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Welfare Benefits & COVID-19

Hear Us / Welfare Surgery Project / Welfare Benefits & COVID-19

The DWP has introduced changes to the assessment process for some benefits they administer; these changes will affect anyone who is in the process of making a new claim for ESA, PIP or Universal Credit, or in the process of being reviewed for those benefits:

Face-to-face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits has been suspended for the next 3 months, the government announced 19 March 2020

The temporary move, effective on Tuesday 17 March 2020, is being taken as a precautionary measure to protect vulnerable people from unnecessary risk of exposure to coronavirus

It affects claimants of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), those on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and some on Universal Credit, and recipients of Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.

The suspension of face-to-face assessments also covers new claims to those benefits.

Anyone who has a face-to-face assessment appointment scheduled from Tuesday 17 March onwards does not need to attend and will be contacted to discuss next steps and alternative arrangements, which could involve either telephone or paper-based assessments. We expect this measure will be in effect for the next 3 months but we will be regularly reviewing the position in line with Public Health advice.

DWP continues to accept new claims for all benefits. Anyone already receiving PIP, ESA, Universal Credit or Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, will continue to receive their current payments as normal while alternative arrangements are put in place to review or reassess their claim.

Getting supporting evidence from health or social professionals involved in your care or treatment has always been an important aspect of claiming benefits and getting the right decisions on those claims. With the recent changes to the assessment process, resulting from the threat of the Coronavirus, it is even more important to gather that evidence and provide it to the assessment provider/benefit office dealing with your claim.

Talk to the professionals involved in your care (GP, Care co-ordinator, key worker, social worker, Psychiatrist, Psychiatric Nurse, hospital consultant) and ask them to write a letter detailing your health conditions and how they impact upon your day to day or to provide “clinic” letters for any appointments you may have had with these professionals.

Some GP practices charge for letters but we have found that approaching your Doctor directly (as opposed to through a secretary, receptionist or practice manager) can sometimes bypass any cost though this is not a guarantee,

GP practices are, however, obligated to provide your “clinic” notes without charge (beyond a minimal administrative charge should your records be considerably lengthy):

Under data protection law, patients have a right of access to their personal data, which includes their medical records. … You can only charge patients a fee if their request is ‘manifestly unfounded or excessive’, in which reasonable administrative costs associated with the request can be added.

You could also ask family or friends to write statements describing any observations they have of how your mental and/or physical health conditions impact upon you and how they support you to live with those conditions.

Also be prepared to be assessed via telephone calls, you may receive calls from the DWP directly or from assessment providers, for those living in Croydon it will be Independent assessment services (formerly Atos healthcare) for PIP and the Centre for health and disability assessments (managed by Maximus) for ESA and Universal Credit work capability assessments.

You may receive calls from Private numbers or from 0800 numbers, from these agencies, answering the phone is not an easy thing to do, for many, but in the absence of face-to-face assessments, it is very important to provide as much information as possible and take part in these telephone assessment.

Who to go to for advice/support

Hear Us Welfare Surgeries Project

Due to current circumstances, our benefits project is restricting face-to-face contact as much as possible, as are most (if not all organisations) however we will still be providing support over by telephone and email:

Hear Us:
Tel: 020 8681 6888
Email: surgery@hear-us.org

David Ashton
Mobile: 07568 408 245 Mobile phone hours: Monday, Wednesday and Friday 1.30 to 5pm Monday to Friday)
Email: david@hear-us.org

Shellie Wilfred
Mobile: 07568 407 763 Mobile phone hours: Monday, Wednesday and Friday 10:30am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm
Email: shellie@hear-us.org

Mind in Croydon’s Welfare Benefits Advice Line
Please leave a message on 020 8763 2037 if you require assistance with welfare benefit appeals work. If you leave your name and number and a brief detail about the issue, we will respond when we are next available.

Croydon Council’s Welfare advice line:

Call our free advice line on 0800 731 5920 to speak to one of our advisors, or email welfare.rights@croydon.gov.uk.
Monday: 2pm to 7pm
Tuesday: 3pm to 4.30pm
Wednesday: 11am to 2pm
Friday: 9am to midday