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Sick and vulnerable losing out in benefits changes, Richmond CAB warns
A Richmond charity is demanding changes are made to the benefit system, which it said was not working for sick and vulnerable people.
Richmond Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) published an open letter calling on the Government to make three specific changes and the organisation has asked MPs Zac Goldsmith and Vince Cable to back it.
The charity said the proposals come after three years of evidence of the effect of the current system particularly in relation to Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
The group said evidence showed benefits could be stopped immediately without warning and people suffer from a fluctuating income that spirals into financial instability, debt and health breakdowns.
One example, published in a bid to improve accuracy of decision-making, showed one person who was initially awarded no benefit points later re-assessed on appeal and given more than 40 points.
The charity said benefit claimants, some of whom have long-term medical conditions with little prospect of improvement, underwent a “rollercoaster” of assessments, decisions and appeals within six months.
Richmond CAB called into question the cost to the public purse of this process and the effect on vulnerable clients.
Financial capability and communications manager Madeline Thomas said: “Each individual thing we are asking for is small.
“What we are asking for we believe are realistic measures. They would make huge changes to the clients we see.
“These are our most vulnerable of residents in many ways. A lot of them have illnesses that put them on the margins of society.
“We appreciate the system isn’t perfect. Our job isn’t to get into a political debate about what we would do. We need to give them something tangible to work with.”
In the past year Richmond CAB said it had a 49 per cent increase in people seeking help with ESA cases year on year and that 14 per cent more of their clients were disabled.
The group helped people resolve 15,569 issues and secured £1,451,811 in reported financial gains in the past year.
Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park and Twickenham, said: “I received the letter from CAB, and would support calls for claimants' existing benefit payments to be ‘run-on’ for a month after a negative decision, to allow them time to adjust their new arrangements.”
Vince Cable’s office said he had not yet received the letter.
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