Case Study 1

ABOUT OUR CLIENT:

Mr F is in his late 60s and lives with his spouse in North Devon. Mr F was referred to the project by his GP surgery. The GP surgery has worked with the project some time and makes referrals to the project when significant, health threatening issues are identified. The client suffers from chronic anxiety and depression and severe COPD. His mental health issues mean that he was unable to socialise normally and therefore found it difficult to engage with advice and support services. Most of his social interaction was with and through his family.

The client had been receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA)- High Rate mobility and Low Rate care. DLA has been replaced by Personal Independence Payment. As part of this process he had been assessed by ATOS. The DWP awarded his Personal Independence Payment as low rate mobility and no care award. As a consequence of this decision, Mr F lost money and his mobility car had been taken away by the mobility programme as he was no longer eligible. This later action removed the client’s only means of independent transportation and he became more depressed.

Although apprehensive, Mr F attended his first appointment with his wife. He was very nervous and his mood was very low. He felt that the appointment was a “waste of time” as the DWP didn’t care, didn’t want to pay disability benefits and had no understanding of his health and well-being. We agreed that all future appointments would be home visits and that his wife would be able to participate in all of these meetings.

We worked closely with Mr F to challenge the ATOS decision by filing a Mandatory Reconsideration. We wrote a letter containing all of the necessary evidence, including new evidence from the client’s GP. Nevertheless, the reconsideration was rejected and the initial decision upheld. This meant we needed to file for an appeal.

We advised that a better outcome was likely if we asked to have the appeal heard before the appeal panel in court. Although the client was very nervous at the prospect of having to go to court once he understood that the he would be accompanied by his Wiser£money Adviser, he consented to have a face- to- face appeal.

A series of additional home visits were arranged to compose and compile the appeal. The Adviser undertook further work with the client’s GP, Consultant and COPD visiting Nurse in order to secure written medical evidence that could be used for the appeal. All of the evidence and documentation was organised, collated and sent to the appeal panel in advance of the hearing to ensure that they had the opportunity to digest and understand the information. As the named representative, the Adviser was sent 200 pages of evidence by the DWP. Over 15 hours of research undertaken to address the evidence, extract the points of contention and develop a defence to the DWP’s stated position.

The Adviser met Mr F on three more occasions before the appeal was heard to ensure that he was fully briefed and understood the fundamentals of the appeal and of the appeals process. This was necessary because the appeals panel prefer to speak to the client rather than the client’s Adviser.

In the event, the DWP failed to attend the appeal. The client did well in answering the questions asked by the panel and was able to refer to the Adviser when he struggled or did not understand questions. The Adviser was also able to elaborate on the client’s answers to reinforce and elaborate on the implications of Mr F’s health problems.

The judge and panel reached a decision in a few minutes and the client was awarded the highest level of mobility and care. This was the best possible outcome as the client had initially only been awarded the lowest of mobility and nothing for care. The judge apologised to the client and the Adviser for having to go through the process when it was clear that the client was eligible for the full amount of benefit. The judge praised the Adviser for enormous amount of work that been invested to achieve the outcomes.

While this should have been the end of the process, DWP failed to pay the award and wrote to the client informing him that, despite absenting themselves from the appeals hearing, DWP would be challenging the decision. This plunged the client into a deep depression and escalated his financial crisis.

The Adviser undertook further research to fully understand the processes and implications associated to effectively represent the client at the Upper Tribunal. Wiser£money employ a number of highly experienced and skilled Advisers so Mr F’s Adviser was able to access further counsel and peer support.

The Adviser spent significant time explaining to Mr F how the Upper Tribunal operated, the key points of the client’s case and alleviating his concerns about a further court appearance.

It took two months for the client to receive a copy of the Lower Court’s decision. A few weeks later DWP advised that they had decided not to pursue the case.

Mr F was subsequently paid the full amount he was entitled to and received a back payment of over £5,000. The client used that money to replace the car that was removed due to the first award by the DWP and pay off a number of debts. Although he is too ill to travel abroad, he was able to fund a holiday in the UK with his spouse to give her a break in her caring duties.

The Adviser then helped Mr F’s wife to apply for Carers Allowance as she was eligible for the benefit as she is caring for the client more than 35 hours a week and has no income of her own. This gave Mrs F a degree of financial independence and a feeling of a being appreciated and recognised for the care she routinely delivers.

Carer’s Allowance was subsequently awarded to Mrs F.

A tearful Mr F thanked the Adviser for all of the hard work and effort and said:

“You’ve really made my life so much better, I can’t thank you enough”.

Three months after the work was completed we carried out some impact assessment work and these are some of the comments made by Mr F:

“I feel fantastic to have all my benefits back in place”. It was like “a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders”.” Even the Judge had apologised for the way I was treated and I will be writing a letter of complaint”.

Asked how he felt now Mr F said:

“More confident, relaxed, more energised, very optimistic about the future” I feel that I can hold my head up high and walk straight and all his relationships had all improved”.

“If I win the lottery, your charity will be getting a very big donation, and that’s a promise!”