Financial inclusion of older people

by Ruth Potter in York, England, United Kingdom

We did it
On 16th December 2020 we successfully raised £2,325 with 93 supporters in 36 days

We want to ensure that older people are financially included in their communities by providing the support needed to apply for benefits.

by Ruth Potter in York, England, United Kingdom

New stretch target

If we have extra funds, then we will be able to support more older people to be financially included.

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, being financially excluded 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. We have remained open throughtout the Covid-19 lockdown delivering our service over the telephone.

Our idea.....

We want to continue to expand our work to support more people over the age of 50 who are financially excluded 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 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 from lockdown

1. Client approached OCAY. The client had complex mental and physical health issues. The Lead Advocate did an initial assessment with the client over the phone. The client was having their Disability Living Allowance stopped and their assessment for Personal Independence Payment was unsuccessful. They were living on a very low income of £73 per week Employment Support Allowance and wanted to know how to maximise their income.  

Our volunteer advocate phoned them and agreed with the client to explore their options for improving their income. They phoned a benefits adviser at the council and found out that the client was not entitled to other benefits. They also contacted the Welfare Benefits Unit and found out the client was not entitled to help from York Financial Assistance Scheme. However, following further communication with the council benefits adviser, they discovered that the client’s rent account with the council was in credit and they were entitled to a payment of £2704. This payment will significantly improve the client’s current financial situation and help to alleviate poverty in their household.  

2. Client came to us for support with a Universal Credit appeal. The client had  physical health issues and was in debt. They had been awarded limited capability for work but they wanted to appeal against this decision. Another organisation had written an appeal. We contributed further information from the client about their ability to work. We also submitted medical evidence on their behalf. The appeal was heard during lockdown in the client’s absence. The appeal was successful and the client was awarded limited capability for work and work related activity. The client’s significant increase in income will help to relieve their debts.

3. Client came to us who was off sick from work. They were receiving statutory sick pay (SSP). They wanted to know if they could claim any benefits when the statutory sick pay ended. The volunteer advocate contacted the client to find out more information. He contacted the Department for Work and Pensions to clarify the situation. He found out that when the statutory sick pay ends after 28 weeks the client can claim for ‘New Style’ Employment and Support Allowance. He passed this information to the client and let them know they could make a claim up to 3 months before the SSP ended.

4. We were approached by a 89 year old client who had been referred by Age UK. The lead advocate visited them at her home for an initial assessment. The clinet felt that their council tax rates were very high, particularly in comparison to their neighbours. The client was isolated and did not have family in the local area.

 One of our volunteer advocates visited the client on two occasions and also spoke to them on the phone. The client said that about 10 years ago they had appealed about their council tax rates but had been turned down. The volunteer advocate agreed to support the client to make another appeal.

 The advocate gathered evidence both by visiting local streets and using relevant websites on the internet. She discovered that there were 5 local properties similar to the client’s home which paid a lower council tax rate than her and she informed the client about this.

The advocate agreed with the client to phone the local Valuation Office Agency and ask them to review her current council tax rates. The client answered questions from the adviser at the Valuation Office Agency with support from the advocate, and the adviser agreed to launch a review.

After a couple of months we heard from the Council that the review had been successful and the client’s council tax rates had been reduced. The client is eligible for a significant amount of back pay. The client was delighted with the outcome – a ‘very satisfactory outcome’ - and very pleased with the support from the advocate. The client said the advocate ‘helped me a lot’.



Our Team

Dan BrittanLead Advocate.        

Dan Brittan Lead Advocate

Kayleigh Fox: Charity Support Assistant


Ruth Potter: Charity Manager


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