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The benefit of benefits

Monday, 28 March 2022 Katie

Katie blogs about how benefits can be a lifesaver for people with mental health problems.

Having bipolar disorder is one thing, but the financial strain it causes when you are ill is another. It was recommended I claim benefits to help bridge the financial gap for my family when I got unwell.

So I started the process applying for them. The first difficulty I encountered was finding out which ones to actually claim. Luckily for me I had an amazing social worker from the housing team who helped me.

He told me exactly what benefits I needed to claim. In my case it was housing benefit, council tax reduction, personal independence payment (PIP) and child tax credits. All off these had reams and reams of paperwork. You basically had to hand over all the information on your DNA!

“Through lots of tears and upset I filled out the paperwork and applied. They were checked over by the social worker.”

But fill them out I did. Through lots of tears and upset I filled out the paperwork and applied. They were checked over by the social worker. He luckily told me to take a photocopy of everything for my own records. That’s my first piece of advice for you, along with going to your local job centre to check what benefits you are eligible for.

Luckily I had completed the forms correctly, meaning the money came into my account once I got a reply from the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions).

10 top tips for claiming benefits with a mental health condition

  • Visit your local job centre or ring the Government helpline to find out what benefits you are entitled to.
  • Complete and photocopy everything – the forms as well as the evidence you have to provide.
  • Get someone at the job centre or a friend to check it. Time saved by doing it at this stage will be the difference between getting the benefits now or later.
  • Always chase the progress of your applications.
  • PIP is notoriously difficult to get for people with mental health conditions. Make sure you have evidence to support your application, like letters from your GP.
  • Once you get the benefits always keep an eye on them. Make sure they are still correct if your circumstances change.
  • If your circumstances do change make sure you notify all the relevant parties – your different benefits might be looked after by different departments or agencies.
  • You can still do some work when you get benefits. The amount of work you can do will depend on the benefit, so check which rules apply to you.
  • Make sure you notify the Department for Work and Pensions if you do work, including how many hours you do and how much you get paid. This can be done over the phone, on a paper form, or on an online form.
  • Don’t give up applying or following up. You are entitled to certain benefits so make sure you get them!

“Do not let the paperwork or the stigma of claiming benefits stop you getting the financial support you need.”

Stigma is a huge part of claiming benefits, I had a preconceived idea that benefits were for the disabled or work-shy, not for someone like me. I felt terrible having to claim. However, a chat with my dad reassured me that I was entitled to benefits. I needed that help as a single parent going through a difficult time, and that it would not be forever, just to help me as a single parent through a difficult time in my life.

Most of all I would say do not let the paperwork or the stigma of claiming benefits stop you getting the financial support you need and deserve. It could be the difference between life and death.

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