Ensuring Benefit Rights for older people.

by Ruth Potter in York, England, United Kingdom

We did it
On 22nd July 2020 we successfully raised £1,277 ( + est. £32.50 Gift Aid ) with 22 supporters in 41 days

We are raising money to ensure we have the resources to provide essential support to older people applying for the benefits they need.

by Ruth Potter in York, England, United Kingdom

We want to help...

Our clients are older people who may be isolated in the community. Our 30 volunteers provide a 1 to 1 advocacy support service for older people. The advocacy work of OCAY reduces loneliness and social isolation among older York residents by helping people access information and providing support in trying new ventures. We assist, through advocacy, people who are at risk of not receiving their full entitlement to welfare benefits and falling into poverty. Clients need emotional and practical help. OCAY can provide long term support. We deliver the service using person centred advocacy skills; active listening, empathic support of the client, client leading the advocate to ensure that their voice is heard. The advocates will support clients to find their way through their problem and to reduce the impact on their day to day living. The advocate will, whenever possible, pace the work to meet the need of the client whilst being mindful of any deadlines that need to be met.

Our idea.....

We want to expand our work to support more people over the age of 50 who are at risk of falling into poverty because they are not able to access the benefits system. Expanding our benefits advocacy project will help more people to access advice, receive support with making applications and attend benefits assessments, appeals and tribunals. As a service, we have seen a significant growth in the number of clients who need support with accessing the benefits system to maximise their income. In the 15 months between 1.4.15 to 30.6.16, we saw 71 clients. Between 1.10.17 and 30.9.18, we supported 100 clients, in 2018-19, we supported 118 clients and last year the number increased to 128 clients. The table below shows that Benefit cases made up 39% of of total cases in 2019-20.

We can support older people by providing information pertaining to different benefits, providing details of the benefit in question, how to apply, explaining the forms and what information is required to complete them. We give practical help by completing the benefit forms with clients, attending assessments, appeals and tribunals. This work often requires bouts of intensive 1 to 1 work with the client, preparing information to make a claim or working with the client to prepare for an assessment or tribunal. Advocacy is about helping individuals to speak up and engage in decision-making about their lives. By providing free advocacy support clients will be better positioned to address their often complex and time-consuming needs, have a more positive experience of the benefits system and get a better result so that they can secure the income needed to keep them out of poverty.

The table below shows the different types of benefits that we worked with last year.

The aim of this project is to continue to enhance our capacity to deliver comprehensive advocacy support to clients caught in the benefits system. We aim to support, through advocacy, people who are at risk of not receiving their full entitlement to welfare benefits and falling into poverty. Clients need emotional and practical support. OCAY provides emotional support to manage the stress induced by making claims, which can aggravate existing health difficulties at the root of their claims. OCAY provides the practical support to help with form filling and supporting at meetings as described above.

Our Impact.....

OCAY listens to and responds to our clients. When a case closes we undertake a feedback survey. This gives clients a voice in the development of the organization as the information gained is used to improve our service to clients. In 2019/20, 96% told us we improved their confidence, 99% stated that we helped them to remain living independently and 95% felt better for having worked with us.

Case studies

‘Client approached us to ask for support to make a claim for Attendance Allowance. The client was in her late eighties and lived on her own. She had a wide range of physical health issues. I met the client on 3 occasions at the OCAY offices and completed the application form for Attendance Allowance under her instruction. I sent off the form with supporting medical evidence. The application was successful, and the client was awarded Attendance Allowance at the lower rate, which is £57.30 per week. The client was very pleased with the outcome and gave particularly positive feedback.’

‘Client with learning difficulty, who was currently in debt, wanted support to backdate his universal credit claim by 3 weeks. I met with client on numerous occasions in order to get to know him and familiarise myself with his needs. I wrote an appeal, under his instruction, asking for the DWP to backdate his claim. The appeal was successful, and the client was awarded 3 weeks back pay in universal credit which amounted to approximately £900. He was very grateful for the award as it meant that he was no longer in debt.’

‘We supported a client who had a PIP assessment. The client had a range of physical and mental health issues. She was housebound a lot of the time and frightened of going out. Before the day of the assessment I helped the client to prepare by giving her information about what would happen on the day. I accompanied the client at the assessment and gave her moral support. The assessment was successful, and she was awarded standard rate PIP for daily living and mobility.’

 ‘Client came to us when she had her Employment and Support Allowance withdrawn and been found fit for work. Client had a range of severe physical and mental health issues. I completed an appeal application form under the client’s instruction. I then helped the client to prepare for the appeal by informing her of what takes place during the appeal tribunal. On the day of the appeal tribunal I accompanied her to court and gave her moral support. The appeal was successful, and the client was found to have limited capability for work and put in the Work-Related Activity Group. The client was also awarded £900 in back pay’.

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