Getting help with a benefit application
Over eight in ten respondents (83 per cent) said that they had needed help with a benefit application in the past.
What help was needed for
Just under eight in ten respondents (78 per cent) said they needed help knowing what to write on the application form. Over half (52 per cent) said they needed help understanding the application form.
Half of respondents (50 per cent) said they needed help because their disability or health condition makes filling in forms difficult.
Around four in ten (39 per cent) said they needed emotional support when doing the application.
Over half of respondents said a support organisation such as Citizens Advice Bureau or Welfare Rights helped them.
Around one third (34 per cent) said a friend or family member helped them.
How helpful the support was
Overall, nine in ten respondents (90 per cent) said the support they received with the application was helpful or very helpful, with two thirds (66 per cent) saying it was 'very helpful'.
7 per cent rated the support as 'not so helpful' or 'not at all helpful.'
We asked respondents to tell us more about their experience of getting help with an application form.
Most respondents said they needed help understanding and writing the application form and that the support they received was positive.
"The advisor was able to explain the question, giving examples, this helped me realise what the question was actually asking and made it relevant (or not) to me so I could better formulate an answer."
This help gave some respondents peace of mind that their application form was completed correctly.
For others, talking through the application form allowed them to recognise the impact of their health condition or disability on their daily lives.
"Sometimes I'd forget to mention things as it's just part of my normal life, not thinking of the huge differences between my everyday life and those without disabled children."
Some respondents said that those who gave practical help with an application form also provided emotional support.
"Relieved feelings of overwhelming fear, panic and isolation, and the inability to fill in application."
Some respondents had a less positive experience because they struggled to get correct help when they needed it, felt they were not listened to, or found it difficult to talk about personal details with someone they did not know.
"The first time I asked for help it was there. This time there was no help and found it very difficult to fill in."
"It is difficult to speak about some personal parts of my illness with someone at CAB or similar whom I have not met before."
"An advocate I used - I was hoping would help with understanding what was meant by certain questions - but they didn't explain them - just told me they could only write what I said, but that didn't help me understand."
"Basically the lady who helped me to complete the form did not listen to my needs and what I was telling her. She put down what she thought and this led to me being turned down for PIP."
We asked respondents if they have always been able to get help with a benefit application form when they need it.
Over half of respondents (54 per cent) said yes.
Over one third (36 per cent) said no.
We asked respondents to tell us more about why they have not always been able to get help with an application form.
The most common reason given was availability of help.
Many respondents said the support organisations they contacted for help were often very busy. It was difficult to get an appointment in the time needed to submit their application.
Long waiting times and short deadlines on application forms were also made worse by difficulty travelling. This was mentioned particularly in small towns and rural areas. The hours organisations are available was also raised as a barrier.
"Citizens Advice have to help so many people that the short deadline is past before they can give you an appointment. It's hard to keep appointments as they're often based far from where I live and I may not be well enough to travel."
This was especially a problem for respondents with mobility issues. A few respondents described problems with the accessibility of support organization venues.
"I've not always been able to physically access a location where I can get help."
Some respondents said they have not always been able to get help with an application form because they did not know that they could ask for help or did not know where to go.
Finding the right organisation to help was also raised as a barrier.
"I didn't know I could get help."
"I didn't know where to go or who to ask."
"Passed around, money support workers, welfare rights workers, citizens advice workers, money advisory workers, advocacy workers, housing workers. Difficult to know the route to take."
"Time, distance, not knowing who to ask, limited appointments available, mental health, physical health."
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