Delivering benefits advice in the Coronavirus crisis
Benefits Advice Manager, Gail Harris, talks about the crucial role that benefit entitlement checks play in helping people in fuel poverty, and how we’re adapting to ensure people still get support during the Covid-19 crisis.
NEA’s Benefit Entitlement Service (BECs) delivers advice and assistance with benefit claims across a wide range of benefits throughout the country.
In practice this can include anything from a simple benefit check to full claims help and tactical advice. Historically this has been delivered in several ways – phone advice, home visits and online support with digital claims.
The home visiting service has always been a huge feature within our local communities as we are one of the few agencies offering this crucial help to the most vulnerable customers who are generally those least able to access services online or remotely. We offer a holistic approach to ensure that the customer can access a full range of services, this includes referrals to other sources of help where necessary and we do this by working with a large local network of agencies.
In the current climate we have had to adapt and find ways of continuing to reach those most vulnerable clients through different means, for example just recently we were able to work with some local GP surgeries to send out a text alert about the service. The other big change has been the kinds of enquiries we are getting through, including students unsure about Universal Credit entitlements, people who have never had to rely on the benefit system not knowing where to begin, furloughed workers wondering if there are any top ups they might be able to access.
Across the sector we are all navigating multiple complexities in this new world. A key one for benefits advice has been navigating a rapidly evolving and complex system amidst some real practical barriers, phone delays being just one of many. The DWP/local authorities are offering stop gaps and temporary arrangements designed to minimise disruption and we are working to get the best outcome for customers and of course avoid hardship.
We have created a dedicated freephone number, to help us to continue to offer this important service, albeit remotely. Of course, there will continue to be challenges, but ones which we at NEA are pleased to be overcoming with and on behalf of our clients so they are able to continue accessing vital advice and information.
You can contact the Warm and Safe Homes Benefits Advice Service on 0800 138 8218