The newly formed Benefits and Tenancies team seeks to provide benefits advice to individuals supported through Caring For Life. This job is beautifully summed up in Proverbs 31v8-9; “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy”. This is exactly what this team seeks to do; it seeks to support people through the benefit process (from initial application to appeal), to walk alongside people to ensure that fair and just decisions are made and to relieve some of the stress that this process can cause.
During the pandemic this support has had to look rather different, with benefits support being provided through zoom or 3 way phone calls. Whilst, we are thankful to still support people, albeit virtually, through this process it does bring it’s challenges.
As many will have experienced during this season, it is difficult to assess really how someone is coping when engaging virtually. The benefits process is difficult as many of the questions focus on the things that the individual can’t do, the negative and difficult situations in that persons life. This often causes upset and distress.
It is difficult in that instance not be physically present with the individual, to comfort and support them. Pre-pandemic, in this situation we would have comforted and supported the individual and perhaps taken a break from the benefits questions to go for a walk down the valley, grab a cuppa or just get a breath of fresh air.
Whilst this is a very different way of supporting people through tough times, it does provide wonderful opportunities to spend time and chat with people while waiting for DWP to answer. It has led to some funny moments, such as, having to wait for the hold message to finish to continue our conversation. Ultimately, though, God has reminded us time and time again, that this is His work and in the last few months we have seen incredible answers to prayer and seen miraculous changes in benefits decisions. Being able to support people through these difficult and anxious times is a privilege. At a time, where we can feel so disconnected and so isolated, we get to be alongside individuals and weather this storm together.