There was only cold comfort for a family with no heating and no hot water.
They boiled water in kettles and saucepans as the mould grew around them.
Then Citizens Advice stepped in and transformed their lives, writes Paul Watson.
In the fourth part of our week-long special investigation into how hundreds of Uckfield people are helped every year by expert volunteers working from offices in the centre of Uckfield with colleagues in Crowborough and Hailsham, we look at two more case studies.
Making a cold home warm
The client had health issues and was caring for adult, disabled daughter.
She initially sought advice regarding welfare benefits but was identified as being eligible for – and in need of – the Warm Home Check Service as she had had no working heating or hot water for some time and did not have the money to make repairs.
As a result the family were having to wash using water boiled in kettles and saucepans and their home was getting damp and mouldy.
Under the Warm Home Check Service, Citizens Advice helped the client get her immersion heater repaired and the family can access emergency heating, which will make a huge difference to their quality of life.
They will also be helped to remove the mould.
A benefit check identified that the family was not receiving all the benefits they were entitled to and so they are being supported in making claims which are likely to increase their income by at least £3,000 a year.
In addition, they were advised to claim the Warm Home Discount from their electricity supplier – this gives customers on a low income/qualifying benefits £140 off their electricity bill.
The family were also entered on to their supplier’s Priority Services Register, which provides a range of support to vulnerable clients, especially in the event of an extended power cut.
• Under the Warm Check Service Citizens Advice regularly see vulnerable clients who have not had any form of heating for some time, with a consequent impact on their health, both through cold and damp.
15 month wait for benefits
The client had multiple health issues and sought help in applying for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), a benefit that helps with the extra costs of a long-term health condition or disability.
They had been asked to make this application by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as part of a change to the benefit system, with PIP gradually replacing Disability Living Allowance.
The DWP took five months to reject the client’s claim, saying his health condition no longer merited support, even though he had been in receipt of Disability Living Allowance for some time and his condition had not changed.
The CA team helped the client apply to the DWP for a mandatory reconsideration of the decision – the first step in the appeal process.
This application was also rejected six weeks later and so the client was supported in submitting a formal appeal.
The client had to wait another six months before getting a decision on their appeal, throughout this time having to manage on a reduced income and several times needing a food voucher from the Food Bank to keep him going.
Bus pass removed
Being refused PIP also meant he lost access to his free bus pass which left him lonely and isolated as he did not have the money to pay fares.
The client’s appeal was upheld and he finally got both a backdated payment of over £2,200 and ongoing payments worth about £3,000 a year – 15 months after he first applied.
The waiting ‘game’
• It is not uncommon for clients to wait over a year for their benefit appeals to be resolved.
Last year the average award Wealden Citizens Advice secured for clients following a successful appeal was worth £3,591 per year.
The figure is even higher – £3,853 – where a benefit that had been incorrectly stopped is put back into payment.
• The case studies show the sort of help Citizens Advice can provide – some personal client details have been changed to protect their anonymity.
Part five of this special report tomorrow.
Earlier in this six part series
Part Two: A last resort for those in crisis
Part Three: Uckfield’s homeless problem
Find local organisations in our Uckfield Directory
*The case studies show the sort of help Citizens Advice can provide – some personal client details have been changed to protect their anonymity.