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Council leads welfare reform 'fight back' with step-by-step guide to winning appeals

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Council leads welfare reform 'fight back' with step-by-step guide to winning appeals

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Central Government and also in Bill Payments, Housing, Local Government

Council leads welfare reform 'fight back' with step-by-step guide to winning appeals Council leads welfare reform 'fight back' with step-by-step guide to winning appeals

Victims of the government's welfare reforms seeking to challenge decisions by the Department for Work and Pensions are to receive a helping hand from a new step-by-step guide to winning appeals.

In a landmark move, Glasgow City Council has launched an online toolkit designed to help its citizens 'fight back' against policies such as the bedroom tax.

Developed through Glasgow’s poverty leadership panel, the appeals pack is part of the city’s effort to mitigate the impact of policies by providing a step-by-step guide for claimants as they attempt to navigate the complexity of the benefits system.

The number of appeals being heard by social security tribunals has dropped sharply in recent times following changes to the appeals system, including the introduction of a new ‘reconsideration’ procedure undertaken by the DWP. However, the council has found that when a benefits claimant is supported through the appeals process by the authority’s welfare rights team there is around a 60% success rate in overturning original decisions.

As well as comprehensive advice on the appeals system, the pack will also provide a range of standard letters that will allow claimants to initiate an appeal against benefit decisions in relation to Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Employment and Support Allowance, the Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy (bedroom tax) and Job Seeker’s Allowance.

Councillor Gordon Matheson, leader of Glasgow City Council and co-chair of the poverty leadership panel, has welcomed the introduction of the appeals pack as a tool that can help benefit claimants fend off hardship.

He also thanked the members of the Poverty Leadership Panel for providing the drive to produce the pack as a practical way to alleviate the impact of poverty.

Councillor Matheson said: “So-called welfare reform is having a devastating effect on people across Glasgow. A huge number of people are already struggling and a negative decision on a benefit claim can push them further into the grip of poverty.

“The appeals pack will make it easier for people to contest the decisions made against them. The pack will help to simplify the process and provide people with tools they can use to dispute a finding that has cut their income.

“Producing the pack is a very positive indication of what can be achieved through the poverty leadership panel. We have listened to people experiencing poverty and know that is what people in the city need. It’s vital that we give people the means to fight back.”

The pack is available at the welfare reform section of www.glasgow.gov.uk and can be printed out free-of-charge at any of Glasgow’s public libraries, where internet access is also free. Copies will also be made available in places such as doctor’s surgeries and social work offices.

Welfare rights officers can also provide personal support to an individual should their case be heard before a tribunal. The poverty leadership panel identified the need for the pack as a way to respond to the upsurge in people contacting the Glasgow Advice and Information Network (GAIN) to ask for assistance with their benefits claims.

The panel was formed a year ago and brings together public, private and third sector sector organisations to tackle poverty in Glasgow. Members of the public who have experienced poverty also sit on the panel to ensure their experience of poverty informs the work.

The panel has produced its first annual report where its key achievements are outlined. These include a summit with energy providers to address the ‘poverty premium’ inherent to energy consumption, when additional charges are attached to pre-payment meters.

The appeals pack can be found here: http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=11735

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