CASE STUDIES 1
Sahar is a refugee from Iran. She arrived in the UK with her two daughters and applied for asylum. Because of her political background and activities, she was granted Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK.
Sahar and her children are all disabled and wheelchair bound and access is an important issue for them. Their first accommodation in London was flooded following a pipe burst upstairs and they lost most of their belongings during this incident. They were temporarily offered another accommodation, which was not suitable for disabled people as they found it difficult to use their wheelchairs indoors. Sahar had very low confidence and was not well.
A friend of hers gave her the Iranian Association’s telephone number to contact an advisor of the association who visited them at home on many occasions. The advisor helped her to find an accommodation that was suitable for them and helped her claim Housing and Council Tax Benefits; she had already received Income Support and Disability Living Allowance. Sahar’s new accommodation, which she rents from a private landlord, was located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea; the flat had the necessary facilities for a family with severe disabilities.
Furthermore, the Immigration Advisor of the Iranian Association helped Sahar and her family to apply for naturalisation as British Citizens; their applications were approved and later they got their British passports with the advisor’s support.
The advisors of the Iranian Association visited Sahar and her family at home; when this was not possible, she faxed her documents to the association’s advisors who dealt with inquiries via telephone or post.
The Iranian Association’s welfare advisor has added her details to the Kensington and Chelsea Housing Register. This will enable her to have a suitable permanent Council accommodation that removes the need to move, which is really hard for them, at the end of each tenancy agreement.
Sahar says: “the Iranian Association is a place I can always go to and rely on for dealing with any problems I have; I am sure the advisors will always listen to me and help me with kindness and great understanding.”
CASE STUDY 2
G & S live in private rented accommodation with their 17-year-old son in the London Borough of Ealing. Their English is poor as they are originally from Armenia. S’s health and mobility are very poor due to very bad sciatica and heart problems and G cares for her full-time. S receives the support component of ESA. When we met them they had arrears with their gas and electricity and were worried about the upcoming changes to Council Tax Benefit, and seemed distressed, panicky and hopeless.
The couple had never heard of Disability Living Allowance. We helped them apply but they were refused, as the decision maker based the decision on an outdated ATOS health assessment from the previous year. We wrote a letter appealing against the decision. The decision was looked at again and S was awarded the highest rate of DLA for both components, which also added a premium onto her ESA and a further premium for G as her carer – a total extra income of £182.85 a week. Since then we have helped the couple apply for a Freedom Card for S and a Disabled Person’s Railcard for them both and have helped them find all the other advantages to which they are entitled through DLA.
S’s health is still poor and they are still visibly anxious much of the time, but finding the extra income to which they are entitled has taken a huge extra weight off their shoulders and they feel so much more able to cope and pay their bills, their Council Tax and the portion of their rent not covered by Housing Benefit.
CASE STUDY 3
Rita is a widow living with her elderly, disabled mother. Due to the local council’s misreading of her payslips, she has incurred an overpayment on her Housing Benefit running into four figures. This has wiped out all her Housing Benefit entitlement and the pair live solely on Rita’s wages and her mum’s Pension Credit and Attendance Allowance in a one-bedroom private rented flat.
Rita has been asked by the council to pay back the overpayment (it is not recognised as an official error) at the rate of £100/month, which is unsustainable. The repayments are pushing her into arrears with her utilities, credit card and a loan repayment.
We are helping her restructure these repayments to make them more manageable, so that she does not get behind with her bills. We have also recommended that, next time she renews her tenancy, she does so in her mother’s name, so her mother will have the automatic entitlement to Housing Benefit that comes from Pension Credit. We have calculated that this alone will save the household some £90 a week, even taking into account Rita’s non-dependent deduction.
CASE STUDY 4
E is vulnerable client who lives in Acton and approached the CAIA after his Employment and Support Allowance was sanctioned. The sanctions in turn had a knock-on effect with his Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support. The primary reason for the sanctions was that he failed to provide documentary evidence in the required form. This was despite the Benefits Agency being informed that he suffers from depression and dyslexia.
The Benefits Agency should have made reasonable adjustments. The CAIA contacted the Benefits Agency and advocated on E’s behalf. As a result of the hard work and persistence of the CAIA, the Benefits Agency finally investigated the case, taking into account E’s disability. This resulted in the refusal being overturned and back payments of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support being made.
E however was also deeply in debt with regards his utility services providers. He attended the Network’s Made of Money workshop at CAIA on 29th October 2014. The three-hour-long workshop helped him to take a positive approach to his existing debts, which resulted in him taking control of his spending.
The interactive workshop helped raise awareness of the different varieties of debt, which types to give low priority and which debts should be given high priority. Following the workshop, CAIA’s adviser worked with E by way of follow up until the frequency of further intervention could be reduced because it was apparent that E was now taking control of his own debt, income and expenditure. By way of his appreciation, E has offered to volunteer at CAIA whenever he can.