A Guest Blog from Dan Norris, Head of Advice and Rights at CPAG on Mental Health and Universal Credit.
Last month I spoke at a Housing Associations’ Charitable Trust (HACT) event offering practical advice for those working with people with mental health issues who claim universal credit (UC). This Guest Blog provides highlights on this topic and signposting to further resources. At the HACT event I mentioned our report which found the UC system is routinely letting these people down.
I mentioned the value of asking for “reasonable adjustments“ for people with mental health issues both to the way they claim UC and in particular, the extent to which they are asked to prepare for, or find work as part of the UC “deal”. As a body providing a public service, the DWP has to consider making “reasonable adjustments” so disabled people (including those with mental health concerns) can benefit from and access the service in the same way non-disabled people do.
Challenging the DWP if they don’t make reasonable adjustments where appropriate can be difficult as the adjustments – or lack of them – can’t be raised in social security tribunals. However, couching your request, for example, to reduce the frequency of job centre appointments or vary the type of work your client must look for work in terms of a “reasonable adjustment” to account for a their mental health concerns should make the DWP take the request seriously, particularly as their Delivering Equality for Our Customers guide asks staff to enquire about and make reasonable adjustments for claimants with mental health concerns. If the DWP refuse your client’s request or refuse to consider it, arguing that the DWP have failed to make a reasonable adjustment will add weight to your complaint.
News that Equalities and Human Rights Commission are taking action to ensure all disabled claimants can use the UC system is good to hear, particularly because they shared our focus on reasonable adjustments – and the lack of them. At the time when the next phase of UC roll out has begun it’s really important that this work succeeds.
CPAG is hoping to produce some dedicated content to help you support clients with mental health issues who claim benefits. Keep an eye on our AskCPAG pages for further updates (and see this page for a free month long subscription).
If you are new to benefits advice or have any queries about a benefits issues you are very welcome to use one of CPAG’s free advice services – we’d be pleased to hear from you.
One final thing – we’re really interested to hear how people with mental health issues who are asked to move on to UC get on, it helps us understand where things can be improved and to lobby the government. If you’re working with someone who “migrates” to UC or if there’s anything else we ought to be telling the DWP about the way the benefits system treats your clients please do get in touch with our Early Warning System.
Dan Norris, Head of Advice and Rights