Lend a Hand: advice to people with learning difficulties on welfare benefits and other money matters Developed by People First Fraserburgh

About the group:
People First Fraserburgh gives people with learning difficulties a voice. The group is run by people with learning difficulties. The group runs practical activities that people have said will make their lives better and works to change community attitudes towards people with disabilities. They have some paid workers and a few volunteers to help with things too.

People First Fraserburgh works in ways that reflect the spirit of micro enterprises and social innovation.

What they did:
Lend a Hand began in 2014 with a grant from the Big Lottery Fund. It is now funded from Aberdeenshire Council and charitable trusts.

PFF employed a part-time worker who focuses just on this project and is based at the drop in. She helps people plan for benefits claims and appeals and goes with them to meetings. She also gives advice and information on other money matters such as fuel costs, ways to save on other household costs, and making arrangements for debts that have built up when people have not had enough money coming in.

Peer support works with people encouraging each other to ask for advice and understanding that people should not worry about money matters and it is OK to talk to this worker about any questions of concerns.

  • Over the 17 months of the initial project the part-time worker supported 36 people with learning disabilities to claim their correct benefit entitlements.
  • The project helped recover £114,686 of outstanding benefits, which is an average of £3,186 for each person.

The project is also now working with staff in other organisations to build their skills and understanding, so more people with learning disabilities can get appropriate information and advice from more sources.

How the innovation got underway and role of OTB
Around 2013 the PFF noticed that more of their members and other people with learning difficulties in North East Aberdeenshire were having problems with claims for welfare benefits and appeals against decisions.

The innovation they wanted to create was a source of information and advice that started from the circumstances of people with learning difficulties, and would help raise awareness about the impact on the lives of people with learning disabilities.

Outside the Box had worked with the group before, supporting other innovations. We knew how the group worked and the values and approaches that were very important to them. We knew about the gap they had identified. We identified the initial funding sources and helped the committee, workers and volunteers with the application.

This was the biggest innovation the group had taken on and they – and the Big Lottery Fund – needed to be confident that they would manage it well. We helped them review their systems – identify the policies and arrangements already in place and working well (which was most of them) and those that needed to be adapted to work for this grant and project.

The group were able to use the contacts and partnerships they already had with other organisations in the area to take the project forward. They established a Steering Group to help with aspects such as information and publicity and raising awareness of the issue.

We helped them plan how to gather information about the scale and type of requests, what the worker did, and the impact it had for the people who got support.

Outside the Box looked at the information and feedback the project had gathered and put this into a report for funders and potential new funders and partners. We also worked with the group and the other organisations to plan how they wanted to take the project forward.

The impacts for people
The benefits for people with learning difficulties and their families were significant.

  • Improved quality of life with money to spend on better heating, eating better and buying clothes that they needed.
  • For some people, living in a house that was close to friends and family, rather than having to move to a smaller house in a place they did not know.
  • Opportunities to mixed with their friends and families with money for taxi fares and coffee, reducing social isolation.
  • People were less worried about their immediate situation and about the future.
  • People’s confidence and self-esteem increased, which in turn has had many more positive impacts on people’s wellbeing and being part of their community.
  • It also helped the families of people who got support. Examples include taking pressure off them, when they were trying to complete claim forms on their own.

 There have also been benefits for People First Fraserburgh:

  • Members knowing that they have helped more people by bringing this service to Fraserburgh and through telling people that it is there.
  • Raising the profile of the group with other organisations.
  • Creating more opportunities for other innovations that come from the experiences of people with learning difficulties and their ideas on what will make life better for people.

Impacts for the wider system
This project improved the capacity of other services when workers there learned from the Lend a Hand worker.

This project also reduced people’s need for health and social care services when they could maintain their own support networks in the community.

More information
There is more information about the Lend a Hand project in the report.

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