WORRIES and concerns about the process of receiving employment support allowance (ESA) benefits are all too common for us at the Citizens Advice Bureau.
People hear stories about all the assessments that needed to be completed to obtain the ESA and are anxious about what exactly they should expect, if applying for the benefit.
Time and time again, we give the same advice to people: no one knows when an accident or ill-health could have a dramatic impact on their life – there’s always help out there, if you need it.
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 its introduction 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, 2013, the Government introduced a new ‘mandatory reconsideration’ phase to ESA.
This extra step in the process takes place after you receive a decision on your initial application for support and you can’t 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 Jobseekers Allowance.
We’re concerned that 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 Arun & Chichester Citizens Advice Bureau centres 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 Citizens Advice Bureau can help you to deal with this.
Littlehampton’s CAB, in Anchor Springs, is open 10am to 4pm, Monday to Thursday, and 10am to 1pm on Fridays. Alternatively, call 0844 477 1171.