Thursday, 5 November 2020

Q&A


Q: My income has reduced, can I claim anything?

A: Benefit entitlement depends on a number of factors including your household income, whether you have any disabilities or health conditions or whether you have made National Insurance contributions.

If you are unemployed you should consider a claim for Universal Credit which is a means tested income replacement benefit. You may also be entitled to non-means tested benefits which are based on your National Insurance record.

If you have a disability or health condition there are additional benefits which you may be entitled to such as Personal Independence Payment which is intended to help you to manage additional costs associated with your health condition. 

In addition, if you’re on a low income there could be other sources of support available such as help with council tax. If in doubt contact us for a full benefit check to find out what you might be entitled to.

 A-Z Advice 


B - Benefit Entitlement 

Many factors affect entitlement to benefits, even if you think you're not entitled it's worth checking. For any information or help regarding this please contact our advisers on 03004568437 or on our website www.nedcab.org.uk

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Our campaign to bring about change to the Personal Independent Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) system

This year at Citizens Advice North East Derbyshire we are campaigning to raise awareness of the issues with Personal Independent Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), with the aim of bringing about change to the current system.

One of our roles at Citizens Advice is to provide support to people entitled PIP or ESA, and we have witnessed increasing numbers of people who are struggling with the claims process. It is not uncommon for us to hear from clients who have been reduced to tears during the assessments and the whole process has a serious impact on the mental health of claimants with existing mental health problems, many of whom describe feeling suicidal due to the experience.

 

There are several main problems with the current system:

1)     *  Both PIP and ESA assessments involve a medical assessment carried out by a third party contracted to the DWP, and these ‘Health Care Professionals’ (HCPs) are the source of many of our clients’ problems with the process. The major issue is the frequent disparity between the report produced by HCPs and our clients’ experiences in the assessment. Our clients often tell us that issues have been overlooked, exaggerated or misconstrued, and claimants are often made to feel as though they are in the wrong or lying about the severity of their condition. Resultantly, reports end up failing to provide an accurate reflection of how a condition effects the claimant.

* We also have concerns regarding the process for challenging and appealing unfavourable PIP or ESA decisions. The initial stage, called mandatory reconsideration, often feels like a pointless exercise designed to reduce the number of people take complaints further. We have found that in the majority of cases, a full reconsideration is not given. This means that the original decision is usually left unchanged.

* It can take as long as six months before an appeal is heard due to the backlog in the tribunal service. During this time, our clients have severely reduced income, driving them into debt and poverty. Clients frequently have to rely on food banks and charitable assistance because there is no quick resolution to their problems, and this can result in a deterioration to their health conditions, particularly in the cases of those with mental health problems.

 

The Department for Work and Pensions must improve the current system. We are appealing to our local MPs to bring attention to these problems in the House of Commons and bring about change to the PIP and ESA system, which will make a real difference not only to the lives of our clients in North East Derbyshire, but to claimants all over the UK as well.

 

 

 

 

Monday, 2 November 2020

A-Z Advice

 A-Z Advice (A)


Attendance Allowance 

Attendance Allowance is a disability benefit paid for people over state pension age regardless of income or savings with two rates of payment depending on the needs of the claimant.

For any information or help regarding this please contact our advisers on 03004568437 or on our website www.nedcab.org.uk

Monday, 26 October 2020

Q&A: Redundancy


Q: I have been made redundant but my employer is advertising my old job, was my redundancy fair?


A: Redundancy is when a job no longer exists; this may be for a number of reasons, for example if the employer needs to restructure and the job is abolished, new methods mean that the position is no longer required, or the employer changes the work they do. Employers must do what they can to avoid making staff redundant; this includes offering employees at risk of redundancy an alternative role within the business.

If a role is the same as, or similar to, one which you were performing you may be able to claim unfair dismissal because it may be the case that the employer failed to find you alternative work rather than make you redundant. 

It is possible that the circumstances within the company have changed since the redundancy took place, which meant that the redundancy was genuine at the time but the company are now able to take on additional staff. 

Regardless of how long you were employed for you should always ensure that you were not made redundant because of discrimination (based on race, age, sexuality, disability or other protected characteristics), if you are concerned that you were you should challenge the redundancy and consider a discrimination claim.

Before beginning an employment tribunal claim you need to speak to Acas (www.acas.org.uk) to start the early conciliation process. 


Want to ask us a question? Follow this link to our Q&A form! https://forms.gle/Lm6KjunEzdCLzkQ79


Friday, 23 October 2020

Black History Month - Helping Ugandan Asian refugees in 1972

For Black History Month, we are highlighting the great work done at a national level by Citizens Advice in the past.  The following article was originally published in 2018 by Sue Edwards of Citizens Advice national office.



In August 1972, General Idi Amin, the then president of Uganda, ordered the expulsion of the Asian minority population of Uganda. As many were British citizens, Idi Amin insisted that the UK Government help him with the expulsion. In the end about 30,000 came to the UK.

We were asked to help meet planeloads of refugees at Stansted Airport to help them with documentation and ensure that they had a roof over their head. The first flight, which arrived on 17 September 1972, was full of people who had been subjected to harassment, maltreatment and theft on the way to Entebbe airport. They were in a state of shock when they landed.

During the first days over half of the refugees arrived with the intention of proceeding to private destinations and the CAB teams had to find out whether families could be collected, if they had enough money for fares and enough English to enable them to travel independently. Most of the planes arrived in the early hours of the morning and many of them were full of people who were in a state of shock, so it was hard and stressful work.

For example,CAB workers had to meet people from a plane which had been loaded with passengers and luggage at Entebbe when the Ugandan authorities objected to something concerning the last family who should have joined the flight. All the passengers and luggage were taken off the plane and searched again with consequent delay. On another occasion the women and children were all put on one plane and the men were held and then put on a second plane, with the result that the women were completely hysterical with fear on their arrival.

One of the CAB workers who helped at Stansted said, "These were people who had been frightened and intimidated, lost their homes and possessions, often their businesses and livelihoods, many even told of being stripped of their personal jewelry. We tried to make the bureaucratic process as human and as friendly as possible - just CAB on a large and concentrated scale.”

Many refugees ended up in resettlement camps where other CAB workers were involved when they arrived. CAB workers in camps in Lincolnshire found most urgent need was for maps. “These people had been snatched from their homes, transported across continents, bundled into coaches and trains, and now they wanted to know where they were!” British Rail supplied rail maps - useful for workers to point out relative position of camps and where their relatives might be living.


Black History Month: My Story by Maisie, aged 17

 As a person of mixed race ethnicity (my dad is black and my mum is white) I have experienced racism throughout my life; probably not what you’d expect however. Through my personal dealings with prejudice and general negativity towards the colour of my skin I’ve learned that racism isn’t straight cut, it comes in many forms and effects more than just the person with the darker skin it’s being thrown at.

The most noticeable and frequent situation I have found myself in is the negative opinion many people carry towards my mum when they see us together. I can see people staring at us with disgruntled eyes and disappointed frowns as if the fact a white woman had a child with a black man is an issue of her lack of self-respect. This is not the case, if you believe this awful preconceived idea please try your best to let it go and understand that mixed race children are not a result of a ‘tacky’ women and ‘lesser’ man letting go of morals and respect. It may sound dramatic but it’s true, because of me simply existing people hold my mum in a lower regard. Sometimes people can’t even bring themselves to believe I’m her biological daughter; assuming she adopted a disadvantaged child from a life destined for nothing very impressive.

The assumption I am not my mum’s biological child has always hurt me. At times I’ve felt as if I’m not good enough to be wanted, mostly though it just leaves me confused- no one doubts the legitimacy of my biological relation to my dad so why is it a difficulty to accept and understand when it comes to my mum?

If a person was to ask me how racially motivated negativity affects me personally I would have to say guilt. People’s stereotypes that influence the respect they have for my mum ultimately makes me feel guilty because in their eyes it’s my fault that they can’t respect her. You see racism isn’t just shouting abuse or throwing punches it can be more.

In school whenever topics of race are discussed all eyes are on me. It’s never enjoyable to be stared down for any reason and trust me this equally as horrible. I understand there is no malicious intent but it makes me feel as if my personality traits, interests and opinions are not the things that define me- my skin tone is, because no eyes are on me when my favourite film is brought up. It’s as if what makes me who I am is stripped away and gone unrecognised because the only important fact is my ethnicity. It makes me feel like just another one of many, I’m not an individual. I want to be more than the person who’s ‘allowed’ to answer the questions.

I know a lot of what I’ve spoken about has been in the past tense but that’s not the case. I experience these few of many acts of prejudice often and I don’t expect it to stop but I hope that with everything happening at the moment for the Black Lives Matter campaign the less known problems can be unsurfaced. At the end of the day everyone in and connected to the black community simply wants to live their lives with equal respect, consideration and opportunities; I included.

Friday, 16 October 2020

Black History month: Citizens Advice's policy work on racism in the benefits system in the 1990's

For Black History Month, we are highlighting the great work done at a national level by Citizens Advice in the past.  The following article was originally published in 2018 by Sue Edwards of Citizens Advice national office.

One of the things that the Black Workers' Group was keen to do was to ensure that our policy work better reflected the  diversity of our clients.  So in 1991 we published "Barriers to benefit - black claimants and social security".  This was a time when the DSS was rolling out the Benefits Agency to administer benefit claims, and they had just published a set of standards that they expected all Benefits Agency offices to meet.  

Our report aimed to establish whether there was any direct or indirect discrimination in service delivery and design of social security. An analysis of our evidence found that black clients might not not be receiving full entitlement and encounters with social security system were often distressing and humiliating. Some DSS offices didn't have any interpreting facilities, making it particularly difficult for claimants who didn't speak English as their first language.  Where there were no interpreting facilities, claimants sought advice from the local CAB.

Our evidence indicated that delays in processing benefit claims also occurred because the DSS sometimes lost black clients' files due to incorrect use and understanding of their names.   We also noted negative attitudes to black people by appeal tribunal chairmen and wing members.

Finally, we highlighted that some parts of the benefits system had specific and identifiable impacts on groups of black claimants eg discretionary nature of the social fund; restrictions to IS for 16-17 year olds, levels of payment of income support to asylum seekers, availability for work rules for income support/unemployment benefit. 

Our influencing work didn't end with publication of the report.  For some years afterwards, we had regular meetings with senior officials at the Benefits Agency where we raised the issues which we highlighted in this report.  For example, in early 1993, we were asked to attend the Benefits Agency’s Ginger group set up to raise equal opportunities issues affecting both BA staff and clients to discuss what progress BA had made in the treatment of BAME claimants in the two years since we published Barriers to benefits.  We felt that there had been some good initiatives at local level, but there was no national strategy to improve services. Amongst issues discussed included the use of translators and interpreters, and Language Line.  On a positive note, Benefits Agency stated that they were intending to organise a conference on the use of interpreters. 

Monday, 12 October 2020

Q&A: Change in Working Hours


Q: My employer has told me that they need to halve my working hours.  Do I have any choice about this?  Will I be entitled to any benefits?

A: The first thing to do is check your employment contract; your employer can’t change your working hours unless there is a condition in your contract which allows them to. If there is nothing in your contract the employer must negotiate with you to come to an agreement. You should also ensure that the change you are being asked to make is fair and reasonable and that you aren’t being singled out. You are not obliged to accept a change but there is a risk that if your employer is struggling to pay wages they could decide to make you redundant.

Any benefit entitlement depends on a number of factors such as your expected income if you accept a reduction in hours (and therefore pay) and any other household income; benefits such as Universal Credit take income of partners into account as well as any pension income and some other benefits. It is therefore important that you get a full benefit check which we can help you with at Citizens Advice North East Derbyshire. We can also tell you how to make any appropriate claims and guide you through the process.

Once you know what your income is likely to be after a reduction in wages you will have a better idea of whether you could accept a change to your work hours. If you’re in a union speak to your rep, they’ll also be able to help you to negotiate with your employer and ensure that any changes are carried out correctly.

Want to ask us a question? Follow this link to our Q&A form! https://forms.gle/Lm6KjunEzdCLzkQ79

Friday, 9 October 2020

Black History Month: Citizens Advice's benefits policy work in the 1980's highlights the impact of welfare reform on BAME clients

For Black History Month, we are highlighting the great work done at a national level by Citizens Advice in the past.  The following article was originally published in 2018 by Sue Edwards of Citizens Advice national office.



In the 1980's we started to do a lot of policy work on benefits - it's hard to believe this now, but at the time, we had hardly done any before. This was a time when the Government was considering wide-spread reform of the means-tested benefits system to speed up processing of claims and save money.  In 1983, a new housing benefit scheme was introduced, causing a great number of people to seek advice from us.  London CAB wrote a report in 1987 about long delays experienced by supplementary benefit claimants in getting their claims assessed by London DHSS offices.  And we responded to the consultations on benefit reform, lobbied Parliament during the passage of the 1986 Social Security Bill through Parliament and monitored its implementation in 1988.

The 1980's were also a time when NACAB (the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux) was actively trying to meet the needs of BAME clients and attract BAME volunteers and workers to the service.  In 1986, we adopted and implemented an anti-racism policy for the first time. This seems to have had an impact on the Information Retrieval/Policy Comment Team at NACAB too - because our responses to the various papers on social security reform and evidence reports on benefits start to mention our concerns about the specific impact of the reforms on black people.

For example, our response to the Green Paper in 1985 highlights our concerns about the proposals to tighten up the presence test in the benefits system which would affect BAME clients the most.  Kings Cross CAB pointed out that the local Bangladeshi community would be affected as many go to Bangladesh to visit family every 2 - 3 years.  They often stay out of the UK for at least 3 months. 

In 1990 we published research about the impact of the discretionary social fund one year after implementation.  This was based on a survey of over 1,500 CAB clients who sought advice about the social fund.  The research found that 10% of the sample were from BAME backgrounds - a higher proportion than in the general UK population at the time.  We highlighted our evidence that people whose first language was not  English were particularly disadvantaged when applying to the social fund for a community care grant, as they were less likely to present a good case as to why they needed a grant.  We recommended that the social fund application form should be simplified and both the form and explanatory leaflets should be provided in appropriate community languages.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Universal Credit Scam Alert

There are reports of some fake sites appearing and operating claiming to be Universal Credit Claim sites.

Genuine Gov.uk only 

Only apply online using https://www.gov.uk/ and in ‘search’ type “apply Universal Credit”

Or use https://www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit

DO NOT USE ANY OTHER WEBSITE TO APPLY! 

New claims 

Whilst making your new claim which is divided into sections, under the Account Details section - you will only be asked for your bank account, sort code, number and name of account holder as it appears on bank card.

If any other details are required – this is not a genuine UC claim website or application.

Advance Payments 

These can only be applied for online using your own personal journal and account. You should know your own username, password and security information – NEVER share these or write them down.

Only access your online account via https://www.gov.uk/ with the address: https://www.gov.uk/sign-in-universal-credit

UC WILL ALREADY HAVE YOUR BANK ACCOUNT DETAILS so you will not need to enter them.

REMEMBER 

UC, DWP or JCP WILL NEVER ASK YOU FOR:

  • the long number on your bank card
  • three-digit number on the back of your card


These would allow other people to use your card online for purchases. This would not happen during a genuine Universal Credit claim or appointment.

NEVER give your account details out by telephone. If you are asked for your account details:

  • Refuse
  • Look up the number on the internet (you can search for your local Jobcentre here: https://www.gov.uk/contact-jobcentreplus)
  • Call the department or agency back using a genuine number to report issues of attempted fraud
Genuine numbers to call back:
UC Helpline 0800 328 5644 or use https://www.gov.uk/contactjobcentre-plus

Monday, 2 March 2020

NED News Adviceline: Spring 2020

Case Study (Claire)

Claire approached us for help to deal with her debts. She had a number of priority and non-priority debts which needed to be addressed, but due to a combination of physical and mental health conditions she had been unable to face the problems herself.

Priority debts are those where action taken by the creditor could result in eviction (for rent or mortgage arrears), disconnection of energy supplies or imprisonment. Non-priority debts do not have these potential consequences, so it is always most important to address priority debts first. Priority debts are not always as high as non-priority debts (such as credit card arrears) but have much more serious consequences. We therefore needed to help Claire address these priority issues to prevent further action being taken against her.

Whilst we were gathering information, we contacted priority and non-priority creditors to request a hold on any collection or enforcement action to provide time to fully explore all of Claire’s options. We discovered that Claire had made an application for Personal Independence Payment (a disability benefit) but had been unsuccessful. As part of our efforts to increase her income we helped Claire make a new claim which was successful, she was awarded £120 per week with a backdated payment of £2,800.

After an assessment of Claire’s debts and income and expenditure our debt advisers determined that she would be eligible to apply for a Debt Relief Order (a form of insolvency). Our debt advisers made a successful application which resulted in Claire’s debts being written off. Claire’s priority debts totalled approximately £3,000 and her non-priority debts were almost £7,000.

Since receiving help Claire has said that her mental health has been much improved and that she has had to have fewer visits to hospital as a result. The write off of her debts has given her a fresh start and the increased income from PIP has made managing her household expenses much more affordable; she has got a budget in place and is able to ensure that bills are paid on time. The PIP award also means that she is able to afford to get out of the house which also benefits her mental health.