CAB COLUMN: Helping people with benefit applications

Some of the staff at the CAB in Anchor Springs, Littlehampton, which is part of a bigger national campaign
Some of the staff at the CAB in Anchor Springs, Littlehampton, which is part of a bigger national campaign

THE Citizens Advice Bureau is continuing to help people who may be struggling to obtain Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

Last year, the Government added an extra step to the process for applying for sickness and disability support.

The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) process, which has come under fire for lengthy and unfair decisions since it was introduced in 2008, will now include an extra step before sick and disabled people can access financial support through (ESA).

If your sickness or disability prevents you from working, then you could be entitled to ESA to help you manage your day-to-day living costs.

Since October last year, the Government introduced a new ‘mandatory reconsideration’ phase to ESA.

This extra step in the process takes place after people receive a decision on their initial application for support and cannot lodge an appeal until it is completed.

It is supposed to take about two weeks to go through the reconsideration period, but unfortunately some of our clients have said it can take much longer than this.

You won’t be able to claim ESA during the reconsideration phase but you can apply for Jobseeker’s Allowance.

We’re concerned some people will find this difficult and be left with no financial support – leading to people in already trying circumstances being subjected to even more anxiety.

If you’re in this situation then you should go to your local advice centre for help on how to manage your finances and make sure your application is dealt with fairly and promptly.

Once the reconsideration process has taken place, you may well get a positive decision about your application.

If you are unhappy with the decision, you can appeal.

Appealing against a decision can seem like a daunting prospect but advisers in your local CAB can help you to deal with this.

We are joining forces with Citizens Advice Bureau across the country as part of a national campaign to help sick and disabled people get the vital support they need.

Carol Groves, chief executive of Arun & Chichester CAB, said: “The recent changes to ESA will make it harder for sick and disabled people to get fair treatment and we must ensure they are not left stranded due to reforms to Government support.”

To contact CAB for help with ESA applications, email or phone 01243 776528 or visit the centre in Anchor Springs.