I’ve been informed today that @deafplanet’s benefits were stopped despite believing they had been reinstated and it all stems from a DWP failure to supply her with the right contact details see previous post Being Deaf is no excuse if you can’t phone you will lose your benefits

The Job Centre Plus office in Leeds has stopped her benefits including Job Seekers Allowance, Housing Benefit and Council tax Benefit. She doesn’t know what to do or who to contact. I cannot describe my horror at the situation she is in. And it could all be easily avoided.

If anyone can help please get contact us.

On 3 February whilst I was at #benefitscamp which included staff from Department of Work and Pensions (DW) I received notice that for the first time ever Janet had received her first ever text message from DWP by SMS it read:

“‘ACTION IS COMPLETE FOLLOWING THE CHANGE TO YOUR CLAIM. WRITTEN CONFIRMATION WILL FOLLOW. ANY PAYMENT DUE WILL BE PAID AS NORMAL. NO FURTHER ACTION IS NEEDED.’

Janet tried to reply back by text and couldn’t!

When she signed on last week (8th Feb 2012) even the Disability Advisor told her she could not find out what was going on … this is the advisor who is responsible for supporting Disabled and Deaf clients in the job centre.

The DWP has been working with Action on Hearing Loss to ensure:

  • all Local Service visiting officers have received training from Action on Hearing Loss (previously RNID);
  • Local Service letters have been revised to include an offer to customers to have a sign language interpreter present at the visit and the provision of a hearing loop that the visiting officer can take with them;
  • hearing loops have been purchased for each office;
  • a number of staff are trained in sign language;

On Directgov you can email Job Centre Plus – it takes 10 working days (over 3 weeks) for them to respond so they recommend you phone if it is urgent … There clearly is a pattern emerging here.

 

DWP Press Department issued a statement to us last week saying:

“While we cannot comment on the specific details of individual benefit decisions, the Jobcentre Plus office will be getting back in touch with the person concerned to discuss the issues raised further.”

Clearly none of this is happening if even the Disability Advisor cannot get an answer.

I was sent by DWP press department a number of links to government minister statements including Chris Grayling Minster of State (Employment, Work and Pensions) who on 20th December 2011 in response to being asked “what steps his Department is taking to promote deaf awareness amongst Jobcentre Plus staff.” he replied:

“All Jobcentre Plus staff undertake diversity and equality learning to raise awareness and help them understand issues faced by disabled customers and claimants, including those who are deaf or hearing impaired and other customers with “hidden” disabilities.

Jobcentre Plus advisers and disability employment advisers also receive additional training on disability to enable them to provide the right support to individual customers and claimants.

This is supplemented by guidance which includes advice on making reasonable adjustments for disabled people, including deaf people, to ensure they have full access to services. This approach ensures staff are fully equipped to deal effectively with the needs of a diverse customer base.”

I’ve asked DWP Press Department for a response to the latest and have asked again the following questions and am still waiting for a response:

  1. How DWP records and monitors the issues raised by deaf and disabled clients regarding their access needs being met at job centre plus;
  2. What percentage of job centre plus staff have received disability awareness training and deaf awareness training across the centres. How many are front line staff? Are there any notices put up in the job centre to show clients that staff have been trained?
  3. Are there notices are located within job centre plus to alter clients that they can request their access needs be met e.g. arrangements for booking BSL interpreted support, textphone location, other assistance e.g scribers, large print formats etc.

In meatime here what Chris Grayling has responded in regards to questions in the House of Commons regarding Deaf and Deaf/blind clients access to job centre services (sent to us by DWP Press Office):

What steps are DWP provides taking to ensure Deaf access at job centres:
http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2011-12-20a.87584.h

What support the DWP Department provides for deaf and hard of hearing people to help them enter employment:
http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2011-06-27a.61431.h&s=deaf+work+and+pensions#g61431.q0

What employment support the DWP Department provides to deafblind people placed in the work-related activity group who will not be fit for work within three months
http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2011-09-06e.69418.h&s=deafblind+work+and+pensions#g69418.q0

What measures the DWP has put in place to enable deafblind people to receive specialist support to access the labour market:
http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2011-09-06e.69415.h&s=deafblind+work+and+pensions#g69415.q0