Bills, Budgets and Benefits
Funded by Reaching Communities, in May 2015 we began work on a new project designed to support people with learning disabilities who need help with personal finances. There were initially three strands to this:-
Utility bills. Clients are given help to search the internet for cheaper utilities providers. We wanted our clients to take advantage of the comparison websites that provide cheaper deals.
Benefits. We wanted to make sure that our clients were on the correct benefits.
Budget. We encouraged our client’s to set out a personal budget and stick to it. This includes arranging affordable payments for any debts the client has.
Because of the changes to the benefits system we have seen a significant increase in demand for this project; in numbers that we did not expect clients need help with multiple and complex difficulties. For example, people with learning disabilities:-
Are being re-assessed as being “fit for work” and being taken off Employment Support Allowance and moved onto Job Seekers Allowance.
Having disability benefits stopped and being told (by letter) that they must apply for the new Personal Independence Payment.
Being informed of these changes in a way that is wholly inappropriate to their situation. They don’t understand the letters.
By 2018 we expect every person in receipt of benefits will be challenged in this way. Most people will experience a reduction in benefits payments. We think this will lead to further increases in debt, an increase in personal isolation and consequently both mental health and physical health will be adversely affected.