In the UK, 20% of Britons live in poverty including 1.9 million pensioners. In Torridge, North Devon, this is compounded by high levels of social and fuel poverty as well as financial deprivation.
Can you imagine having to choose between paying your bills and eating?
Could you imagine struggling to cope with an illness or disability or caring for someone with dementia whilst worrying about how to afford to keep warm?
Sadly we see many cases of older vulnerable people who only have their state pension to survive on and barely existing, let alone living. This could very well be a family member or neighbour / friend of yours whose situation has been exasperated by Covid-19, as they now struggle to cope with increasing isolation and loneliness too.
We all know that being safe, secure and comfortable physically and financially is crucial to good mental health. Even more key when faced with a number of physical or mental challenges. Every day, our project works for people who face very tough decisions
Would you want a team like ours to step in and make their world a better place?
Of course the answer would be yes, you can support a project that turns this round and helps older people access £millions of unknown benefits, allowances and grants. With your help, we can.
**The amount of money awarded to clients through this project now exceeds £1 million over the past 3 years**
Age UK estimates that each year up to £3.5bn of Pension Credit and Housing Benefit goes unclaimed by older people in the UK, an average of £230 for every person aged 65 and over.
**We estimate there is nearly £4,000,000 in unclaimed pension credit and housing benefit in Torridge each year.**
What we do
Our project, Financial Inclusion, helps maximise income, benefit entitlements and provide access to grants for those of pensionable age often with complex health issues in an area of high social and income deprivation.
**In 2019/20, we received 205 referrals and made 299 applications for benefit help/checks, resulting in a total of £486,780 being given directly back to recipients.**
These include allowance uplifts, carers allowance, disability allowances (DLA/PIP), pension credit, housing benefit (discounts/exemptions), taxi vouchers, blue badges, and NHS travel claims. We also support with Fairer Charging claims and Home Choice applications and fill in all the paperwork.
We work in partnership with other agencies to ensure utility bills are checked/maximised, debt management, gain access grants including boilers, home repairs, water meters and fire home safety checks.
“Specialist face-to-face service…for vulnerable and isolated clients who are financially excluded. It is virtually impossible for these clients to access any similar service.” - referral agency
“I don't feel so frightened about not having enough and getting into debt when I need to spend money on only what I need. Thank you so much. With the extra attendance allowance I don't have to wait so long or not at all before I can spend for what's needed.” - client
Why we do what we do
We are a small dedicated team that believes passionately about improving people’s lives. Our Project Officer Denise was a nurse, she works part time and is supported by her manager, Amanda, and a small team of fantastic volunteers. All we achieve is through a true desire to help people, just like Mr X.
Sadly, Mr X had a stroke and was told that he was not eligible to claim for Disability Benefit, as he was fit and well prior to his stroke and did not meet eligibility criteria. He was signposted to one of our services which provides help at home and information on how to claim back travel expenses to his ongoing hospital appointments.
We got back in contact with Mr X to see how he was and it was clear that he was struggling with day to day living. After completion of a successful application for Attendance Allowance (state allowance), he was awarded the higher allowance rate which was also back dated. We suggested he contact the Pension Credit Department to inform them of his award, he now receives an additional amount in his pension credit for severe disability premium.
**After our work with him, Mr X now receives an additional £8,117 every year which means he can pay for transport to visit his wife who is in a nursing home and to keep his home together.**
It doesn’t just stop at helping people with their finances, we also help signpost people to other agencies/charities, giving them the chance to build a wider network of support.
We helped a woman who was struggling with her own mental health, and as an unpaid carer for her husband who has dementia. She was able to access Carers Allowance, get a Disabled Facilities grant for a bathroom adaptation and save on her water bill. Just as important, she was offered respite care through Devon Carers for 4 hours a week.
Why we need your help
We are a tiny team who provide a face to face service. Whilst in lockdown we have continued to complete applications, both face to face and via phone support.
This year, our funding runs out. We have had very supportive local funders in the past, however with the ongoing pandemic, the funding landscape has changed and become incredibly challenging.
“This is amazing news. All I do know is that your one 'phone call to DWP today has been life changing for me. You are doing a wonderful service, and I can't thank you enough. It means so much to me.
This has eaten away at me since 2018, when I received the original worrying letter... I thank you from the bottom of my heart” - client
How you can help
By pledging your support we can continue to provide this invaluable service to those people in greatest need and widen our geographical coverage.
Some feedback from people who have referred into our service;
“TTVS Financial Inclusion project has proved an excellent reliable and people centred service designed to meet the needs of a rural community. We know when we refer an individual they will receive a friendly and professional service. ” - District Council
“We always receive positive feedback from service users about the service” – Devon Carers
“I greatly value the ability to refer to a service that is able to offer home visits, as many individuals that I refer for support are rurally isolated and face substantial difficulties in accessing services due to ill health, limited transport being unable to drive themselves and being unable to leave the person that they care for. It is valuable work that you all do!” - Community Matron