Many people who have a family member with a learning disability fear what will happen when they are no longer around to care for them.
This Blog covers some of the main things you can think about to help prepare for the future.
Creating a Discretionary Trust
Resources and support
Kerry Measures January 20th, 2023
Being Bettina’s Dad – Being a Carer – A blog written by our Managing Director, Steve Raw.
This is Bettina. Bettina copes with autism and a learning disability.
Bettina is our pride and joy.
Dozing on the settee after a hard day’s work my pager started to beep. I woke up and phoned my transport department. They had the call that Joyce was going into labour, and they were sending a vehicle round to our flat to rush me to Berlin Military Hospital (BMH). We were 10 months into a two-year tour of occupied Berlin, and it was still a couple of years before the ‘Wall’ was to come down.
Within a couple of hours our beautiful daughter Bettina had come into our lives. It would be another 18 months before she was diagnosed with severe autism and a learning disability, but that didn’t matter to us (and still doesn’t) she is our beautiful daughter and love is enough. Being Bettina’s Dad: When love is not enough to keep you Safe and Secure – Leadership in the Raw
As I write this article, I have just received an invite from MacIntyre Families @MacFamilies https://www.macintyrecharity.org/ to be interviewed for a podcast. MacIntyre Families work with “all families ,siblings and circles of support to ensure voices are being heard, understood & importantly working together.”
So immediately I started thinking of the answers to potential questions and writing an article I could share which may help other carers and people who have an interest in supporting people.
Joyce and I are super organised and from the moment we got together we started planning. Having two daughters was always the plan, although I must admit that being a parent carer was not in the action plan.
“Most things don’t work out as expected but what happens instead often turns out to be the good stuff” Dame Judi Dench
On reflection, and 35 years of supporting Bettina, Dame Judi was quite right that it does indeed ‘turns out to be the good stuff’. ‘B’ as she is often referred to by her family, has enriched our lives and has taught us on what is important and what really is unimportant.
How has she done this?
Part 1. “Everybody has plans until they get hit for the first time”. Mike Tyson
1992 was not our family’s best year. Both my mum and father-in law passed away within weeks of each other; I had a severe bout of flu at the beginning of the year, and Bettina was permanently excluded from school halfway through her first term!
Part 2. “Make up your mind that no matter what comes your way, no matter how difficult, no matter how unfair, you will do more than simply survive. You will thrive in spite of it.” —Joel Osteen
We thrived in spite of it:
Part 3 – “I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.” Audrey Hepburn
Five fun things we get from being a carer for Bettina:
A quote for Bettina’s family and all carers:
“When written in Chinese the word “crisis” is composed of two characters – one represents danger and the other represents opportunity.”
Thank you, Bettina, for giving us a lifetime of opportunities.
Bettina with her big sister, Jennifer, and her dad.
Woolacombe Beach 2022
Picture courtesy of Joyce Raw (‘B’s tiger mum)
Kerry Measures July 27th, 2022
By Steve Raw, Managing Director & Joanne Davies, Charityworks Graduate
With the start of the new financial year comes the opportunity to look back on what we achieved in 2020/2021 and to set out what we will set out to do in the coming year.
2020 was a difficult year for everyone, and it was no different for Dosh. We had to adapt to the new and challenging conditions that corona virus brought about.
Nevertheless, Dosh adjusted to life during the pandemic extremely well, continuing to advocate for the people we support and visiting almost 80% of the people we support every three months, whether online or in person.
Moreover, we continued to improve and expand Dosh, using our three strategic aims as our guiding principles.
Those aims were: to have an impact and make sure all our work makes a positive, valuable difference for people with a learning disability,
To keep strong values and to support people as well as make business decisions that fit with our values and vision.
To influence the world around us through partnering with other organisations to share our knowledge and experience as well as speaking up for the people we support.
Dosh did excellently in making sure that we achieved those aims.
In regards to having a positive, valuable impact, 92% of the people we support said they were happy or very happy with the support they get from Dosh. To see the full results from the annual survey, click here.
In regards to keeping strong values, Dosh took a two-pronged approach, introducing a “Dosh Values” course for new staff to give them a strong sense of what Dosh stands for. We also promoted the people we support’s individual independence and control over their money, with 87% of the people we support saying that they can use their money to do what they want.
In regards to having an influence on the world around us, Dosh provided consultancy and training for other organisations, including care providers, local supporters and advisors.
So now, building on our successes from the last year, Dosh would now like to make 10 new commitments. Our new commitments are:
10 Commitments for Dosh in 2020-2021
We will continue to exercise caution and control over our Budget and Budgetary management.
We will continue to review how we monitor, evaluate and report on our management accounts, so that we become financially stronger and more sustainable. Dosh will also consider Growth vs Consolidation during this business cycle.
We will be the leader in our field for Holacracy, self-leadership and team-leadership
f-leadership and self-organising teams to enable dynamic and flexible leadership, growth and development to be at the centre of our culture.
3. Financial advocacy
What does financial advocacy mean now? How do we act as financial advocates for someone?
During 2021 – 22 we need to continue to ask this question and check in with the people we support so that we continue to provide the support peo
ple want rather than what we think people want. How does that shape our external communications, the image we want to give and the research/projects/consultancy/campaigns we undertake?
4. Quality Assurance & Control
Knowing we are doing a good job and ensuring consistency and quality as we grow
We will review our quality strategy and introduce specific roles in the team to take a lead on managing and developing quality across Dosh.
5. Impact Measurement and Management
Knowing what makes a difference so we can have a greater impact
Dosh will develop its own impact management project to review and develop the positive impact we can have, alongside providing support and resources (both physical and equipment) to the Thera Group’s Impact Management strategy.
6. Financial and digital access:
Promoting better access to money for the people we support
We will look to create better access to spending money and cards for people we support who may not have capacity for banking/spending and inclusion in digital and online payments and spending. One of a number of research projects we will progress during 21/22.
How we communicate with our stakeholders.
With clearer/smarter data and information management we will find the best method, style and media to connect with people
Supporting staff wellbeing, diversity and engagement
We believe our employee wellbeing can directly improve the mental and physical health of the workforce, with general health being linked to increased levels of productivity, performance and retention and reduced absence. During this business year we will celebrate diversity, ensure wellness & wellbeing and active engagement with our colleagues.
9. Risk Management
Making smart business decisions and being well managed
We will develop our business and management policies and operational processes including when someone is no longer supported or passes away, how we deal with complaints and how we report our performance. This will give clear oversight so that we make conscious, clearly recorded decisions.
We will add value to Thera Trust
This will include:
To understand more about the Dosh 10 Commitments, watch our youtube video!
Angela Atkin April 6th, 2021
By Joanne Davies, Charityworks Graduate
When people think of Dosh they often think about our financial advocates who act as financial appointees for the people we support whilst also being an active member of their circle of support.
What most people don’t know is that Dosh also offers an account management service.
This blog post will talk about what the difference is between having an appointee and having an account manager at Dosh.
As mentioned in these blog posts written by Meike back in 2018, an appointee is a person or organisation that is registered with the department of work and pensions (DWP) to manage a person’s benefits if they lack capacity to do so themselves.
“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 responsible for spending the person’s money for them, for example to pay their bills.”
Dosh likes to go the extra mile and provide financial advocates, rather than just appointees. This means that your appointee also advocates for your best interests through being actively involved in your circle of support. Our advocates do their best to help you do what you want to do with your money.
Similarly, our account managers want to help you to do what you want with your money. But, they help you in a very different way.
Our account managers do not spend your everyday benefits money on your behalf. Instead, as outlined on this page, your account manager will support you to manage your care and support funding. This includes all types of self-directed supports, for example they will help you with your personal budget, individual budgets, Individual Service Funds (ISF) and personal health budgets.
Your account manager will receive your care and support funding from your local authority, or other funding body, and will use that money to pay your support provider.
Account management gives you the freedom to choose who you are supported by and in what way but takes away the stress of having to pay all the invoices on time.
So, let’s break down the differences
|What Dosh Provides:||Advocate||Account Management|
|A financial advocate who is part of your circle of support (if you want them to be)||Yes||No|
|Dosh managed bank account||Yes||Yes|
|A benefits assessment and help applying for new benefits||Yes||No|
|Applying for, receiving and managing your benefits||Yes||No|
|Setting up direct debits and standing orders for bills||Yes||No|
|Payments for holidays, invoices and other purchases||Yes||No|
|Receive payments from local authority or other funding body||No||Yes|
|Pay invoices for your support||No||Yes|
|Report to the local authority or other funding body on how the budget has been used.||No||Yes|
So, what is the difference between having a financial advocate and an accounts manager?
Contact Dosh to find out more about our advocates and account management to see what Dosh can do for you.
Angela Atkin March 8th, 2021
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:
Making sure all our work makes a positive, valuable difference for people with a learning disability.
Supporting people and making business decisions that fit with our values and vision, for example to promote people’s independence and control.
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.
Meike Beckford May 15th, 2020
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 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.
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.
Meike Beckford February 28th, 2020
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.
Meike Beckford February 16th, 2018
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.
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:
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.
If 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.
Meike Beckford January 8th, 2018
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:
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.
Here my top 5 tips for finding your passion:
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:
Meike Beckford November 29th, 2017
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.
Meike Beckford November 17th, 2017
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.
Meike Beckford November 16th, 2017
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.
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
Meike Beckford November 15th, 2017
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:
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.
Meike Beckford October 12th, 2017
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.
Meike Beckford November 7th, 2016