Tower Hamlets Council has launched a new integrated information and advice service that will run across health, social care, and social welfare.
Rachel Blake is Deputy Mayor and councillor responsible for Adult Social Services and Public Health in Tower Hamlets since June 2020. She has seen first hand the obstacle course of hoops and hurdles disabled people are forced to go through to get the Social Security benefits they need to live on and pay for the extra costs.
Rachel says: “It is absolutely disgraceful. I have heard stories of people with life-limiting conditions being refused Employment Support Allowance (ESA), Universal Credit Limited Capability for Work (UC LCW) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP) on the basis of the Government’s assessments.
“In Tower Hamlets alone 2,420 of the 4,515 disabled people were previously in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) who have been reassessed for PIP have either seen their award decreased or disallowed completely. That is a staggering 54 per cent of disabled people reassessed so far. Some have managed to get their entitlement back after challenging DWP at an appeal. (In fact, three-quarters of all those who appeal win.) But far too many others are simply too unwell or exhausted to keep fighting through a long appeal.”
“TH Connect, a service which will link residents into the wide range of advocacy services available to support people with benefits applications, Care Act Assessments, legal advice and information about events and services across the borough to support people to live independently has just been launched to help people navigate this complicated area, We believe that this service, connecting people with their community is an example the collective action needed.”
Social Care needs a long term fix and needs it now
“The talented and dedicated staff in the public health and social services teams have worked to protect our community and ensure residents are vaccinated as quickly as possible. But the policy of successive Chancellors since 2015 to force us to raise local Council Tax above inflation to pay for the costs of social care still doesn’t leave us able to cover these growing costs. Ten years of austerity by central Government has squeezed funding to a fraction of the money we used to get, and this has forced Tower Hamlets Council to make very difficult choices in the community-based services we provide and charges we apply.
“Talking to disabled and seriously unwell people and community groups across the Borough over the past year, one thing that strikes me is that individuals have been left even more exposed by austerity than local councils have been, especially in regards to disability benefits. Listening to residents and talking about the struggles to stay well, I know that the Social Security system is not working for the vulnerable.
“Many are worried about DWP’s letter dropping through their letter box in the coming months telling them they have to reapply for their benefit. Even those who won at their appeal have to keep applying.
“Boris Jonson has promised reform and the former Work & Pensions Secretary, Amber Rudd, promised to publish a Green Paper with plans for a different approach. Nearly three years later, disabled people are still waiting.
“This kind of treatment of some of our most vulnerable citizens cannot be allowed to continue, especially with Coronavirus having left so many suffering from long-Covid and others unable to get routine treatment because of the pandemic pressures on the NHS. That’s why I am backing those disability charities and welfare rights campaigning for this Green Paper to be published now and to include proposals for meaningful changes to the ESA, UC and PIP assessment regimes.
“The pandemic has shown the absolute necessity of a properly-functioning Social Security system. Those who aren’t able to work because of their disability or ill health need the rest of us to challenge ministers to sort out these assessments too.”
Councillor for Bow East, and Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Adults, Health and Wellbeing
Tower Hamlets Connect has a band new website. Under Information and Advice you will find a long list of useful topics with full information on the services offered and who to contact.