Benefit tests CAB support

Joe Michna pictured utside the Park Road citizens advice bureau.
Joe Michna pictured utside the Park Road citizens advice bureau.

CITIZENS advice bosses are getting new clients on a daily basis pleading for help on benefit appeals.

The centre, which is based in Hartlepool’s Park Road, is continuing to deal with large numbers of people who have failed Work Capability Assesments as part of checks to whether they are fit for work.

The medical examination can last up to 40 minutes, then a practitioner will prepare a medical report which is sent to the JobCentre where an officer will make the final decision on whether a person passes the WCA.

Areas which are covered in the checks include the client’s ability to walk, reach and stand as well as mental health checks and any communication problems they may suffer with.

Points are awarded on each section, and if the claimant fails to reach 15 points then they are deemed fit for work.

But Hartlepool Citizens Advice boss Joe Michna claims many of his clients are not aware that the system is based on points.

Mr Michna said: “Advising and assisting with these appeals is the most frequent type of Welfare Benefit enquiry we are currently dealing with.

“We are advising people to properly prepare themselves for the medical assessment by giving some thought to their own medical condition and how it affects them on a day-to-day basis.

“People attending these medicals are not told beforehand that they are being assessed under a points based system. They only become aware of the points system after they receive a decision form the JobCentre.”

Mr Michna has issued the following guidelines for anyone who is facing an assessment:

l Make some notes before you attend the medical on how you medical condition affects you

l Take details of any medication you use to the medical

l be prepared for a lot of questions from the Medical Practitioner who conducts the assessment

l Make sure that you tell the Medical Practitioner about all of your medical problems

l Compile a diary before you attend the medical showing what a typical day or week of your life is like

l Take a friend or family member with you if you are nervous about attending the examination.

He added: “We always advice people on the complaints procedure if they wish to lodge a complaint. We offer advice and assistance with making an appeal against a decision as well as helping people prepare for their tribunal hearing.” People can get advice on the benefits system by calling into the CAB on Monday, Wednesday or Friday between 9am-3pm.