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Looking out for our Community

Ann, a partially sighted 63 year old lady, found herself in a position where she had attended a Work Capability Assessment and was deemed fit for work and not entitled to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

Ann uses a stick and finds getting around difficult due to her severe visual impairment (blind in 1 eye and 80% impairment in 2nd eye). As time had passed and she had not requested a mandatory reconsideration regarding her Work Capability Assessment (WCA) decision, she made contacted with Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) who helped her apply for Universal Credit (UC).  They provided her with large print details on how to sign in to her UC Account.

Ann informed staff at the Job Centre that she would have great difficulty using a computer and would be unable to see what was being displayed on the screen. Her Work Coach suggested she attend the local Community Job Club and meet with the Welfare Support Assistant (WSA) to access support on using her UC Account.

On meeting Anne for the first time the WSA’s first concern was for Ann's safety. Ann entered the room and stuck to walking the perimeter of the room, using her stick to feel for any objects, chairs/tables, etc., that were in her path or could be used to feel her way towards my voice.

Although Ann was not struggling financially at present, she was upset and concerned about how she was going to meet the conditions needed to claim UC and worried that her savings would run out. She felt that she had not fully explained to her Work Coach the level of sight she was left with.

The WSA reassured Ann that she would not be asked to look for work or take part in any work related activities. He went on to explain that, as she had not appealed against her WCA decision, she would have to present evidence that she was not fit to work at present as well as inform her Work Coach about her limitations prior to her clam commitment meeting. She was also assured that she would be supported to access and update her UC journal and to-do-list as well as use this to communicate with her Work Coach.

It was agreed that the WSA would act as a reader and scribe for Ann. First issue tackled was updating the Health Section in her UC Account to clearly record her difficulties and on-going treatment, including eye surgery and recover required which may result in her sight being reduced even further.

Ann also required support to claim Discretionary Housing Payments due to her having an extra bedroom. The WSA arranged an appointment with Housing and printed out copies of her UC Account details to give to Housing. The WSA also advised Ann to make an appointment with her GP, explain her situation, and ask the GP to furnish her with a Fit Note for as long as the GP sees fit.

The following week Ann presented the WSA with a Fit Note and the details were entered in her journal and her Work Coach updated. The WSA also suggested that the Work Coach consider offering Ann Telephone Interviews rather than have Ann travel to Glenrothes due to safety concerns.

The WSA recorded noticeable change in Ann's mood and posture. She wasn’t as slumped over an defeated looking but was laughing for the first time and feeling positive that she had some control over what was happening to her. She said, "I am so glad I found out about the Job Club as I would never have been able to manage this activity on my own. It just seemed that it is all pushed back on you to do yourself. It is very reassuring that I can appear and will be given help when needed. It stops me dreading receiving a text from DWP. I can just call the WSA or attend the Job Club for help." Ann was made aware of specialist support available from Support Employment Services, Capability Scotland and a discussion took place about assistive/adaptive technology with Fife Society for the Blind.

Ann's anxiety levels were reduced as she is now supported on a regular basis.

Ann’s experience aligns perfectly with most of our service outcomes. Ann accessed this support services based in the heart of the community, and was given information and the opportunity to access 1-2-1 and specialist support. When/if she is able to work, she is empowered to deal with the conditionality element of Universal Credit currently effecting her. She will use the supported to explain and evidence the difficulties / barriers she faces daily and impact on her ability to gain or seek meaningful employment.