By Meike Beckford, Previous Lead Director
Benefits that are affected
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
“Permitted work” is allowed up to:
• £140 per week and under 16 hours
• £140 per week for any hours for “supported permitted work”. This applies if you are supported by an organisation (like a Local Authority) that supports disabled people to work.
You may also be eligible for Access to Work funding if you are doing permitted work.
Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA) and Incapacity Benefit follow the same rules for permitted work as ESA.
This also follows the same rules as ESA for permitted work.
Your benefits will be reduced once you earn over £20 per week. For every £1 you earn over £20 you will lose £1 of your benefits.
There will not be any limits to the number of hours you can work, but the amount of Universal Credit you get will reduce as you work more:
• £292 per month (if you get housing costs with UC)
• £512 per month (if you do not get housing costs in UC)
Above this amount you will lose 63p of Universal Credit for every £1 extra you earn. This will be taken off automatically.
The amount you work does not affect your housing benefit, but your income and savings do affect it. Permitted work earnings usually don’t count as income (only the first £20 if you get Income Support).
If you keep ESA or Income Support, you are likely to keep Housing Benefit, but you should check.
You must tell Jobcentre Plus and the Local Council before volunteering or starting work, even if it is permitted.
Working Over 16 Hours
If you work over 16 hours per week you must tell the Jobcentre Plus and Local Council.
You will stop receiving Income Support or Employment and Support Allowance.
You may be able to claim other benefits and support including:
• Working tax credits
• Universal Credit
• Access to work: www.gov.uk/access-to-work
Working tax credits
* These are being replaced by Universal Credit.*
If you already have a tax credits claim, you will usually work:
• at least 30 hours
• at least 16 hours if you are disabled, over 60 and/or have children
How much you can get in tax credits and how much you can earn from work depends on your circumstances, for example if you are disabled, or have children or a partner.
Voluntary work will not affect your benefits. It does not count towards your hours of “permitted work” under ESA.
You can only be paid reasonable expenses (like a bus fare).
• Current benefits: www.gov.uk/browse/benefits
o Universal Credit and work: www.gov.uk/universal-credit/how-your-earnings-affect-your-payments
o ESA and work: www.gov.uk/employment-support-allowance/eligibility
• Support on finding work if you are disabled: www.gov.uk/looking-for-work-if-disabled
• Help with moving from benefits to work: www.gov.uk/moving-from-benefits-to-work
• Find out what benefits you should be getting: www.gov.uk/benefits-calculators
• Disability Rights UK guide to working on benefits: www.disabilityrightsuk.org/work-people-living-disability-or-health-conditions
www.dosh.org ~ [email protected] ~ 0300 303 1288
Disclaimer – We have tried to ensure that the information in this document is
accurate. We will not accept liability for any loss, damage or inconvenience arising
as a consequence of any use of information – we always recommend you check with
the DWP or your local Job Centre Plus.
Version 6: February 2021.
Text © Dosh Ltd. 2018. Widgit Symbols © Widgit Software 2002-2021 www.widgit.com
Angela Atkin March 1st, 2021
Posted In: News and Blogs
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.
Meike Beckford April 28th, 2020
Posted In: News and Blogs
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
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.
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:
Meike Beckford August 22nd, 2019
Posted In: News and Blogs
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.
Universal Credit replaces current means tested benefits:
It does not affect:
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 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:
When you apply
The person getting benefits (claimant) or officially managing benefits for them (appointee, guardian or deputy) will need:
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:
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!
Where to get help
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.
Meike Beckford May 31st, 2018
Posted In: News and Blogs
By Meike Beckford, Financial Advocacy Manager for Dosh
Here at Dosh, we’ve been thinking about what it means to be an appointee for someone’s benefits. In part 1, we talked about the basics of what you have to do as an appointee. Now, we are going to give you some tips, as well as some warnings, about how to avoid problems and be a successful appointee.
|Check they are on the right benefits!
Don’t assume that the job centre or previous appointee has it all right. The benefits system is complicated and changes over time, as do the person’s circumstances, so what was right 5 years ago, may no longer be the best option. One of the most common changes we see missed is moving out of hospital or residential care – if the person moves into their own home, the family home or ‘supported living’, they can get more benefits than when they were in a care home. They won’t get these automatically though; you need to apply for them.
If someone isn’t very active and likes a simple life at home, it’s easy for their savings levels creep up. DWP won’t always ask you to report their savings, so you need to keep an eye on them and report them when they go over £6,000 (for working age means-tested benefits) or £10,000 (for pension age means-tested benefits). The DWP usually finds out eventually and if they’ve been overpaying they will take the money back, so it’s best to stay up-to-date. It also avoids you getting a £50 civil penalty for not reporting.
|Respond to letters
For example requests for savings information or an invitation to apply for PIP. The person’s benefits will often get suspended if the DWP doesn’t get an answer and it is a lot harder to sort out afterwards.
|Check who is actually appointee
If you are the official appointee, you should receive the benefits letters directly and you should be able to contact the DWP without the person having to give you permission each time. If you are not sure if you are appointee (or someone else is), ask for a BF57 – this is the form that the DWP send when you become appointee. Making sure it is official makes it easier to manage the person’s benefits and makes it clear who is responsible for dealing with the claim.
|Be confident about appealing decisions
With the volume of benefit applications and complicated rules the DWP deals with, it’s not surprising that mistakes and misunderstandings happen. If you’re not sure about the person’s benefit award, ask questions and get more information to make sure it is right. Speak to the benefits or job centre, look online, use a benefits calculator or get advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau or Local Authority.
|Use a Motability car effectively
Motability cars are a way for people on the higher / enhanced mobility rate of DLA or PIP to lease a vehicle, with adaptations if they need them. They can be a great way to help people get out and about, but at a cost of £58 per week, it’s important to make sure they are right for that person. Think about how much they are using their car – if it’s only one journey a week to the supermarket, would a taxi be cheaper? Also make sure they are the ones using it and getting the benefit, as it is their benefit money that is paying for it.
|Pay their fair share of joint costs
This can go either way, with some people paying nothing for fear of getting it wrong, and others paying for a whole group. Common sense should rule here – if they go for a group meal, they should pay for their share and if they are living in a shared house with family or friends they should contribute to bills and food they use. As a rule of thumb, what would you be happy someone doing with your money?
|Acting on the person’s behalf
Dealing with other companies can be tricky, as appointees are only authorised by the DWP – it is not the same as Power of Attorney or Deputyship so you don’t have authority to manage their bank accounts, mortgage or tenancy agreements. That being said, you are responsible for spending the person’s money for them, for example to pay their bills. If you need to deal with a particular company, explain your role and ask to speak to their disability or vulnerable customer team who may have more experience in this area. If they require evidence, you can send your BF57 to show you are appointee and if you have problems, you may wish to speak to your local Citizens Advice Bureau or other advice centre.
Appointeeship is a great way to ensure that people who can’t manage their own benefits still get the money they need to live their lives.
We hope these simple tips will help you stay on top of your role and be confident in managing their money.
Meike Beckford January 18th, 2018
Posted In: News and Blogs
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
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
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.
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:
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
|Middle Rate Care (DLA)
Standard Daily Living (PIP)
|High Rate Care (DLA)
Enhanced Daily Living (PIP)
|Low Rate Mobility (DLA)
Standard Mobility (PIP)
|High Rate Mobility (DLA)
Enhanced Mobility (PIP)
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
|Severe Disability Premium
|Support Group component
This means the most you can get in Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) has gone up from £186.90 to £188 per week.
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.
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.
Meike Beckford March 28th, 2017
Posted In: News and Blogs
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:
‘Advocacy is the process of supporting and enabling people to:
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
Meike Beckford November 29th, 2016
Posted In: News and Blogs
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
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.
Meike Beckford November 3rd, 2016
Posted In: News and Blogs