Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Disability Online support group helps hundreds - on a shoestring

Disability Online

Disability Online, the local voluntary organisation which receives no government funding or grants for the work they do, have managed to survive their second year running entirely on small donations from individuals.

In the past twelve months alone they have helped a total of 203 people receive correct benefit awards – this total does not reflect the total number of clients that they have helped however.

The benefit awards are broken down into the following categories:

  • Employment Support Allowance: 159
  • Disability Living Allowance: 18
  • Personal Independence Payment: 6
  • Attendance Allowance: 5
  • Carers Allowance: 6
  • Housing Benefit: 9

Disability Online has helped administer a staggering 96 appeals in the past year. Appeals are often undertaken when the Department for Work and Pensions have the view that the client is not entitled to a specific benefit or have lowered a client’s benefit based upon the outcomes of medicals undertaken by the controversial outgoing assessment provider Atos.

Disability Online then step in and help the client with the paperwork and represent them at the appeal should it go to court. Of those 96 appeals, 55% of those were successful - the remaining 45% were either withdrawn or lost. An appeal could be withdrawn should there not be enough evidence to guarantee a success or if there is a risk of a further reduction in benefits if it was a review appeal.

Based in the Lighthouse Centre in Morecambe, Disability Online is one of two in the district’s only DPO (Disabled Person’s Organisation) that is fully run by people with disabilities on a day-to-day basis. There are no paid staff - it is entirely run by an enthusiastic and committed group of volunteers, meaning that operating costs are kept to a minimum. Disability Online has 4 volunteer advisors and 2 volunteer administrators.

Since its inception in 2012 Disability Online has won a National Diversity Award and has gone from strength to strength.  The philosophy of the volunteers who give up so much of their own time to help vulnerable people cope with a demanding and complex bureaucracy is that it should be the right of the Disabled person to choose who serves them; not the local funding bodies.

You can find out more about Disability Online at http://www.disabilityonline.org.uk/. Tel: 07411 038108.
You can also follow Disability Online on Twitter @Disabilitynet.

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