I’m a AMHP an a MH social worker in an Adult Mental Health Social Care Team we used to be integrated with Health but the Care Act led to a split We have average caseloads of 40 people the vast majority entitled to state benefits ESA and/or PIP an repeatedly they have to prove that entitlement again and again. All workers need to consider the impact this has on people, not only the financial impact but the stress of having to share their personal lives with the DWP It’s an essential part of our job including if you’re a CPN OT or Lead Professional to make sure you help with forms or get someone who will, write supporting letters an make sure people know they can put your contact details on.
Please don’t think of this as a favour, more as an essential part of your role and yes nag the Consultant or GP to do their bit. I’ve never had a DWP worker complain there’s too much evidence. And to appeal perhaps to the selfish side of things. A person been denied benefits can easily lead to a crisis giving you more work an your organisation more costs We’re lucky enough to have a great CAB worker but they are overwhelmed but resources are online to make sure people get the points they need and deserve.
5 Ways To Help
By Tony Roberts. Former RMN and Public Health Specialist @FosterChangeUK
I used to work as a MH nurse for a CMHT. Occasionally, some patients were re-referred or dropped into crisis for an unknown reason. I had a colleague who always dismissively suggested that it was “just because their benefits are up for review”. Their cynical hypothesis was that the patient was manufacturing a “crisis” for the purpose of getting their benefits renewed. Once this objective was achieved, the patient “wouldn’t be seen again for two years” Our response, therefore, should be to ignore said “crisis” (air quotes were a common thing for this colleague). We should refuse to assist or write a letter, because that would be rewarding and perpetuating their manipulative behaviour.
I don’t think this is an uncommon view in MH services. It is a failure to see how much our mental health (and I do mean for all of us) hinges precariously on our financial stability. Some of us fortunately have a wider tolerance for financial upset – we may have savings, a generous credit limit or others we can lean on for help. But for many patients of mental health services – especially those dependent on welfare – this tolerance is a knife edge. Any slight change to their finances can have a catastrophic impact on their ability to live a humane and decent life. And it’s not hard to see why, if we choose to spend a few minutes thinking less cynically than my former colleague. Paying rent and bills is a pretty non negotiable chunk of income. From what is left, we have to prioritise. Hopefully, there is enough left to eat healthily, be able to get into town, heat the house when it’s cold, visit friends and relatives, watch some TV, have phone credit, get to appointments, and do things that make our lives more enjoyable – maybe odd treat, rewarding activities or a Netflix subscription.
But what if that financial stability is threatened by the Brown Envelope of Doom? What do we cut back? Do we downgrade our food? Cancel Netflix? Walk into town in the rain? Stop seeing the people we love? All the things that keep us well are under threat. And some people don’t even have those luxuries to cut back on. Reduced income threatens the essentials – bills, rent – risking eviction, arrears, homelessness. The stress of a benefit review cannot be underestimated. They threaten everything a patient has. Their entire life.
But what can we, as MH professionals do about it? Easy. Here are 5 things:
1 – Spend a few minutes of your time familiarising yourself with the DWP and review process.
2 -Talk to patients about their very real concerns. Find ways to mitigate the potential impact, help to take some of the distress from the process by planning contingencies.
3 – Talk to colleagues who know more than you – social workers, welfare rights etc who can give you and the patient advice.
4 – Offer to assist the patient through the process. It is hard enough to navigate as it is, without all the additional stress it causes. Give patients some spoons and take some of the load off them.
5 – Unlike my former colleague, write that letter of support. DWP letters often ask specifically about things like diagnosis, treatment, medical opinion etc. You may have views about the “validity” of such “constructs” That’s fine. But now is NOT the time for your philosophical views on psychiatry. Now is the time to sign a letter that means your patient won’t starve, be isolated, cold or desperate. Save your philosophy for Twitter. Sign the letter.