What We Do
We are a charity providing information, advice and support to anyone in need. We aim to support people in understanding and navigating everyday services that they need to access to enable them to live better lives. We deal with a huge range of issues including helping with benefits checking, welfare rights, form filling and housing advice, information on living with disabilities, help for carers and much more.
We also work with clients to grow their confidence in what they can manage for themselves. An example of this is the work we do on Universal Credit (UC). Many of our clients are digitally excluded and this makes UC hard for them. Many have stated they do not have the skills to manage their on line account. However, with the support and patience of our reception team, we have clients who now have the confidence to use one of our public computers and manage their own UC account. In total 658 clients came in to use our public computers during 2019. This has been a very encouraging for both the clients and for us.
How We Work
CommuniCare Advice Centre
CommuniCare run a drop in service rather than an appointment system. We open at 10am every day and see clients in the order that they arrived. This does mean that our waiting room can be busy, and the waiting times can be long. However, it does mean we can see clients on the same day and there is no need for them to wait several days or weeks for an appointment. At our Advice Centre, clients are given a 1:1 confidential session in one of our advice rooms. Whilst we support clients with many different issues, 60% of the work we did in the Advice Centre in 2019 was benefits related. We work with clients to ensure they are receiving the benefits that they are entitled to and are needed for their daily living.
We offer home visits for clients who are either not able to access support out of their home at all or who have episodes when they are not well enough to visit us at the centre.. In 2019 just over 40% of our referrals came from the RBC Adult Social Care / Social Work reams. During 2019 85% of the work we did on home visits was benefits related.
We have set up outreach sessions in areas across Reading. During 2019 we continued to develop the new outreach sessions we had started in 2018. We have also continued to support the Job Centre with 2 sessions per week, assisting people with their Universal Credit accounts, both applications and on-going management and with job searches. We have built a good relationship with the team at the Job Centre and we work with them to better support their more vulnerable clients. During 2019, 74% of the work we did on outreach was benefits related.
The Issues We Deal With
CommuniCare assist clients with a wide range of different issues, from benefit claims to letter writing. Clients will often come to us with 2 or more issues at any one time. Also, through the listening skills of our advisers, and the time we give to our clients, we will often uncover additional issues that the client needs support with. During 2019 we made over 900 benefit applications for clients. The largest number being for Universal Credit.
Case Study: A client came to us as their Employment Support Allowance had stopped and they were unsure why. We supported them to tribunal and were successful in getting the benefit reinstated. However, there was a breakdown in communication between the Tribunal Service and the DWP and the payments were not reinstated. This took 4 months to resolve, with the client being left in a very vulnerable state. We were able to get this resolved and have all the payments backdated to the date of the successful tribunal.
Case Study: We supported a very vulnerable client with his Personal Independence Payment (PIP) application, the mandatory reconsideration and then with the appeal. The client presents well but has severe memory problems due to a brain injury. We accompanied him to his appeal hearing. We provided a statement on our dealings with the client and explained the hidden issues he has. He was awarded PIP at the hearing.