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.