The Oxfordshire Mind Benefits for Better Mental Health Service works across the County supporting people to claim the benefits they are entitled to. The service also supports people with claims and represents clients in appeals, on average the team win 95% of cases. By giving economic stability and support the Benefits for Better Mental Health service makes a significant difference to the lives and wellbeing of our clients.
David Bryceland, Benefits for Better Mental Health, Project manager said: “The Oxfordshire Mind Benefits for Better Mental Health service provides vital support to vulnerable people across our local community. The introduction of Universal Credit has made the system more complex than ever, the need for our service has never been greater. We are calling on the people of Oxfordshire to support our vital service which enables us to continue helping those who so desperately need the support of the Benefits for Better Mental Health service.”
Recent changes to the benefits system have destabilised our clients by increasing anxiety levels, uncertainty and fear, with many of the clients we see feeling more vulnerable and stigmatised.
The introduction of Universal Credit means we need to provide more labour intensive support to help our clients make their claims. For example we help clients set up email accounts (to secure their gateway registration numbers), and bank accounts. Universal Credit is paid monthly in arrears which is exacerbating personal debt. Benefits for Better Mental Health has a key role moving forward to support clients to manage the changes which have arisen. In Oxfordshire we are now moving from the Universal Credit ‘Live Service’ to a ‘Full Service’ and the new demands will put increased pressure on Benefits for Better Mental Health’s appeals work.
In addition to supporting people with their financial difficulties, Benefits for Better Mental Health ensures that clients are supported holistically to address their wide-ranging needs with referrals and signposting to a range of other support agencies, including other services from Oxfordshire Mind, TalkingSpace Plus and the Oxford Mental Health Partnership.
Benefits for Better Mental Health is therefore a gateway into of a network of support that means our clients have faster and easier access to the provision they need to support their recovery. As a result of Benefits for Better Mental Health, our clients can focus on their recovery having gained some economic stability. Securing some level of financial security is a precondition for mental health recovery.
- £31.61 could help fill out the forms needed to apply for benefits when someone is unable to work
- £47.40 could be used to help set someone up on the new system to claim Universal Credit
- £205.40 could fund a Benefits Advisor to support an appeal to ensuring those in need get the full benefits they are entitled to
Hugh* had been struggling with mental health problems for years before he got in touch with Oxfordshire Mind. The last straw for Hugh came when he was injured and unable to work. He had three children to look after with no money and no support.
“I felt like I was stuck between Mount Everest and Mount Kilimanjaro with no safety net.”
Over the past four years Hugh has come to Oxfordshire Mind for one to one support, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and advice from our Benefits for Better Mental Health service. He wanted to be able to work, but when his health did not permit this he put pride aside and contacted the Oxfordshire Mind team for help with benefits.
He was really struggling with his finances and couldn’t afford to buy his children Christmas presents.
“I’ll never forget the look on their faces when I couldn’t give them anything for Christmas.”
Oxfordshire Mind supported Hugh to fill out his benefits forms, let him know what to expect and helped him talk to the relevant people to try and claim what he is entitled to.
Unfortunately, like many of our clients, Hugh’s request was denied. As well as helping with advice and support our advisors also represent clients at appeals. Hugh was dreading his latest appeal and asked Oxfordshire Mind to speak on his behalf. We were delighted to win the appeal for Hugh who was then granted two benefits (ESA and PIP) which will be reviewed in two years.
“Without Mind I could not keep a roof over my children’s head.”
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