Funding pot for Citizen’s Advice Bureau

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Calderdale Citizen’s Advice Bureau has been granted £150,000 of funding to implement a new programme across the region.

The money, provided by Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group, will be used to help people who have been assessed by the ATOS system as being no longer entitled to receive welfare benefits.

The programme aims to help people who may approach their GP for assistance in appealing against such a decision.

The funding will allow specialists at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau to prepare patient’s appeal cases as thoroughly as possible in order to help those who may have been incorrectly assessed.

Alistair McGregor, chief executive of Calderdale Citizen’s Advice Bureau, said: “We had a conversation with the CCG and working together we came up with a plan.

“We have been given funding for two years to operate the process and we hope to work in partnership with GPs to better prepare patient’s cases.”

The project centres on a “pre-screening” function, completed by the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, where a specialist advisor examines the grounds on which an individual has been assessed by ATOS as fit for work and identifies any aspects of the assessment which may be flawed or inadequate.

The legal merits of the case are then assessed and where there is a reasonable expectation of a successful appeal, evidence is sought from a patient’s GP so that an effective challenge can be made.

The Citizen’s Advice Bureau will then guide the individual through the appeal process in cases where they meet the qualifying criteria of the benefit refused.

It is hoped that the process, which already has an 80 per cent success rate, will ensure that GPs only invest time in completing a medical evidence form when it is likely to benefit their patients,

Alistair added: “If there are people out there who have found themselves in this position we ask them to contact their GP or come into the Citizens Advice Bureau.

“We have a four-person team of specialists who will examine your case if it has merit.”

The Halifax Citizen’s Advice Bureau is at 37 Harrison Road and the team can be contacted on 01422 842848.