Getting Help with Claiming Benefits, Appeals and Independent Tribunals
People have recently being asking about claiming benefits at the Tourettes Support Group. Below you will find links to websites and organisations that can offer help and information on how to go about claiming benefits. Many of the links are applicable to the Manchester area only, such as the council run Welfare Advice services; however, I would expect these services to be provided by other borough councils throughout the UK - so please take the time to read this piece even if you live outside the Manchester area. Also, there is some brief input of my own experience of the process of claiming Disability Living Allowance.
Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB)
This is probably the first port of call for most people when claiming sickness or disability benefits. The forms are long and can be bit of minefield so I would always recommend an experienced benefits adviser to help you with them. You can also use the various Welfare Rights services that are offered by the different borough councils throughout Greater Manchester to help complete forms, a list of links are provided below.
I used CAB to help complete my initial application for DLA.
Welfare Rights Advice
Borough councils across Greater Manchester offer Welfare Advice services. They can provide help with form completion and Specialist Benefit Advisors for appeals and Tribunal representation.
I couldn’t find any specific service offered on the the Bury Metropolitan Council website but here is a link any way. bury.gov.uk/index.aspx?arti...
This is a service run by the Manchester City Council that was formerly known as Manchester Advice. I was referred to this service by the CAB after my application for DLA was turned down by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). I was appointed a Specialist Benefits Advisor for the appeal and tribunal representation. You are more likely of success at a tribunal if you have such a person representing you. Changes have been made to the service since I have used it due to cuts in spending. I’m unable to tell you whether they offer the same level of service that I received although it does appear that they do by looking at their website.
This is link from the council website to a service run outside of the council.
Below are links to websites and organizations offering information and advice on benefits:
Directgov - Benefits and Financial Support
Government website that also includes an online benefits advisor so that you can check what is available and your eligibility.
Useful site with a benefits calculator.
Benefits and Work - Guides you can trust
This is a subscription service that is just under £20 for 12 moths access to up-to-date guides on claiming benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance and DLA etc. I have subscribed in the past and been able to download the guides. I can say it was well worth the subscription! The guides have been written by advice worker turned barrister Holiday Whitehead and benefits writer and trainer Steve Donnison. They are thorough and in-depth guides that set out the law on benefit entitlement. Although I relied on a Specialist Benefits Adviser on my appeal and tribunal representation, I later found these guides invaluable in allaying my own anxieties of whether or not I am entitled to certain benefits; they made it clear in my own my mind why I needed and was entitled to these benefits according to the law.
Disabilty Rights UK
Great fact sheets available on this site.
Benefit Enquiry Line
Freephone 0800 882 200
Text phone 0800 243 355
“Contact details for the Benefit Enquiry Line which provides advice and information for disabled people and carers on the range of benefits available. The person taking your call will not have your personal papers but will be able to give you general advice. Please visit the Directgov page detailed below to learn about these benefits first.”
I have found the Benefit Enquiry Line extremely helpful. I’ve found this service particularly useful in getting answers to quite technical queries such as rules and conditions on a range of benefits, how employment wages and benefits effect each other and so on.
My experience of the process of claiming Disability Living Allowance (DLA) was stressful, especially as at that time I was on long-term sick leave with the prospect of losing my job - this turned out to be the case. Although, my initial application was completed by an advisor and submitted with strong medical evidence, the DWP awarded me just the lower rate mobility component of DLA. I decided to appeal with the help of a Specialist Welfare Advisor in the hope of an additional award of the middle rate care component. The DWP reassessed my initial application on appeal and revised my benefit entitlement down to nothing! (this was a typical tactic according to my Welfare Advisor). I then had to wait for nearly 12 months to contest the DWP decision at an independent Tribunal. I submitted further medical evidence from a 2nd Tourettes Consultant and a Clinical Psychologist to bolster my case for the Tribunal. On the day of my tribunal I was expecting to endure a lengthy grilling, but to my astonishment it was all over within a few minutes; the hearing consisted of formal introductions of everyone present, the specific care components that we were contesting clarified, then the chair of the tribunal announcing her decision for an additional award of the middle rate care along with lower rate mobility. Factors that I feel helped get me the right result were: advice and representation from a Specialist Welfare Advisor; strong medical evidence; a Tribunal panel who were fair and balanced in their judgement having assessed my application and medical evidence; and my presence at the independent Tribunal.
Occasionally, despite having an advisor who has merited your case and strong medical evidence supporting your application, you will sometimes face a panel at an independent Tribunal that are unable to make a balanced and fair judgement, and so the prospect of having the right and proper decision being made is highly unlikely. In these cases, an experienced Specialist Welfare Advisor should adjourn the Tribunal during the proceedings so that a date can be set for a different hearing. I don’t know the technicalities of adjournments but this is a matter you should discuss beforehand with your representative.
If anyone can think of any other organisations in the Manchester area or the UK that can either provide welfare advice or tribunal representation then please let me know so that we can share this information with others. You can either post a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org