for their share of these costs. Keep receipts for big purchases especially, so you can evidence any big drops in savings

What else can you do as appointee? 

You may also manage the person’s Housing Benefit and Council Tax. To do this, you need to register separately with their Local Authority, but most will accept you if you can show you are already DWP appointee. Housing Benefit is often linked to other benefits like ESA and also requires you to report savings (over £16,000) so it’s useful to manage them together. If you’re managing Council Tax you can often get discounts for the person – such as the Severe Mental Impairment exemption that has been in the news recently.

CarIf the person has a Motability vehicle, you will also be responsible for this as the appointee. You must ensure this is used for the person’s benefit and is worthwhile – they are sacrificing nearly £60 per week of their DLA or PIP to have the vehicle.

 

So, that’s the basics. In part 2 we’ll talk about some of the most common questions we get and some of the pitfalls it is easy to fall into.

 

Return to our main blog page or home page

January 8th, 2018

Posted In: News and Blogs, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , ,

Dosh Newsletter Autumn 2017

Dosh logo

Welcome to the Dosh Money Pack Newsletter for Autumn 2017!

This edition of the newsletter was put together by Lia Herbert, our new Dosh Financial Assistant.

Download the full newsletter to read all our updates and tweet us @DoshTweets or contact us to tell us what you think.

This is a quarterly newsletter and the next one will be out in the summer. If you have ideas for future newsletter pieces, please get in touch!

This edition includes:

 Dosh logo

The Dosh team

  

Dosh News

   

Dosh’s 10th anniversary

review

Annual review 2017: The Results!

 

Housing Benefit in supported housing

 

Changes to PIP criteria

Car

Blue Badge Scheme – changes on eligibility under PIP

 Story

Financial Advocacy in Action

December 11th, 2017

Posted In: News and Blogs

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Dosh is 10 – love the job you are in

Steve Raw

Dosh is 10 years old today! The idea was born in 2007 that there was a different, better way to support people with their money. This focused on financial advocacy and putting people in control of their money and how this affects their lives. From this idea came Dosh. Since starting to support our first handful of people on 29th November 2007 we have grown to nearly 800 people today! We will be celebrating our 10th anniversary today and over the coming year – look out for a special anniversary newsletter in the new year, stories from people who joined Dosh in the early days and more celebrations. To start us off, our Managing Director for 8 of those 10 years has written about his passion for Dosh, some of his highlights and why he loves the work he does.

 

 

 

By Steve Raw, Managing Director for Dosh

LOVE THE JOB YOU ARE IN – OR WHY I LOVE WORKING FOR DOSH

Celebrating 10 years of financial advocacy for people with a learning disability

One of my mentors is my wife Joyce, we call her the Oracle.  Why?  Because she is always right. An example of one of her gems was back in 1996 when she said to me:  “Steve, you spend a long time at work so it is important you do something you love and enjoy” – that really focused me on deciding what I was going to do as I was being demobbed from the Army (my first career).

Fast forward to this week, on the train coming home from the Dosh Strategy Day in London, I had the best day, working with some incredibly talented, knowledgeable and experienced people on how we could support people with learning disabilities in the next 10 years, and I was buzzing.  I looked at my fellow commuters, I may be being unfair but they looked weary.   I detected the same weariness in the conversations they were having on their mobiles too.   For me though, this is a second career which has lasted 21 years so far and one that I am still incredibly passionate about.

For the last eight years I have had the good fortune of being the Managing Director for Dosh. I told Learning Disability Today magazine in their ‘Me and My job” series the following:

What would be your dream job?  “I am already doing it – I love what I do everyday”

What is your ambition?  “I reached my professional ambition when I became MD for Dosh”

So why do I love my job?  I enjoy being able to be involved in all aspects of our company and our support which includes:

  • Personally supporting a person with learning disabilities and supporting him with his Individual Budget; being part of his Circle of Support and being involved in all aspects of his life.
  • Building a winning team which is known for having a “can do” attitude and also seeking out and recruiting talented individuals to our company
  • Working with Support Providers (sixty at the last count!) and local authority care management teams – especially when I am asked to deliver a presentation (I love talking about Dosh)
  • Travelling – Yes I actually like doing all that driving across England, Scotland and Wales.  I get to see some amazing countryside
  • Project managing new opportunities.  We have just started a new project within Dosh as we gear up to support 1000 people looking at our current structure and  reviewing all our systems and processes.
  • Spending time with great colleagues.  Last Friday I was in the grounds of Bury St Edmunds Cathedral for a 1-1 with one of the team – what a way to finish the week!!
  • And the important part of being MD – Strategic Management.  Business Planning!  Thinking and planning our Strategic Direction which includes our growth, our marketing and the never ending challenge to do something completely different for our company and the people we support (at least once a month).

Doing stuff that you have a passion for helps you to maintain and have stronger mental health.  In your quieter moments, acknowledging that you are doing something that you are passionate about can give you a sense of well-being and contentment.

With passion comes a high level of enthusiasm for what you do.  I have found this to be contagious not only do your friends benefit, but also your family.

Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.

Oprah Winfrey

Here my top 5 tips for finding your passion:

  1. What do you have strong emotions for – make them visual so write them down, better still draw a picture for each one
  2. You need to find something that has a ‘purpose’:  will it make a difference in another person’s life?
  3. Think about what you are good at, would it pay you a living too?  When you have both, not only do you find your passion you feel successful.
  4. What excites you: what would make you get out of bed earlier than you really need to?  I fling the bed sheets back at 5am every morning, yep even the weekends I can’t wait to start my day and find out what www.dosh.org are up to.
  5. Dream big: “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” – Harriet Tubman

As a young 15 year old heading towards the Army Recruiting Office in Middlesbrough while my school mates headed in a different direction towards  their interviews for ICI Apprenticeships as Welders and Platers, I thought that if I didn’t love what I was going to do I wouldn’t be able to do it with much conviction or passion.  I felt the same way when I entered into the world of supporting people with learning disabilities.

There is no passion to be found playing small–in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.

 

See more about what Dosh has achieved and how we support people with:

 

November 29th, 2017

Posted In: News and Blogs, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , ,

Lynn’s story for #FinCap week

This is Part 3 of our series for Financial Capability Week. You can read Part One and Part Two to learn more about the work we are doing in this area.

Budgeting can be a really difficult subject for people with a learning disability, as numbers can seem really abstract. It takes a lot of mental steps to connect £10 on a piece of paper with a ten pound note with an understanding of what that can get you in a shop. Let alone thinking about ‘imaginary’ money on a bank card, what happens if you spend more than you have or how interest works!

For many people with a learning disability, the challenges of managing a budget are taken over by their support provider. Because money is an area where people could be very vulnerable to risk or abuse, many support teams safeguard people by having processes such as keeping their bank card and money in a safe, tracking their spending and receipts or only giving them a certain amount of money each day.

Whilst this ensures that people are kept safe, it stops them needing to learn, make mistakes or develop their independence around money.

Dosh has supported Lynn for a number of years and seen her develop her confidence and capability around money. In particular, we have encouraged her to build skills around decision making so that she feels in control of what is happening with her money.

We’ve done this by taking the different steps of making a decision – deciding you want something, looking at options, weighing up pros and cons – and breaking them down into more accessible steps. For example, when working out if something is affordable we use the Money Plan game. This is a really visual, accessible version of a budget where Lynn can move physical counters around a board and decide what she wants to prioritise.

In this way, making financial decisions doesn’t have to involve numbers. It also helps her think not only ‘do I have enough money’ but also ‘what decision will I not be able to make if I make this one?’ The Money Plan game has helped Lynn with everything from picking her weekly activities to deciding to save for a holiday.

Lynn’s support team have also worked with her to increase her independence with her bank card. She recently began to take responsibility for the card, keeping it safe in her room and taking it out with her. She uses the cash machine independently and buys things on her card so that she doesn’t have to worry about carrying large amounts of cash on her. This has also increased her independence as she isn’t relying on staff to ensure she has the correct change.

As Lynn’s story shows, there are lots of imaginative ways to use accessible communication techniques and pre-existing technology to increase people’s financial capability and independence. We don’t need to view budgeting in such a traditional way as only being based on numbers and spreadsheets. Financial capability can be about confidence, attitude, being supported to understand the steps involved in decision making, and many more things.

Rather than having a one-size-fits-all approach to the problems and solutions people with a learning disability face around money, we try to empower each person to set goals and find answers that work for them.

November 17th, 2017

Posted In: News and Blogs, Uncategorized

Tags: , , ,

Ben’s story of financial capability

By Maddy Hubbard, Dosh Financial Advocate in the North West

Part two of our Financial Capability week series, you can read part one here.

Dosh has been supporting Ben for a few years, in which time he has massively built his financial capability. When I first met him, Ben was just getting by on his benefits and found money very difficult. Ben agrees “when I first got Dosh support it was really scary to have extra money in my account. I always thought I was going to spend it straight away.”

Since then, Ben has made huge changes in his life and how he feels about money. With help from the Prince’s Trust he found a job which he enjoyed, before leaving work this summer to start on a university course. He said “in regards to university it’s great – I love it. It’s great to get up every morning and do something I really enjoy.” In that time, he’s made big steps in his independence. “I still find it really tempting to have all my money in my account, but I think about what I can get from my money in the long term and that helps me resist.”

“Having support from Dosh helped be become more independent, because before that I needed my mum to control everything so I didn’t spend too much. I really liked that my Dosh advocate was closer to my age so she understood where I was coming from, but she was always professional with me. Knowing it was her supporting me with my money made it seem more personal as well, rather than a company you called up who put you on hold and transferred you through to someone.”

I asked Ben what his tips would be for someone who was in a similar position to him, struggling with money and too scared to be independent. His main tip was simply “get a job and don’t spend it all!”, but when we talked about it more he said that the biggest help had been learning to budget.

“A year of working and not going out has really paid off. I’ve seen people spend lots of money when they start work or get their student loan in. Most people spend hundreds a week on alcohol when they go out. But when people spend so much partying, they are missing out on bigger experiences. The benefits of working hard on budgeting are that this year I can do everything I wanted to do.”

Ben’s hard work has certainly paid off, he is running his own freelance photography business whilst at university and has booked a trip to spend a whole month in Australia. Having got the basics of budgeting sorted, he is dealing with keeping receipts, managing his savings, understanding exchange rates – really complicated areas of money he would have felt overwhelmed by a few years ago.

Dosh supports people with a learning disability who have a wide range in their level of capacity around money. Some, like Ben, are working towards full independence and not needing Dosh support at all any more. Others mark smaller milestones to build their independence, such as recognising different coins or remembering their PIN number.

Whatever the person’s goals, we strongly believe that financial capability is a core part of being able to live a happy, independent life. Tomorrow in part three of our Financial Capability week series, we will tell Lynn’s story of feeling more in control of her money.

November 16th, 2017

Posted In: News and Blogs, Uncategorized

Tags: ,

Building financial capability – the Dosh way

""

By Meike Beckford, Financial Advocacy Manager

Originally posted at: http://blog.fincap.org.uk/2017/11/15/building-financial-capability-the-dosh-way/

Dosh supports people with a learning disability to be more independent and have more control over their money. For us, this is all about building financial capability, so we wanted to write something for #Fincap week to talk about what we have found that works.

Support with money for people with a learning disability can often be an after-thought. Understandably, the priority in social care is to ensure that people are healthy, safe and cared for first. This can mean however, that money gets missed until it reaches crisis point – someone’s benefits are stopped, their money is misused, or they are in debt and struggling to pay bills. We wanted to change that with our approach to financial advocacy. For us, this means involving people as much as possible with their money and tailoring our support to them.

So how do we do this? Here are three things we’ve found that work:

1) Local financial advocates

Our advocates go and visit the people they support personally to provide individual support with money. This means they get to know the person and their circle of support, they know what the person likes and can build a connection with that person. This stops us making arbitrary decisions about what is right for someone and allows us to build their budget around them. I supported a lady called Jane who loved to go to the salon and get pampered. Rather than assigning a ‘standard’ amount for health and beauty spending, we looked at her budget together to enable her to prioritise this spending as she got so much enjoyment from it. This meant she was able to go every 2 weeks for a good pamper! That was achieved by getting to know Jane and her support team, listening to them and creating a budget to suit.

2) Money plan game

Let’s face it, budgets are boring. Whilst some of us may enjoy an Excel spreadsheet, most people find it not only boring but often complicated and confusing. This gets worse when you add in a learning disability, mental health problem, or just complicated finances. A few years ago, we thought we could do better, so we created the money plan game. This is a budget in pictures that you ‘play’ with counters. We use it with lots of groups including people with a learning disability, families, support teams and social workers and they all enjoy it! In groups, people can decide how to spend their ‘money’ and debate whether they’re going to put more money on the pub or the café, which bills are important and how much to save. It lets us talk about prioritising – “Did you start by paying your bills, or did you go straight to the fun stuff?” and clearly shows the relative cost of things – housing is often the biggest ‘tower’ of money and seeing it represented like that makes the cost clear.

When we work with individuals we also use it, by adapting to reflect their actual budget. We can then show them how much they are spending relatively and talk about what is important to them – “do you want to put this counter on going to the gym or going to the cinema?” or “most of your money is going on your bills so you don’t have any left for fun things – do you think you could do anything to save money on those?”. It’s also a great way to deal with changes in income – “you now have an extra £10, do you want to put it in your savings or spend it somewhere?”. This works well in empowering people to make decisions even if they have limited communication, or struggle to read numbers – you don’t have to be spreadsheet-literate, you can point, draw and move counters instead.

Financial Advocate Maddy working with person at workshop

3) Supported decision-making

We are supporting increasing numbers of people who have some financial capability, but struggle when things get more complicated and abstract – spending ‘invisible’ money like a direct debit, buying things on credit, or planning something with lots of costs like a holiday. We have developed a way to empower people to make more of their own decisions in these areas, rather than just deciding for them. We ask them a set of questions such as “what are the good and the bad things about this decision?” and “how much money will you have left when you buy this?” to help them think through the decision and its consequences. This enables them to work out what will work best for them now and helps people learn good skills and habits around financial capability to keep making good financial decisions in the future. This is often supported by conversations with their financial advocate to think about their options.

So, for us, building financial capability is all about a personalised approach that uses different communication and money tools to help people understand more about their situation and make informed decisions. This isn’t something that only works for people with a learning disability either, many people find money confusing and would benefit from finding easier ways to make decisions and plan their budget.

To find out more about Dosh’s approach, or to arrange your own money plan game workshop, please visit www.dosh.org

 

November 15th, 2017

Posted In: News and Blogs, Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

Supporting disabled people into work

Although the majority of people with a learning disability want to work, only 20% of working age people with a mild or moderate learning disability and just 6% of people with a severe learning disability are in employment. Compared to 79% of the general population, this means a huge number of learning disabled people are being denied the opportunity to work.

The barriers that stop people from working can vary, but people with a learning disability often face issues such as:

  • Lack of self-confidence in their capability
  • Lack of opportunity to gain skills for employment
  • Negative attitudes or assumptions in the workplace
  • Lack of awareness of support available

The government is attempting to tackle employers’ attitudes and provide support through the Access to Work scheme. This can help employers make reasonable adjustments and support people in their job. But before they can make use of this, disabled people need to be given opportunities to learn skills, gain confidence and get the same opportunities as everyone else.

The story of Kate*, someone Dosh supports who recently started work, helps illustrate the many different types of support needed for someone with a learning disability to be able to work.

Kate found a job in a warehouse thanks to a scheme run by the Prince’s Trust. With their support, she was able to understand what employers were looking for, gain skills and meet companies who understood the value of disabled employees.

As well as the normal nerves everyone has before starting a new job, Kate had additional worries that she wouldn’t be able to cope with working full time or keep up with her co-workers. Kate was sure she would always fall behind, as she hadn’t see other people “like her” in the workplace.

Kate’s advocate helped her understand her right to ask for reasonable adjustments so that her work hours could be reduced to a manageable level. Dosh also helped Kate to learn new budgeting skills so that she could manage her wages and pay her bills. Finally, we helped her to apply for Working Tax Credit so that she was getting all the money she was entitled to.

However, Kate still felt like other people in her workplace judged her for needing this or felt like she was getting preferential treatment. It took a long time before she felt like they had got to know her as a person and saw her as an equal. However, eventually her colleagues recognised the hard work and persistence that made Kate a valuable employee and great co-worker.

Kate’s story shows that even when people with a learning disability manage to access work, they can still face additional barriers due to other people’s attitudes and assumptions. The challenge is therefore not only to give people the skills, confidence, opportunities and support they need, but also to change attitudes to disability more widely.

One programme attempting to do just this is Change100, a scheme run by Leonard Cheshire and Koreo (which also runs CharityWorks, a graduate leadership programme that Dosh partners with each year).

Change100 recognises the need to challenge the employment gap not only through opportunities for disabled people, but also through challenging our ideas about what disability is and what disabled people can do. Change100 does this through 3 month paid work experience placements with top employers such as Barclays, the BBC, Skanska and Lloyds, amongst others.

There are other organisations across the world doing interesting projects to address the disability employment gap that we could learn from. For example, the Danish company Specialisterne trains Autistic people to become high-value consultants for the tech industry. Instead of seeing autism as a barrier to finding work, they emphasise the value that come from including people who are not ‘neurotypical’ amongst the workforce.

In the UK, there are organisations such as Remploy and Mencap doing great work and campaigning in this area. Support providers have recognised for a long time that there is huge value to employing ‘experts by experience’ to design the best possible care and support. For example, 40% of Directors within the Thera Group have a learning disability.

However, we need to make sure that people with a learning disability aren’t just employed within the social care sector. Disabled people have a huge amount of value to offer any workplace and we need to fight for more and better jobs for people. Whether people start by volunteering at a local community centre or gaining confidence at a self-advocacy group, we need to make sure there are opportunities for people at every step of the way.

At Dosh, we hope to empower people to make the most of their life by having more independence and control over their money. This could mean helping someone understand how their benefits might change if they started work, or giving people opportunities to have a real say over how our support works.

We are currently recruiting for a (voluntary) Non-Executive Director with a learning disability for our Board, so if you or someone you know might be interested in taking on a new challenge then please get in touch to learn more.

October 12th, 2017

Posted In: News and Blogs, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , ,

Prepaid Funeral Plans – the pros and cons

From Maddy Hubbard, our Financial Advocate in the North West

Around 1.3 million people in the UK have bought prepaid funeral plans, based on the promise that they are fixing their funeral costs at today’s prices. Dosh supports many people who choose to buy funeral plans, so we wanted to do some more research into the pros and cons. Are people getting a good deal?

The positives of a funeral plan are that you can negotiate exactly the arrangements you want and pay for them now, protecting your loved ones from rising costs and ensuring that you get the funeral you choose. In the event of your death without a prepaid plan, it could take some time to arrange for money to be released to pay for funeral costs. Instead of having to deal with this hassle, your loved ones can contact a named Funeral Director who will already know your wishes and have arrangements in place.

That all sounds positive, so what are the cons? One consumer body recently investigated the sector and claimed that tens of thousands of people could be paying huge sums in agency fees and their families may be left out of pocket in the event of their death. Fairer Finance has argued for stronger regulation (see their report here), as some providers could go bust and leave people with no funeral at all. Also, lots of plans don’t cover certain types of costs such as council fees for grave digging, which can increase significantly over time and still leave large costs to be paid when you pass away.

Given these concerns, when buying a funeral plan you should look for a provider that is registered with the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA). That will give you more protection as providers which sign up have to agree to a Code of Conduct and you can report them if something goes wrong. Being part of the FPA doesn’t guarantee your money is safe, but if the provider fails then other members are part of an agreement to try and provide the service you have paid for.

Another question to ask is how much you are paying in agency fees, as you might find that a large proportion of some plans is going to middle men rather than towards paying for the funeral itself. Check that the plan includes all the things you want, including burial or cremation costs, a headstone or coffin, transport, Funeral Director fees and make sure you know which extras aren’t included and will still need to be paid for.

Finally, even if you are choosing a reputable provider you need to think if a funeral plan is the right thing for you. A funeral plan is a significant expense, often between £2,500 and £4,000, which you are choosing to pay now rather than have taken from your estate when you die. There may be other things you have to choose not to do in order to afford one, such as missing out on a holiday or on enjoying your money whilst you are alive. It’s important to remember that even if you die without enough money for a funeral, your loved ones can get a Funeral Payment from the state to cover basic funeral costs, so a funeral plan isn’t the only option.

Prepaid Funeral Plans can be a great choice which save people money and ensure that their wishes are followed, but before choosing one it’s important that you understand the pros and cons so you can make an informed decision. If you have more questions or want to explore if a funeral plan might be right for you then talk to your Financial Advocate.

September 28th, 2017

Posted In: News and Blogs

Tags: , ,

Dosh Newsletter Summer 2017

We have published the Dosh money pack newsletter for Summer 2017!

This edition of the newsletter was put together by Katie Scott, Dosh Financial Assistant.

Download the full newsletter to read all our updates and tweet us @DoshTweets or contact us to tell us what you think.

This is a quarterly newsletter and the next one will be out in the summer. If you have ideas for future newsletter pieces, please get in touch!

This edition includes:

 Dosh logo

The Dosh team

  

Dosh News

 

How to deal with debt and avoid it in the future

 

Are you paying too much for your utility bills?

 Cinema

Leisure village opens in Ely – what can it do for us?

 Benefits

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) tips

 Electricity

Do we need PAT testing in people’s homes?

 Safeguarding

The NHS Safeguarding app

Support provider

How we work with support providers

 Story

Financial Advocacy in Action

September 28th, 2017

Posted In: News and Blogs, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , ,

Dosh Newsletter Spring 2017

We have just published the Dosh money pack newsletter for Spring 2017!

This edition of the newsletter was put together by Katie Scott, Dosh Financial Assistant.

Download the full newsletter to read all our updates and tweet us @DoshTweets or contact us to tell us what you think.

This is a quarterly newsletter and the next one will be out in the summer. If you have ideas for future newsletter pieces, please get in touch!

This edition includes:

 Dosh logo

The Dosh team

 

Dosh News

 

Employing a PA: being an employer and automatic enrolment

 

The WaterSure scheme: have you applied?

 advocacy

Our award-winning Financial Advocate

 

Housing benefit eligible service charges

 

New benefit rates 2017-18

 phone

BT Basic

 

Financial Advocacy in Action

May 3rd, 2017

Posted In: News and Blogs

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Interview with award-winning advocate!

By Mike Kitcher, Financial Advocate for East Anglia

Our financial advocates work in partnership with over 60 different support providers across the country. One of our advocates in East Anglia, Mike, recently won an award from one of the support providers he works with – Thera East Anglia. The award recognised the great support he providers to local teams and individuals. Here we ask him a bit about the award and his work for Dosh.

 

What was your background before joining Dosh?

I was working for a support provider in East Anglia and also working with Norfolk County Council Housing Project with My Safe Home, assisting individuals with a learning disability to buy their own homes – 14 were eventually bought. Before that, l worked for Argyll and Bute Council working in the Mental Health team, Children’s Protection Unit and Community Service team.

 

What made you want to join Dosh?

I was working in a supported living house and the finances were not working out and money had gone missing from a supported person’s bank account.

I made a promise to myself that this would never happen again to anyone l supported

Quirky is fate because the very next week a part-time position was advertised from a company called Dosh. The rest is history.

 

How did you feel about winning an award for the support you provide in partnership with Thera East Anglia?

My first reaction was embarrassment of having to walk through an auditorium full of people clapping, with support managers giving me a standing ovation, and then go on stage to accept the award from the Chairman of the Board, the Managing Director and Service Quality Director, scary. Once the embarrassment had gone, l felt that the promise l had made earlier to myself had been kept, so I am feeling very proud.

Although the award has my name on it the award includes all the team in the Dosh office who do so much unrecognised by others that enables me to do what l do.

 

Tell us about a typical day as a financial advocate

Coffee, lots of coffee to start then into the filing system to check the post and plan any actions needed from the post, reply to any emails that have come in with either the answer or an appointment date. Then on the road, if a visit has been arranged. At this time I’m nearly overloaded with the new PIP forms needing completing in all parts of East Anglia. With Dosh annual reviews and money plans taking up a lot of the time at this time of the year, as well as visiting new people to support and new support companies, the time goes by quite quickly.

 

How do you see your role as a financial advocate? How do you advocate for people?

By applying simple rules. Making sure people have the right amount of money they are entitled too and to safeguard that money to make sure people can get the most out of life that is affordable to them. Would l, as an individual, accept what is being proposed to an individual with a learning disability? If not then l make sure l change it for the individual concerned.

 

What is the best bit about being a financial advocate?

Slightly odd answer first, it’s great to see the support teams being able to achieve what they want to achieve with individuals. This is brought about by making sure the funds are in place to achieve the hopes and ambitions of all.

 

What do you feel has been your biggest achievement with Dosh?

Oh that’s one for the people l support l think. But if pushed probably

making sure everyone l support has a good life with enough money to get the best out of life they can.

 

If you would like a financial advocate to support you or your team, have a look at our advocacy page or contact us directly. You can also read our blog on ‘what is advocacy?’ to learn more.

April 28th, 2017

Posted In: News and Blogs

Tags: , ,

Benefit changes 2017-18

Will my benefits change this year? Most benefit amounts have stayed the same for a few years, but from April 2017 some of them will go up. Here is Dosh’s guide explaining the changes:

 

 

Why do benefit amounts change?

The amount that people get in benefits often goes up each year in April because of inflation. Inflation is a word for when prices go up so money is worth less. Inflation means that in 2017 you can buy less for your money than you could in 2016. For example, a 2% rate of inflation would mean that something costing £1 last year would cost £1.02 this year. If you want to learn more, you can watch an accessible video about why prices go up over time.

Inflation means that to be able to afford the same amount of things, the money you have coming in needs to go up by the same amount as other prices are going up each year.

 

Why did benefits not go up last year?

The government chooses how much is paid for different benefits. They decided that working age benefits were going to be frozen (stay the same amount) for 4 years from April 2016. This means that pensioners will get more money each year, but people who are younger than retirement age will get the same amount from April 2016 to April 2020.

The government has decided that some benefits will still go up each year while most people’s benefits stay the same. Disability benefits are some of the benefits which have been protected. These benefits are:

  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • Disability premiums – the extra money you can get with some benefits for being sick or disabled
  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) Support Group component

 

How much will disability benefits change by?

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) are paid to anyone who is disabled. It doesn’t matter if you are in work or how much savings you have, you just need to meet the criteria and score enough points at assessment.

DLA and PIP will both go up by the same amount this year:

Old weekly amount New weekly amount
Low Rate Care

(DLA only)

£21.80 £22
Middle Rate Care (DLA)

Standard Daily Living (PIP)

£55.10 £55.65
High Rate Care (DLA)

Enhanced Daily Living (PIP)

£82.30 £83.10
Low Rate Mobility (DLA)

Standard Mobility (PIP)

£21.80 £22
High Rate Mobility (DLA)

Enhanced Mobility (PIP)

£57.45 £58

 

How much will income replacement benefits go up by?

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Income Support (IS) and Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) are paid to people who are not working. ESA and IS are benefits that replace earnings for people who can’t work because they are ill or disabled. JSA is also a benefit replacing earnings for people who are not in work and some people claiming it are ill or disabled. These benefits will not change for most people. The main part of the benefit, called the Personal Allowance, has been frozen and will stay the same.

Some people who get these benefits and are ill or disabled get an extra payment on top of their personal allowance called a premium. To be entitled to a premium you need to be in the Support Group or be getting a certain level of DLA/PIP, along with other conditions. These are going up this year by this amount:

Old weekly amount New weekly amount
Enhanced Disability Premium

 

£15.75 £15.90
Severe Disability Premium

 

£61.85 £62.45
Support Group component

 

£36.20 £36.55

This means the most you can get in Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) has gone up from £186.90 to £188 per week.

 

Are any benefits going down this year?

Most benefits are not going down. There have been some rule changes for the benefits cap which means that some people will get less money overall. But this does not apply to people who get disability benefits (PIP/DLA) or Carers Allowance. You can learn more about the Benefits Cap and find out if it applies to you on the DWP website and other advice sites such as Turn2Us.

There are also changes for people in the Work Related Activity Group for ESA if they have made a new application after 3rd April 2017. If you are already getting ESA in the Work Related Activity Group this should not affect you. You can learn more about the different ESA groups and the changes on the Citizens Advice website.

These changes will not affect everyone. If you think you will be affected then you should get more advice from Citizens Advice Bureau, your local Welfare Rights organisations, or from your Dosh advocate.

 

Where can I get help with my benefits?

If you have any more questions or are worried that you are not being paid the right amount, there are lots of websites which can help you. For example, Turn2Us, EntitledTo and Citizens Advice Bureau. You can find them and many more resources in the ‘Links’ page on our website.

If you support a family member with their money and benefits and would like to learn more, our ‘Factsheets for Family Carers’ cover topics such as ‘Benefits’ and ‘Where does the money come from?’ which could also help.

If you want to learn more about Dosh Appointeeship or Financial Advocacy, please get in touch to find out how we can support you.

 

 

March 28th, 2017

Posted In: News and Blogs

Tags: , , , ,

Moving to PIP: our top 5 tips

Financial Advocate Maddy working with person at workshop

By Maddy Hubbard, Financial Advocate for the North West

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a new benefit for people with disabilities and long-term health conditions. Many people currently getting Disability Living Allowance (DLA) are being asked to move to PIP and have to do a new application. We know that it’s not easy making a PIP application if you don’t have support. DWP statistics show us that 40% of people moving to PIP got a higher award, but 48% got a reduced award or no award at all. The number of people being asked to move to PIP is also growing so lots more people will be affected by this change soon.

At Dosh, we have been learning from each other’s experience, knowledge and skills to make sure we make the best possible application for each person we support.

Here are our top five tips

 

evidence

1. Supporting evidence

 

The best thing you can do to strengthen your application is to send as much supporting evidence as possible. Even if a report is 9 years old, if it backs up what you’re saying then you should include it.

Types of evidence you could use are:

  • Medical – MAR sheets, a doctor’s or consultant’s report, annual health check reports, professional assessments such as SALT
  • Care – support plans, risk assessments (which are particularly good as they have to think of the worst case scenario)
  • Personal – diaries, statements from family and friends

 

form

2. The PIP2 form

 

Once you’ve made an application over the phone, you get sent a PIP form in the post to tell the DWP about your disability and how it affects you.

This form is really important! Anything you talk about in the form has to be considered by the Decision Maker – more than your supporting evidence or what you say at the medical.

That means that if you say you have difficulty walking, but don’t explain it any more on the form, the assessor can make a decision based on their observations of you. But if you talk about additional difficulties of walking in low light, dealing with kerbs and uneven surfaces, these factors all have to be considered.

99% of the people Dosh support have stayed at maximum or increased their award, with the average increase being around £2,600 per year.

write

3. Descriptors and points

 

The PIP form includes a list of questions about everything from reading to budgeting. Each question has a list of answers and points, ranging from 0 if you can do something without help to 12 if you can’t do any part of the activity because of your disability.

Before filling out the form, have this list in front of you. You can find it online in lots of places. A website we find helpful is www.PIPinfo.net

Go through each question and decide which criteria you are arguing for, and how many points you should score, before you start filling out the form.

 

disability4. Explaining your disability

 

The main thing to hold in mind when filling out the form is the “and how it affects you”. Everything you say has to be about something that happens in day-to-day life at least 50% of the time and must be linked to your disability.

You need to show that because of your disability, you can’t do something ‘reliably’. By this they mean (one or more of) safely, repeatedly, in a reasonable time and to an acceptable standard. Explanations of these criteria are also on www.PIPinfo.net

For example, if you had never been taught to cook and so wouldn’t feel confident making yourself a meal from fresh ingredients (question 1), you wouldn’t score any points. You need to show that the reason you can’t cook for yourself is because your disability means that you can’t do it ‘reliably’.

 

Story no text5. Tell a story!

 

But our most important bit of advice is this. Don’t just say you can’t do something, tell a story!

The person reading the form will be a ‘Health Care Professional’, but they could be a physiotherapist, paramedic, or someone else with no direct experience of your illness or disability. You need to make it as easy for them as possible to understand your situation and give you the right award.

Anecdotes illustrate the difficulty you have with something, adding weight to what you are saying. Alongside that, stories can be used to show the worst possible scenario if something went wrong or you didn’t have the help you need.

 

We hope that by sharing our knowledge and experiences, more people will understand how to make the best possible application and get the right award. If you would like any more help with your PIP application or other benefits, try our money check or appointeeship and advocacy support.

We wish you the best of luck!

March 3rd, 2017

Posted In: News and Blogs

Tags:

Dosh Newsletter Winter 2017

We have just published the Dosh money pack newsletter for Winter 2017!

This edition of the newsletter was put together by Katie Scott, Dosh Financial Assistant.

Download the Dosh newsletter to read all our updates and tweet us @DoshTweets or contact us to tell us what you think.

This is a quarterly newsletter and the next one will be out in the spring. If you have ideas for future newsletter pieces, please get in touch!

This edition includes:

Dosh logo

The Dosh team

new

Dosh news

bank account

An update on Dosh transfer times

Benefits

Moving to PIP: our 5 top tips

Car

How many miles can I drive in my Motability car each year?

helpful

An introduction to short-term benefit advances

review

Annual review 2016 results

work

Working on benefits

happy

Financial advocacy in action stories

February 7th, 2017

Posted In: News and Blogs, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Annual review 2016 results

By Meike Beckford, Financial Advocacy Manager for Dosh

Between March and June 2016 we held an annual review. We asked the people we support and their families, support teams and care managers how we were doing. You can download the Dosh annual review 2016 results and read more about it here.

We were really pleased with the results overall. Almost everyone (97%) said they are happy with Dosh’s support. This includes people supported and circles of support.

“Since Jane has been [my brother] John’s* financial advocate there has been a huge weight off my mind. Jane is very supportive and explains things in a clear & concise way and supports staff to manage John’s money. Could not do without her!”

People said that we are meeting the Dosh Promise standards well, in particular keeping people’s money safe; people using their money to do the things they want and spending their money in the way they want.

People also said that we were good at being supportive, involving the people we support, getting to know them and being person-centred. This is a key part of what we do as financial advocates – we don’t just make sure the numbers add up (although we do do that!), we get to know the people behind the numbers and the lives they lead. This is why we co-created the Dosh Promise with the people we support. We support people to manage their money so that they can do what they want to do, achieve their goals and live happy lives.

From a social worker: “I believe that the support provided by Dosh reduces the risks of my client being financially exploited and also ensures that they are in receipt of their full benefit entitlement, whilst ensuring their savings are not detrimental to their benefits entitlement.”

There are of course also things we need to get better at and we’re always keen to improve the way we support people so this feedback is really important. Some people mentioned how quickly we process payments. In response to this, we have already got more people working on payments in our Dosh finance team and we have improved our standard payment times too.

We will also keep working with the people we support and their support teams to explain how we record decisions and make payments for bigger things. We use a best interest decision (BID) process with most people, if they can’t make the decision themselves. This protects the people we support and the people around them, but it can be a tricky process to get the hang of at the beginning. We are delivering more training sessions and workshops now to help people understand the BID process and help them get their BIDs cleared first time! If you’d like some training for your team, or want to know more about BIDs, please contact us.

Another team manager told us: “I am extremely happy with the service Laura* receives. Steph goes above and beyond, … [and] always ensures that she seeks Laura’s views and that Laura understands. She is person centred in her approach and Laura feels very comfortable with her.”

So, what’s next? We’re planning for our 2017 annual review now and thinking about how we can make our surveys and review process even more accessible. We want to hear from even more people and give them a chance to tell us what they think. We are also always thinking about how we can improve our support even more by improving our tools – for example our new financial profile that helps us get to know the people we support from the first visit.

If you would like to get involved in this or discuss your support from Dosh, please get in touch!

You can also download the results of the annual review 2016 here: Dosh annual review 2016 results

 

* Names of people we support have been changed.

January 25th, 2017

Posted In: News and Blogs

Tags: , ,

Myth busting direct payments

By Sam Fiske, former Finance Assistant for Dosh

In social care today, there are so many more possibilities for those who receive support than ever before. Today, if you want to have more choice and control in how your support is arranged, you can ask to receive your personal budget from the local authority as a direct payment. Having a direct payment means that you can pick who you want to provide your support to help you achieve your goals. If you choose, you can even employ a personal assistant. This means that you can choose support that truly fits you as an individual, your preferences, and the things you want to achieve in life.

Some people like what they hear about direct payments and the impact it could have for them and their loved ones, but they are worried about handling such large amounts of money and they are unsure who can ask for a direct payment.

Self-directed support is new and changing, and while everyone is still learning, we at Dosh believe it is a great opportunity for people to lead independent lives as they wish. We thought we would try to address some of the worries that people have and myths that seem to stick around.

Myth #1 “If somebody cannot ask for a direct payment themselves, then they are not allowed to have one”

Some people think that because an individual may not be able to ask for a direct payment (because of their disability or mental capacity); this means that they are not able to have one. This is not the case; all it means is that there are some extra steps that need to be taken. Even if a person is not able to manage the funds in their personal budget themselves, they can still consent to receiving them as a direct payment.

Your local authority should give you every chance to give your consent, by giving you support to understand information and using different forms of communication.

Once your needs have been assessed, the social worker of your local authority should lead a best interest decision process. This means involving you as much as possible and asking your friends and family and other people who know you well, what support you want. If it is decided a direct payment is in your best interests, a suitable person can agree to manage the direct payment for you.

Myth #2 – “If somebody has very complex needs, they will not be able to have a direct payment

The level of support somebody needs does not make a difference to whether they can have a direct payment. If somebody has complex needs, and cannot communicate their preferences clearly, they can get support to choose and manage their budget.

A friend or family member can agree to become a suitable person, which means they handle the funds in a direct payment for you. This comes with responsibility, so it should be somebody you trust. If there is nobody you know that is willing and able to do this, then organisations like Dosh can act as the suitable person. We will agree with your local authority to manage the money, we will open a separate bank account especially for your direct payment, and we will pay the organisations who provide your support.

You can use a direct payment to buy any kind of support, including a support provider, or a team of personal assistants to meet your needs. We support people to manage a direct payment who have 24/7 support and high support needs and it works for them.

Myth #3 – “The amount of responsibility and paperwork involved in having a direct payment means it’s just not worth it”

Managing a direct payment does involve responsibility and paperwork, but this should not stop you or a loved one getting a direct payment – because there is lots of support available. If you would like a direct payment but not the workload that comes with, you may have a friend or family member who is able to do it for you. There are also organisations like Dosh who can support you to manage the direct payment. We can do this for family members who still want to be involved but do not want to manage the money itself. This might also be for you if do not want to or cannot manage the direct payment yourself but still want to choose your support.

Myth #4 – “Receiving a direct payment will have an impact on the benefits I receive”

The money you receive as a direct payment is not counted as income for any benefits you receive, and so it does not affect any of your benefits. It is not considered income because there are only some things you can use the money in your direct payment to pay for. You can only use it to pay for care and support services that meet needs as agreed in your plan. If benefits are your main income for day-to-day living, you have nothing to worry about – your benefits won’t be reduced or taken away because of a direct payment. You may have to pay some money towards your direct payment, but this happens with all types of budget and support and should be affordable.

 

If you want to learn more about getting support with direct payments and self-directed support have a look at our account management page. Still got some questions? Phone us on 0300 303 1288, or email [email protected]

January 4th, 2017

Posted In: News and Blogs

Tags: , , , , ,

What is Financial Advocacy?

By Maddy Hubbard, Financial Advocate for Greater Manchester and the North West

Dosh is unique in providing advocacy specifically around money, but many people don’t fully understand what a ‘Financial Advocate’ is or what we do day to day.

‘Advocacy in all its forms seeks to ensure that people, particularly those who are most vulnerable in society, are able to:

  • Have their voice heard on issues that are important to them
  • Defend and safeguard their rights
  • Have their views and wishes genuinely considered when decisions are being made about their lives

‘Advocacy is the process of supporting and enabling people to:

  • Express their views and concerns
  • Access information and services
  • Defend and promote their rights and responsibilities
  • Explore choices and options’

From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advocacy

At Dosh we focus our advocacy particularly around money, which is an area where people with a learning disability have in the past been given very little independence or control. We think that being able to use your money in the way you want is a key step to having control over the rest of your life.

As Financial Advocates, we support and enable people to:

tellExpress their views and concerns

A really important part of my role is getting to know the people I support and listening to what they want. I do this by visiting regularly and taking the time when we meet to find out what is important to the people I support. I really enjoy getting to know a new person, learning how they like to communicate and becoming part of the team making sure they have a good life.

For some people, having someone outside of their family and day-to-day support team who is there just for them can be really empowering. Others might not be able to communicate or take part in every aspect of a decision, but their Dosh advocate can make sure that everyone who is important to them is involved in making big decisions so that we get the best possible option.

 

informationAccess information and services

During my time at Dosh I’ve learnt a huge amount about the benefits system, as well as other areas around personal finances such as money saving schemes and grants. By just supporting people with a learning disability, we have really specialised knowledge which helps us to get people the best possible deal for them.

We are also very persistent, working hard to make sure that people get everything they are entitled to. For example, one person I supported stopped claiming ESA because they had got a job, but I believed that they were owed money for a premium they should have been receiving. After lots of phone calls the DWP gave them almost £3,000 on the closed claim, but I was sure they were still owed more. Eventually, I got them an extra £3,500 on the claim, going back to what they were owed from 2014, which they will use to go on holiday to Australia!

 

RightDefend and promote their rights and responsibilities

Finances are an area where people can become nervous, wanting to safeguard and protect someone rather than give them real independence. At Dosh we help people build skills around finances, including budgeting, so that they can have more control over their money.

Some of the people we support find it very difficult to connect their short term spending with long-term consequences, such as not paying their bills. We want to give people independence, but also make sure they are not at risk, so for these people we can transfer a small amount of money every day to their personal account.

This helps someone feel independent and can help them learn budgeting skills whilst still being sure that their rent will be paid and their savings will be kept safe.

 

choiceExplore choices and options

I have found that having a Financial Advocate gives the people I support the opportunity and the space to think about the things they want and plan for the future.

Dosh advocates are not just administrators managing someone’s benefits, we are a part of their circle of support and we want to help them to live a good life. Together with their family, support team and others who are important to them, we can work to identify and reach their goals.

I love working for Dosh, because as a Financial Advocate I am here to help people with a learning disability to live happy, independent lives. If you think that is something that you would like then talk to us about how we can support you.

November 29th, 2016

Posted In: News and Blogs

Tags: , ,

I, Daniel Blake: a financial advocate’s perspective

I, Daniel Blake film poster

By Maddy Hubbard, Financial Advocate for Greater Manchester and the North West

I, Daniel Blake follows the story of a joiner from Newcastle who has to stop work due to a heart attack and encounters the benefit system for the first time.

The film follows Daniel through his “claimant journey” (to use DWP language) of applying for ESA, being told he is fit for work, and having to claim Jobseekers Allowance. In turns confused and frustrated by the system, Daniel is stuck between having to search for work to get his benefits whilst being told by his doctor he shouldn’t be working for the sake of his health.

The director, Ken Loach, is known for tackling contemporary social issues in a powerful, realist way, such as his 1966 film Cathy Come Home about homelessness. When it was released, it made many people change their mind about homelessness and led to the start of the charity Crisis.

I, Daniel Blake is another powerful film about our society, but this time Loach has focused on welfare and the benefits system. It has divided opinions, as some reviewers felt the film was unrealistic and made to make a political point, whilst others have argued that the film reflects many people’s experiences and that the government should change its policies.

Accepting an award for the film, Ken Loach said “film can bring us the world of the imagination. But it can also bring us the world that we live in. We must give a message of hope. We must say that another world is possible, and necessary.”

As a financial advocate who supports people with their benefits every day, I found some of the most heart-warming moments of the film to be when people took the time to really listen to Daniel and try to help him. These people included his doctor, one of the DWP work coaches and the benefits advisor who helped Daniel prepare his ESA appeal.

It is important for everyone to remember that they don’t have to go through the benefits system on their own. There are organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau that can help, free of charge, and plenty of advice websites including Turn2Us, Benefits & Work, and EntitledTo.

If, like Daniel, you are found fit for work and need to make an application for Jobseekers Allowance or Universal Credit, you should also bear in mind that like every other organisation the DWP is required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’. This could mean changes to how many hours you need to spend searching for jobs or other parts of your claimant commitment (the things you need to do to keeping getting your benefits).

Reasonable adjustments are a legal requirement to help people with a disability overcome the difficulties that are not faced by people who are not disabled. Reasonable adjustments can also be requested by other people, for example single parents who can’t look for work 8 hours per day as they need to pick their children up from school.

It is important to be honest and make sure that the Jobcentre knows about anything that will affect your ability to look for work. If you agree to a claimant commitment that you can’t meet then you will be sanctioned and your payments will be stopped.

This is where it can be really helpful to have an advocate in your corner. Someone who knows the system and can help you understand your rights and communicate your needs.

Many people would find it reassuring to have someone support them through their benefit claim, but for lots of people with a learning disability it is additionally important as many don’t have the capacity to understand what is needed to manage their benefits. This is where Dosh tries to help.

Dosh financial advocates support people using our considerable experience of disability benefits. We understand how benefits are changing and what the forms are really asking. We help people to complete benefit applications and ensure they are getting all the benefits they are entitled to, as well as challenging wrong decisions.

We can’t help everyone, but our mission is for people with a learning disability to have independence and control over their money. Getting the right benefits is a key part of enabling people with a learning disability to have a good life.

To reach out to more people, we share our experience and knowledge in other ways too. For example, we work with different groups and individuals to do research and create resources that can help people understand the benefits system. Our factsheets for family carers help families support their relative with their money and benefits.

We would love to work with more self-advocacy and family carer groups in the future, to provide talks about how benefits are changing or workshops to help people build their skills.

If you have an idea about how we can support you, please get in touch via our website or on twitter @DoshTweets.

November 7th, 2016

Posted In: News and Blogs, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , ,

Going the extra mile

Supporting someone to get the Right to Reside

By Maddy Hubbard, Financial Advocate  for Greater Manchester and the North West

James* is a young man with a learning disability that Dosh supports in the South of England. Most of the people Dosh supports have lived in the UK for a long time and are allowed to claim benefits, but James is Spanish and came to live in England four years ago. James had been to school in England, his father was British and his whole life was now based here. Despite this, when we applied for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) we were told that he didn’t have ‘Right to Reside’ and so wasn’t entitled to the benefit.

Right to Reside’ is a legal term about whether someone has the right to be in England and claim income-related benefits. It is decided based on if someone has worked in the UK and got ‘Retained Worker Status’. As James is not able to work due to his learning disability, Dosh were told that he was therefore not entitled to the benefit. Without ESA, James had to live on just Housing Benefit and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) which was making life very hard for him. James couldn’t afford to live a good life and was getting into debt.

Dosh worked with James’s social worker and his support team to challenge this decision. James’s Financial Advocate sent the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) lots of evidence about James’s learning disability. We explained that he wasn’t able to work, which was why we were applying for ESA, but proved that his father was British and that the UK was his home. The DWP responded saying that before they could look at information about his disability, James needed to pass the Right to Reside test so they couldn’t award him ESA.

James’s Financial Advocate then got in touch with their local Legal Centre and was given free advice by an Immigration Lawyer. The Lawyer explained how Dosh could appeal the decision and the evidence they would need to provide to the courts.  This was the first time Dosh had dealt with immigration law and it is very complicated. To put it simply, if James couldn’t get Retained Worker Status himself then we needed to prove that one of his parents was a European worker in the UK and had therefore passed it on to him. It wasn’t enough that his father was British, we had to show that he had lived and worked in Europe before coming back to the UK to work.

Dosh worked closely with James’s father to get the evidence together and make a case to the Department for Work and Pensions. We sent in the appeal and were expecting to have to go to a tribunal, but after only a week we got a letter from the DWP.

Eventually, almost a year after first applying, the DWP agreed that James should get ESA!

The decision means that James will get almost £10,000 as a backpayment of the benefit that he should have had this year and he will now have enough money to live on. His father said

“I can’t thank you enough for all the work and stress you have been through to achieve this. Apart from the fact cited in the letter, it was undoubtedly your incredible perseverance over the last year or so that has impressed the authorities.”

At Dosh, we will always go the extra mile for the people we support, even if it means teaching ourselves immigration law! If you would like support about this or anything else related to your money or benefits then please get in touch to find out how we can support you.

November 3rd, 2016

Posted In: News and Blogs

Tags: , , , ,

Dosh Newsletter Autumn 2016

dosh logo

We have just published the Dosh money pack newsletter for Autumn 2016!

This edition of the newsletter was put together by Katie Scott, Dosh Financial Assistant.

Download the newsletter to read all our updates and tweet us @DoshTweets or contact us to tell us what you think.

This is a quarterly newsletter and the next one will be out in early 2017. If you have ideas for future newsletter pieces, please get in touch!

 

This edition includes:

Dosh logo

The Dosh team

new

Dosh News

gifts

Giving gifts on someone else’s behalf

support

Paying towards the cost of your care

Payment

Who should pay for Personal Protective Equipment?

law

Making a will

hot

Warm Home Discount

choice

Why are we scared of SDS?

happy

Financial advocacy in action stories

November 2nd, 2016

Posted In: News and Blogs

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Why are we scared of SDS?

By Meike Beckford, Financial Advocacy Manager for Dosh 

A few weeks ago I attended a Highlands Brokerage Network meeting in Inverness and it got me thinking about self-directed support. We had a great discussion with lots of people from the Local Authority, care providers, advocacy organisations and housing providers with lots of positive ideas and input. We all saw the opportunity for SDS to put people in control of their own support and better enable them to achieve their goals and live the life they want. So why does it still feel so scary and difficult?

Self-directed support (SDS) is the umbrella term for types of care and support that are led and chosen by people themselves. It includes personal budgets, individual budgets, direct payments, Individual Service Funds (ISFs), personal health budgets and other types of budgets. That is of course part of the problem and we at Dosh spend a lot of time explaining all the terminology in our training and consultancy work. The amount of different legislation, from the 1998 direct payment regulations to the 2014 Care Act, also doesn’t help (although the 2013 Scottish SDS bill is a welcome piece of clarity). Ultimately though, I’m not sure this is the real issue, or at least not the biggest one. Much more, it’s our fear of the unknown and dislike of uncertainty.

At the brokerage network event, we were discussing what ‘brokerage’ is and had lots of different definitions. They included support to find services, managing SDS budgets, opportunities to transform support, creativity and community building, enablement… You may think that means we didn’t know what we were talking about, but I assure you we did! That is in fact the point – brokerage, and SDS more widely, is about all those things. In essence, it’s about values – empowerment, creativity and choice. People being able to live and lead their own lives with the support they need.

What I saw in the brokerage network discussion was these values coming through really strongly. In order to make SDS work we need to let these values and ideas flourish. We can get bogged down in working out the technicalities of how to commission services, fit with procurement regulations, or manage individual contracts. These are all things we need to think about, but without losing sight of the end and without losing all confidence in the idea.

If we focus on achieving flexible, personalised support for people, we can create the systems that enable that choice and encourage individuals and organisations to take up the opportunity it provides. After that, having different approaches and services around brokerage and SDS is surely a good thing, as long as we are clear what we are doing and people have choice in what services they want.

In our training to support professionals, we find a lot of people looking for the solution, the one answer that will make this whole SDS thing click into place. There’s a widespread feeling that everyone else knows more than us and has worked something out that we’ve clearly missed – there isn’t. There isn’t one magic answer and it isn’t without work, but if you’ve got the right values and aims then SDS can work. More importantly, it helps us all to provide people with the support they really want to live the life they choose.

Keep the principles in front and the rest will fall into place… and if you need a little support there are lots of people and organisations out there to provide advice, ideas and more formal support.

5 guiding principles for SDS

understand1. Be clear

If you are a support provider – what do you do? Ensure people can understand so they can make as many of their own choices as possible. This allows them to choose the right support for them in line with their goals and support needs.

choice2. Give people choice

The point is to give people choice so don’t regulate and restrict so much that you lose that.

 

unsure icon - image of a face looking concerned3. Be brave

New is scary, but it’s also not impossible

 

 Values4. Lead with your values

If you don’t lose sight of those, you’ll be going in the right direction.

 

In Print15. Focus on the individual

This is all about the individual achieving their goals with the right support, so talk to them and the people that know them. Think about what you do from their perspective.

 

We are always developing new projects, resources and support around SDS and we’d love to hear your ideas for what to do next. Get in touch to tell us how we can support you. You can also learn more about self-directed support in Scotland here: www.selfdirectedsupportscotland.org.uk

 

Written by Meike Beckford, Financial Advocacy Manager for Dosh

October 20th, 2016

Posted In: News and Blogs

Tags: , , ,