ASSERT are pleased to announce that we are now able to renew our Benefits Advice and Support Service and from Monday 4th December 2017 our Benefits Case Worker Emma will be reinstating Benefit Drop-In sessions.
Emma will be hosting a fortnightly ‘benefit drop-in’ where ASSERT members can come to seek advice or guidance on any benefit related issues. This could include general queries or help with an application form. This will be on a first come, first served basis. The drop-in will start at 10am and end at 12pm with 45 minute slots available. Please note, you may have to wait to be seen, or may not get a slot due to people arriving ahead of you. Dates for this are printed below.
To help people who cannot get to appointments during normal working hours (9am-5pm) we will be offering fortnightly opportunities to have evening appointments to discuss your benefit queries. These will be pre-bookable by emailing Emma at email@example.com . The first session will be on Tuesday the 12th December. Slots will be between 5pm and 8pm and will be 45 minutes long. Dates for this are printed overleaf. Please note evening drop in slots are by appointment only.
Please note that all appointments attended for the above sessions are to discuss benefit queries only. If you have any other query you need to book a separate casework meeting by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 01273 234850
Monday 4th December 10am—12pm,
Monday 18th December 10am—12pm
Monday 29th January 10am—12pm
Monday 12th February 10am—12pm
Monday 26th February 10am—12pm
Monday 12th March 10am– 12pm
Monday 26th March 10am—12pm
Monday 9th April 10am—12pm
Monday 23rd April 10am—12pm
Monday 7th May 10am—12pm
Monday 21st May 10am—12pm
(Advanced Booking Only)Tuesday 12th December 5pm—8pm
Tuesday 9th January 5pm—8pm
Tuesday 23rd January 5pm—8pm
Tuesday 6th February 5pm—8pm
Tuesday 20th February 5pm—8pm
Tuesday 6th March 5pm—8pm
Tuesday 20th March 5pm—8pm
Tuesday 3rd April 5pm—8pm
Tuesday 17th April 5pm—8pm
Tuesday 5th May 5pm—8pm
Tuesday 15th May 5pm—8pm
Universal Credit explained
Universal Credit is a new type of benefit designed to support people who are on a low income or out of work. It will replace six existing benefits and is currently being rolled out across the UK. The new system is based on a single monthly payment, transferred directly into a bank account. At present Universal Credit only affects newly unemployed people in certain areas of the country. Its is very unlikely if you have any health conditions that you will be eligible for Universal credit. This benefit is unlikely to affect the majority of Assert members.
What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is a single monthly payment for people in or out of work, which merges together some of the benefits and tax credits that you might be getting now.
Universal Credit will replace:
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
What you need to know about Universal Credit
Universal Credit payments
Did you know?
You may have to wait several weeks before your first payment.
Universal Credit is paid in the following ways:
- It will be paid monthly into a bank account of your choice.
- If you get help with your rent, this will be included in your monthly payment – you’ll then pay your landlord directly.
- If you live with your partner and you are both eligible, you will get one monthly joint payment.
- It can take several weeks after you make your claim to get your first payment.
Universal Credit and waiting days
If you make a new claim for Universal Credit you will not be paid for the first seven days. These days are known as waiting days. However, you should not let this delay your claim and apply as soon as you are eligible to do so.
The seven days’ waiting period won’t apply if you are in certain circumstances, for example if you’re terminally ill or vulnerable, have previously claimed Universal Credit, are splitting up from or moving in with a Universal Credit claimant, or are moving on to it from another benefit.
As usual we have been very busy with lots of benefit enquiries, the last few months I seem to have mainly been focusing on PIP support. This has included new applications, and also supporting people with appeals. If you don’t get awarded what you feel is a fair amount, let us know and I will try to help you write to the DWP to appeal their decision. As usual, if you get an appointment or form you want help with, please let us know and we will always try to help.
Council Tax Exemption Thanks to an ASSERT member (you know who you are!) we have managed to get a blank form for applying for council tax exemption, so we can now send these to members. I have also drafted a letter for you to take to your GP to ask for the exemption. So far 5 members have gained exemption. Email email@example.com if you would like us to send you the blank form and GP letter.
Things seem to be picking up a bit in relation to benefits, and as usual we have been busy helping new and existing members with their benefit queries. This has included application forms, completing supporting letters and telephoning the DWP/ATOS if needed. We have supported a few new PIP (Personal Independence Payment) applicants recently with organising medical assessments—if you receive an appointment please let us know and we will always try to attend with you where possible. You have the right to request an alternative appointment if the one you have been given doesn’t suit you—we can help you with this so please don’t be worried about asking for it to be changed.
Did you know that I can receive your benefit letters on your behalf? I know how scary that brown envelope can be, so to alleviate stress for members, we can request that the DWP send your post here to the ASSERT office. That means that we can filter the important correspondence for you, and let you know if anything important arrives, or needs action. If you would like us to do this for you—please email to make an appointment (firstname.lastname@example.org).
As you also may be aware, with the General Election planned for 2015, the main political par-ties are currently publishing their list of ‘promises’ in regards to welfare/benefit policies. We’ve been keeping an eye on these so we’re informed on what a new (or existing) government could mean for those receiving benefits.
Although things have been quieter on the benefit front recently, we have still been busy helping members old and new with a variety of forms and phone calls in regards to their benefits. This has included new applications and querying existing applications on benefits such as ESA, PIP, Council Tax and Housing Benefit. There have been hardly any medical examinations recently, but in the last month they have started to be booked in again. Let someone at Assert know as soon as you get an assessment date through, and we will always try to go with you depending on staff availability. If you have been struggling to manage your finances due to waiting on an ESA assessment, we can support you to make a phone call to ESA to try and chase up a decision for you. We can also support you to make phone calls to a company regarding a bill (such as for water or power) and help you see if there are any schemes available to help you manage your finances a bit better. Email email@example.com with any questions.
ATOS and medical assessments
We are aware that ATOS has caused anxiety for our members. You may have heard that the Government has decided to terminate the ATOS contract for delivering assessments for some benefits such as PIP and ESA. A new provider will be appointed at some point. This will mean that there is most likely going to be a delay with people who are waiting to be seen for a medical assessment, or those who have recently submitted a benefit form. Unfortunately there is no indication of the length of delay or when the new provider will be appointed, but if you have any worries or questions please book in to see a member of staff. If you are suffering from financial hardship contact us to see if we can help you.
Council Tax Exemption
Some members have been successfully supported in getting exemption from paying council tax. If you would like information on how to do this, please get in touch. Please be aware that our benefits liaison worker is part time (days in the office are Tuesday, Thursday and Friday) or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
Are you on a means tested benefit such as ESA or JSA?
If you are -did you know that you are entitled to a few things for free such as prescription charges, dental charges, NHS sight tests, wigs, and travel costs to NHS appointments? If you want any more information about any of these, please get in touch.
Employment and Support Allowance
Recently we have attended ATOS appointments with people who have been called in after applying for ESA. If you get a letter asking you to attend an appointment, please let us know and someone will always try to go with you. It can be helpful to have someone with you to help you understand the questions being asked of you, or to just offer a bit of support. It can be a stressful and worrying experience but we will help where we can. We advocate for our members to go into the ‘Support Group’ as this means you don’t have to attend mandatory appointments. If for any reason you are not placed in this group following an assessment, we will help support you to appeal this decision.
DLA and P.I.P
If you receive a DLA renewal pack we can help you. If you get yours, let me know and I’ll do my best to help you fill it out and provide you with a supporting letter. If you want to start a new claim for PIP, we can help you with this. You will need to make a phone call to start the process off, contact us if you would like support doing this. Once you receive your PIP, you have 4 weeks to fill it out and return it; we can help you with this over a couple of appointments. Again, we can provide you with a supporting letter to go with it and attend any medical appointments you need to go to in order to complete the application..
Council Tax Benefit/Council Tax Reduction Scheme
In April 2013 the Council Tax Benefit Scheme was abolished, and replaced by the Council Tax Reduction scheme. In simple terms, this means that most people will have to pay something towards their council tax bill, even if they previously did not have to pay anything at all. You should have been sent a bill when the scheme changed telling you how much you had to pay. If you find your self struggling to understand if there is any money you owe, please contact us and we can support you in making a phone call to the council. It may also be possible to obtain complete exemption from paying your Council Tax; contact us if you want to find out more about this. It will involve obtaining a letter from your GP.
Employment and Support Allowance
Many members have been helped to fill out a form called an ESA50. You would have been sent one of these if you were previously on Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance. Some people might still get one in the post. If you do get one, please don’t worry. Make an appointment with Assert and we can help you fill out the form, and will also write a supporting statement for you to go alongside it. We can also help you gather any other supporting evidence you might need, such as GP or consultant letters. We have done lots and lots of these forms and know the type of answers we would need to put. When you get an ESA50, you have about 4 weeks to fill the form in and send it back, so it’s important you contact us as soon as you can if you’d like some help. As well as Assert, The Fed and Brighton Unemployed Centre can also give help with forms.
Disability Living Allowance renewals and the changeover to P.I.P
Some people have received DLA renewal packs and we have been helping members with these too. When you get your pack through, it is sent about 4 months before your current award ends. This can be quite misleading, as you might think you have 4 months to get the form back to them. What they don’t tell you is that if you don’t get your DLA form back in good time (say 8 weeks before your current award ends) there may not be enough time to process it and your payments may stop. I would recommend that members aim to get their DLA forms back as soon as possible. So if you get your DLA renewal form through please contact Assert as soon as possible to get some help. The DLA form is quite lengthy so we want to make sure we do a good job for you!
As you may also be aware, DLA is changing to a new benefit called the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). This affects people who have been given a lifetime DLA award. We have staff trained in how to do the PIP forms and we can help members with this. The likelihood is you won’t have to worry about doing anything until around 2015, but if you get any letters you want to ask about, please contact us. As with ESA applications, if you need to go to a medical appointment, someone from Assert will always try to attend with you.
Other benefit news
As well as the main benefits, we can also support you with other issues such as dealing with council tax or housing benefit. We have staff that regularly attend training at the council and try to keep well informed and up to date. If you’re not sure about something and you think you might want some help or a supporting letter please make an appointment with us. Please be aware that our benefits liaison worker is part time (days in the office are Tuesday, Thursday and Friday) or you can email email@example.com
Overview of benefits changes November 2012
The Welfare Reform Bill passed by parliament at the beginning of 2012 will result in the biggest changes to the benefits system in the UK for 60 years.
Change is typically very unsettling and worrying for people on the autistic spectrum, but even more so when it affects the money you receive in benefits.
The bulk of the changes are not happening until October 2013 to 2017. If you would like to find out what is changing, then please click on the links below.
If you would rather not know right now, then you can always get in touch Assert at a later date. We have a benefits worker who can help you with sorting out your benefits, offer help with filling out forms and talk to benefits people and statutory services on your behalf. Call Assert on 01273 234850 if you would like to request some help.
*This Overview was compiled in November 2012