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 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
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
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
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.
Meike Beckford January 25th, 2017
Posted In: News and Blogs