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Lioninwinter

Uk Benefits And General Advice (Esa, Dla, Independence Living Allowance And More...)

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I thought I'd start this topic because there isn't a recent reference for UK benefits and how the system works at the moment or what the government reforms of the coalition emergency budget entails and will entail, at least for the time being.

If you’d like further pointers, or help finding the correct place to start (especially for regional benefits or advice), please feel free to PM me and I will do my best to help you. If I am no longer available then I will either edit this post or ask a moderator to edit it for me.

I hope this information is useful to you.

Please see the end of this post for some personal notes, which are my personal experience with benefits and having worked with people seeking to make claims, but which are by no means professional advice or the advice of Depression Forums, and which may not apply in you region or your specific case. Also a note on taxation is there.

Also, please remember you have the right to appeal any decision made -- information regarding how to do this should be included with your decision letter. I strongly recommend that if you appeal you seek from a local disability organisation to do so. Even if you contact an organisation that appears to be for physical disability, they will usually have contacts you can call for mental health issues, or might well deal with mental health issues themselves.

To start with, some basic, current links:

Employment and Support Allowance Overview/Links

Disability Living Allowance Overview/Links

Personal Independence Payments (replaces DLA from June 2013)

Housing Benefit (Local Housing Allowance) Overview/Links See below for crisis information or risk of eviction/homelessness)

Citizens Advice Bureau

I want to stress that although the first two benefits apply on a national basis, the latter (and the advice of the CAB) is regional and will depend on your county or city council. If you need help identifying the site you need to get local information, please feel free to PM me (I will ask for or edit this post myself if I can no longer offer advice in that regard).

Employment and Support Allowance

Please don't be put off by the name of this benefit, or the statement's on the government's site about "regular interviews. Despite the name, this is the first thing you should apply for if you are unable to work. There are degrees of support available, depending on your situation. You will be expected to provide a doctor's certificate, or a letter from your GP to prove your inability to work. A certificate is not necessary, and can cost you depending on your GP's charges, but many GPs who recognise that you are ill will provide you with a letter which will be more detailed and without charging you - but you have to ask, and to explain why you need it. Simply tell them you are applying for welfare support and need confirmation that you are unwell, that you do not expect an immediate solution to the problem, and to state whether you are on medication, receiving any psychiatric care, or even if you are being referred for psychiatric care or therapy.

ESA also has an "extra support group" allowance -- this is a premium which is often provided for those with a long term illness, including mental health issues.

ESA also entitles you to free prescriptions from the NHS, no matter what award you are given.

What to expect:

You can expect to be asked to an initial interview with a medical professional, although your benefits may be paid to you prior to this on condition that you attend when asked. The interview will be conducted by a private contractor, and will be a series of standard questions, Some of these may be intimidating to people with mental health issues because they appear to be double binds. Please read below for my personal advice in that respect. Make sure you attend any interview you are asked to attend -- not doing so may result in your claim being denied immediately.

You may include any relevant information with your claim, which includes letters from your GP, a counsellor, psychiatrist, former employer, landlord, or anything that contributes to describing your situation.

You can also expect to be contacted by your local JobCentre or JobCentre Plus. They're letter will be standardised and it is likely that it will imply that they wish to assess you for job applications. Please do not be upset by this. These letters are usually automated. You should be provided with the name of the person you are expected to see -- if you do not feel you can attend the meeting then you can call them and many advisors will conduct the interview over the phone. The purpose is to either record your situation or to update it, and despite the wording it does not necessarily mean that they are asking you to start seeking employment. Please do not be intimidated by these letters.

You may take a friend or family member with you to any of these meetings, as well as any evidence such as doctor's letters, or even a letter from a counsellor or other support worker -- even a former employer or landlord. The primary purpose of meetings at the JobCentre is to maintain a record of your situation. It is vital that you give them a summary of your history, current condition, and any medication you are taking. Many such workers are sympathetic and despite the way the "system" makes you feel, these meetings are not designed to force you into work.

If you are ready to seek employment then these meetings can be vital as they can offer you support routes into work that try to ensure that you maintain the changes you are making and they can provide a channel of support for your new employer as well as a means of communication that remains confidential but supportive for you.

ESA, at whatever level it is awarded also entitles you to free NHS prescriptions. DLA does not.

-------------------------------

Disability Living Allowance

Unfortunately this benefit is being phased out and there is some ambiguity as to how it will affect current claimants with a fixed period award.

If you already have a claim due to end in the next few years then you may be asked to reapply for the replacement scheme, Personal Independent Payments, after October 2013, and before October 2015. However, many awards will not be immediately reassessed as this is a gradual roll-out. People of a pensionable age or with a life-time award will not be affected.

If you try to make a new claim for DLA after June 2013 then you will probably be asked claim for Personal Independence Payments instead. These replace the three-tier DLA payment with a two-tier system.

The new scheme is a double edged sword in that it may increase benefits for those on low tariffs but decrease it for those on higher tariffs. The legislature behind the new scheme should be beneficial to those with mental health problems as it is designed to assess whether an individual is fit to accomplish certain tasks over a period of time.

However, some people on a higher rate of DLA with a claim ending in the next few years may be asked to reapply for PIP – the current policy on this, about who will be asked to reapply or when I ambiguous. If you have received a renewal form since April 2012 it is highly unlikely that you will be reassessed. However, if your claim is due to be reassessed in the next few years and you have not received any assessment form since April 2012, then you may be asked to reapply for PIP.

Your DLA benefit will not be stopped if that assessment is undertaken, however you may be transferred to the new scheme after the assessment.

It is well worth applying for this benefit, but please see the personal notes at the end of this post.

What to expect:

For DLA you can expect to receive the odd renewal form which will probably take a long time to complete. You are encouraged to seek the help of a local advocacy agency to do this, and if you PM me I would be happy to help you locate one. Otherwise, please see my personal note at the end of this post.

For PIP you can expect probably two interviews a year, depending on you local authority, with a private contractor who will ask you the same questions as before, or in your form, and it is perfectly acceptable for you to give the same answers. This is not to see if you are lying, it is merely to make sure that you are getting the correct level of support and assess what resources are available to you.

Local Housing Allowance, formerly Housing Benefit, and Council Tax Benefit

LHA replaced HB some time ago. The main difference was in the way that the local amount was defined statistically. LHA underwent one significant change as of April 2012, when anyone claiming LHA under the age of 35 was only entitled to claim for shared accommodation, rather than a single-room allowance.

However, if you receive the lower nobility allowance or the Higher Care Rate of DLA you are still entitled to the full single person’s HLA rate.

Not all councils are making this information public knowledge, which is, in my opinion, neglectful. However it is a nation-wide policy.

What to expect:

LHA involves no interview, but will entail a form in which you have to declare any financial asessts and income.

LHA will help you to pay your rent, but the amount you can claim is dependent upon your local housing market and whether you are living in shared or single accommodation. Single accommodation is defined as having a living room, bedroom, and bathroom to yourself.

LHA does not include any help towards the costs of water, electricity, gas or any other utilities. It is likely that it will be paid to you landlord to letting agent, and that it will be paid four weeks in arrears. It cannot be paid per calendar month.

If you need help with paying for one month’s rent in advance on a new property, you can apply for a Crisis loan which often covers these circumstances. It will be repayable based on your benefits at a very low rate and with no interest. Some county or city councils also offer a “guarantee deposit scheme,” which can replace a deposit on a privately rented property, and covers any damage except that which was personally caused by neglect, but this varies from region to region.

Council tax benefit, which used to be directly linked to LHA is now no longer in effect, as of April 2013. What this means is that money originally given by the government to local authorities to pay for low income households to cover council or city taxes is no longer available and each county or city has had to decide how to compensate for that deficit.

In many cases this has been replaced by a “Council Tax Reduction” payment, which requires only a minimal payment for the time being, and which you have a right to have assessed according to your means. Most councils have limited the payment expected of their residents, but this is a regional decision so I cannot include that information here

IF YOU ARE AT RISK OF HOMELESSNESS OR EVICTION:

By law, you cannot be evicted from a privately rented property without an eviction order. This usually takes about 6 months to obtain. It will compromise your future chances of private accommodation, but it will also make you a priority in the council housing system. If you are at risk of losing your home due to rent arrears then seek the help of your local housing authority. If you have mental health issues and especially if you are currently begin seen by an NHS therapist or psychiatrist then you can essentially jump up the scale in terms of priority in receiving help either finding new private accommodation or getting council-owned property. For mental health issues this can lead to a secure property and long term security! Do not delay! Your local housing authority can advise you as to the eviction procedures as well as put you in contact with resources that can re-house you. It is scary, but it is your best course of action!

A note regarding all of the above

Taxation: ESA and DLA are not taxable benefits, nor are they included in your “annual income.” If you are on Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) then that is taxable income. If you are on ESA then National Insurance contributions will continue to be made in your name whilst you receive this benefit. Your national pension will not suffer, nor will you be asked for higher NI payments if you become employed again.

Regarding a general approach to any form sent to you, or any interview that you are asked to attend:

Always represent your worst day possible. You may feel that you are lying or being dishonest in this, as our inclination is to represent ourselves at our best.

The forms you submit, or which are submitted by your “objective assessor,” are evaluated by a private health care company under contract. They are assessed by marking your response on a scale of 1-5 or 1-10, and the overall score determines your benefit allowance. You are not lying by representing your worst period. You are, if anything, being dishonest by representing your best period, because the result will be that you would be expected to be able to maintain that standard for an extended period of time. If you do not feel that is what you can maintain, then it is not a representation of what is being asked of you.

What is being asked of you is essentially “how bad can things get, and if they get that bad what are the consequences, and how would you react?” If you respond with the best case scenario then you may mis-represent yourself.

This can be a very uncomfortable experience because you may not want to represent yourself this way, and you may feel you are being dishonest about what you can achieve or accomplish when you feel well, however, if you represent your best aspect then you will be expected to maintain that daily and for an extended period, so if there is a risk of that not happening you are misrepresenting yourself, and putting yourself in jeopardy, should that happen.

A final note:

If you are having problems with utility payments, in terms of electricity, water or gas, and especially if you have arrears in this regard, then you should notify your supplier. Many of them will speak to your local benefits department (your local Department of Work and Pensions) and arrange a repayment/payment plan based on your situation which can be very beneficial to you.

If in any doubt, about guidance for any of these issues, you first port of call is the local Citizen’s Advice Bureau, which may entail a wait outside a door for an hour before opening, but who have extensive resources in pointing you in the directions that you need to get the help you need. As unpleasant as the wait may be, the benefit can be well worth it.

Finally:

If you’re in need of regional advice I recommend the following terms for googling:

“Benefit Calculator +(your town city)”

“DLA and Personal Independence Payments”

“Local Housing allowance +(your town/city)”

“DWP +(your town/city)”

If you’d like further pointers, or help finding the correct place to start, please feel free to PM me. If I am no longer available then I will either edit this post or ask a moderator to edit it for me.

I hope this information is useful to you.

Edited by Lioninwinter

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I find the UK's benefits system a bit of a horror. I'm "employable", so I'm not really eligible for ESA. But on Universal Credit I'm constantly fighting to get 35 hours of job-searching done alongside the horror of the depressive, anxious mindset. Put the two together and I find the whole thing inherently isolating, my applications suffer, my performance suffers and if I drop the ball I'm generally facing the grief of a sanction or humiliation from the very cold advisor I see. They're unwilling to decrease the 35 hour quota - I'd be happy to work anywhere for 40 hours.

That said, I occasionally do irrelevant placements which do nowt to better my CV (i.e. Retail Assistant) other but do count towards the 35H. Somehow most of the placements (from my experience) happen to fall into the hands of employers who want to use and abuse people on benefits to fill a roll within their business, regardless of how much blood and sweat you put in. The whole system is frankly an awful trap and actually offers zero support unless your local job center has mentors on-site from external institutions.

I really think they should have some sort of code of practice when it comes to Universal Credit. A minimum, protected allowance for those with emotional issues who struggle to do the quota. But from where I stand, at least with my advisor, that doesn't seem to exist.

 

What I do know is that's better than nothing... and if you see it as solely a sort of benefits administration system then it's not as bad. The support side of things is messed up though. You spend a whole week of filling applications, doing your absolute best, pulling motivation from nowhere only to be discouraged as if you're bone-idle. You soon lose sight of the fact you're doing this for yourself.

Edited by moistnutella

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