GP Project

Citizens Advice South Derbyshire is now in your local GP Surgery for free, confidential, independent and impartial advice.

Through Partnership with the public health section of NHS Derbyshire County we have (along with other CABx in Derbyshire) advisers based in most GP practices in the county.

According to Julie Hirst - Public Health Specialist:

By placing CAB advisors in GP surgeries, we can help doctors to help patients with social and financial problems that could impair their health if they are not addressed. It is an 'upstream' intervention, designed to prevent people from becoming ill due to social problems. The service has been available in Derbyshire since 1995 (one practice) and is now available in 94 out of the 102 GP practices in Derbyshire County. It is popular with patients, GPs and the rest of the primary health care team. The service secures millions of pounds of extra money for Derbyshire families every year and helps them to manage millions of pounds of debt. Research by the University of Sheffield shows that this service is very likely to improve the health of the people receiving CAB advice and it is considered good value for money by the local NHS and Derbyshire County Council.

More information on the project countywide, can be found at www.healthyadvice.org.uk

South Derbyshire GP Project delivers weekly advice sessions from all nine GP practices located throughout South Derbyshire. Project sites: Melbourne, Heartwood, Swadlincote (Darklands Road), Gresleydale, Overseal, Woodville, Wellbrook, Willington and Newhall. It is worth highlighting however that we currently run both our Newhall and Woodville sessions within local community venues as these GP Practices do not have any room available to accommodate our Caseworkers.

This year has been yet another busy year for the GP Project with Caseworkers providing advice to 802 clients. During this period we have seen a slight rise in referrals from health care professionals, however we continue to book the majority of appointments via our self referral process. This year the majority of appointments have been booked two weeks in advance and no shows are low.

As you will see from the graph, the majority of clients accessing our service are living within the most deprived localities within South Derbyshire, where not surprisingly the main enquiry areas are welfare benefits and debt.

Caseworkers have dealt with 3198 enquiries this year which is 73 enquiries more than last year. We continue to provide advice around a wide range of topics, however, demand for welfare benefits and debt advice remains high again this year. We are not particularly surprised by this statistic as the poor economic climate is having a significant impact on people’s ability to meet the spiralling cost of living.

New government legislation introduced in January 2012 has resulted in many clients having their Employment Support Allowance Benefit entitlements withdrawn. These changes have had a great impact on our client’s and requests for support to pursue welfare benefit appeals has increased significantly.

As the demand for welfare benefit and debt advice has been high again this year we can report that Caseworkers have successfully generated £949,480.60 additional income for clients. These monies have been raised by supporting clients to secure full benefits entitlements, getting creditors to agree to write off debts and securing grants from charitable trusts. In addition Caseworkers have negotiated £1,264,346 worth of debts for our clients.

Case Study

Male client aged 55, lives alone in a 1 bedroom Housing Association property. Client has been unable to work for about 4 years and claimed Incapacity Benefit from that time. He claims a small private pension of £98 per month and Disability Living Allowance at the lowest rate of care, awarded for difficulties he has with communication due to Dyslexia from childhood. He also suffers with osteoarthritis in both knees, gout in his toe and has a trapped nerve in his back. He attended a medical assessment for transfer to the new Employment Support Allowance (ESA) but scored NIL points from the ATOS assessment instead of the minimum 15 points. This meant the Job Centre Plus decision was that he was fit for work and unable to claim incapacity related benefits, this also meant that his Housing and Council tax benefit also stopped from the date of the Job Seeker’s Allowance decision.

Client attended the Melbourne appointment after being informed of our service from his GP. At this point his income had reduced to the Disability Living Allowance payment of £19.55 per week plus the private pension of £88.00 per month. His Housing and council tax benefit had also stopped at this stage. We assisted him to appeal the Job Centre Plus ESA decision and referred his appeal to the Derbyshire County Council Welfare Rights service for help with the forthcoming tribunal.

Whilst under the appeal process and as long as the GP provides the relevant medical certificate stating he is unfit to work, the client will receive ESA at the basic rate. We also wrote to the Local Authority benefit department to advise of the ESA appeal and the client’s financial circumstances. We advised our client to pro-vide the Local Authority with evidence of his basic rate ESA payment, DLA and private pension income. This enabled his Housing and Council Tax Benefit to be recalculated according to his reduced income and due to the low income; both benefits were paid in full. This amounted to £450 per month in Housing Benefit and £14.50 per week in Council Tax Benefit, plus the ESA basic at £67.50 per week [2011-12 benefit rates].

In addition to the above the client returned for a further appointment for help contacting the JC Plus office with regard to dates needed to backdate his medical certificates to the date when Incapacity Benefit ceased. We contacted Job Centre Plus and managed to clarify exactly what was needed from the GP and Job Centre Plus backdated the ESA payment in line with the decision date, thus the client received 6 weeks backdated payment @ £67.50 per week.

At the second visit, the client explained that his mental health had deteriorated significantly and the later medical certificates showed additional health problems. We advised the client that the tribunal can only consider conditions at the time of the decision and therefore he should request another ESA assessment, which will take into account the new medical conditions.

We contacted the Job Centre Plus office to inform them of the new conditions and then wrote to the relevant section to request a re- assessment and provided an account of how the new conditions affect him and his ability in the workplace.

The client is now awaiting a date for the re-assessment. If he is assessed with the relevant points and placed in the support component, his ESA payment will increase to £105.05 per week [£71.00 basic plus £34.05 support]. Meantime, his current benefits have been maximised and he can meet his essential commitments, which in turn has significantly helped to reduce his level of stress at a difficult time in his life. The original ESA appeal is still ongoing and awaiting a tribunal date.