Select Committee on Work and Pensions Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by DIAL UK (OP 11)


  DIAL UK has received evidence from several DIAL advice centres in areas where ONE pilot projects have been running since June 1999. This evidence relates to the specific impact ONE has had upon disabled people using DIAL advice centres.

  All of the DIALs that have submitted evidence have reported problems with the way in which ONE pilots have dealt with the specific needs of disabled people. The main areas of concern include the following:

    —  Inaccessibility of ONE premises and lack of disabled facilities.

    —  Lack of accessibility to information about the ONE service in formats usable by disabled people with visual impairments.

    —  The limited knowledge and awareness of ONE advisers about disability benefits and the specific needs of disabled people.

    —  ONE advisers issuing inappropriate claim forms and giving inappropriate advice.

    —  Claimants not being given enough time before interview to seek help filling out forms.

    —  Aspects of inconsistency within the ONE process.

    —  Time being taken to arrange home visits.

    —  Inadequacies in the service for disabled people under 25 years old.

    —  Worries clients have about the independence of the new system.

  DIALs have reported some positive aspects to the new system. Most notably has been the positive effect the continuity the service has had for disabled people suffering from mental health problems or learning disabilities.

  It has also been noted that some pilot projects have been more successful than others in addressing the problems experienced by disabled people. This has been mainly due to differences in the quality of communication between ONE projects and Welfare Rights groups such as DIALs.


  1.1  DIAL UK welcomes the opportunity to have an input into the development process of the ONE pilots.

  1.2  DIAL UK is the umbrella organisation for a national network of 150 independent, specialist disability advice centres run by and for disabled people. DIAL UK provides these centres with training and support in areas of management, welfare rights, information provision and social policy.

  The network exists to address the poverty and social exclusion that disabled people face by providing them with specialist high quality information and advice services, by raising awareness of the needs of disabled people and by campaigning on national issues that directly affect the lives of disabled people.

  Last year, the 1,200 local DIAL advisers helped more than ¼ million disabled people to access their rights and entitlements and to live more independent lives.

  1.3  This submission has been compiled by DIAL UK drawing upon the evidence received from local DIAL advice centres in various ONE pilot areas. It focuses on the experiences of disabled people in relation to these pilots.

  1.4  The majority of the evidence received by DIAL UK has been regarding privately run ONE pilot projects. We have had no feedback from DIALs in areas where call-centre pilots have been in operation. As DIALs operate a confidential service we are not able, at this stage to include any specific case studies in our evidence. Permission to use particular cases must first be sought from the client involved. Such details may be made available at a future time if necessary.


Problems arising from ONE pilot projects

  2.1  A major obstacle that DIAL clients have experienced in using ONE projects has been difficulties with physical access. In all the evidence received, the ONE premises being used have not been adapted for use by disabled people. In one case, the ONE office was based on the first floor with the only means of access being a steep flight of stairs. This scenario makes access impossible for people in a wheelchair and makes it difficult for those people with mobility, heart or breathing problems.

  2.2  The lack of other facilities within ONE premises has also caused problems for disabled people. Traditionally, job centres do not have public toilets (for disabled people or otherwise) and many ONE projects are based in job centres. This has led to difficulties and a great deal of embarrassment for DIAL clients. There have been cases where clients with bowel disorders have had to be escorted to and from staff toilets by their ONE adviser.

  2.3  One way of addressing these physical access problems is to provide home visits for some disabled people. However, this option has been problematic too. There seems to be a lack of clear guidelines as to who is responsible for arranging work-focussed interviews where the client needs a home visit. DIALs have found that clients are still waiting to have their interviews after several weeks. After further investigation it was found that ONE projects were saying that the arrangement of home visits were the responsibility of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) whilst the DWP asserted that it was the responsibility of the ONE project. Issues such as this need to be sorted out and clear guidance issued as delays caused by these uncertainties mean additional hardship for disabled people.

  2.4  Access to information about the ONE process has been an issue for DIAL advice centres. DIALs have had difficulties in obtaining additional leaflets about the ONE project. In one area the leaflets sent to DIALs were out of date and were not relevant to the type of project running in their locality. An additional problem has been the design of the leaflets being produced. The colouring and design of the leaflets are inappropriate for use by people with visual impairments. There also seems to be inadequate provision of information in alternative formats i.e. braille or large print.

  2.5  Perhaps the most serious problem that DIALs have encountered with the ONE projects is the lack of knowledge advisers have of specific disability benefits and the needs of disabled people. A number of DIALs have commented on the fact that disabled people are being given claim packs and forms that are inappropriate to their needs. This has left clients confused and has led to delays in claiming the appropriate benefits. In some cases advisers have dissuaded clients from claiming benefits based on limited evidence. An example of this occurred in the Leeds ONE pilot area. A client contacted ONE in order to claim Incapacity Benefit. She was ill on the day of the interview and it had to be rearranged. She went to ONE and was told that it was not worth claiming because if she could get to her GP surgery for a sicknote and attend the ONE interview then she would probably not qualify for IB.

  2.6  There seems to be, in some areas, inconsistencies in the application of the ONE process. DIALs have reported that some clients in ONE pilot areas have received claim forms for Invalid Care Allowance directly from ICA administrating bodies and been accepted by ICA without the involvement of ONE.

  2.7  DIALs based in large urban areas are experiencing problems with the timetabling of ONE interviews. Clients are being given only a week to fill out their claim forms before the interview. As ONE advisers in these areas are not giving clients the help they require to complete the forms they are approaching DIALs for this assistance. As the number of clients coming within the ONE process is growing DIALs are finding it increasingly hard to deal with clients' needs in this limited time.

  2.8  There has been a further problem experienced by disabled people under the age of 25. In certain ONE areas, clients under 25 have been turned away from ONE offices because they have been told that only certain offices can deal with their claims. They have not been given the correct information as to which office will deal with their claims resulting in them having to visit three different offices before being properly dealt with. Also, there has been no indication on any of the information that DIALs in these areas have received that clients under 25 should attend one particular ONE office in this way. This has caused inconvenience, frustration and extra stress for clients.

  2.9  Some DIAL clients have expressed wariness in making claims through the ONE system. There are concerns amongst some clients, though not all, about the independence of the system in that the Employment Service/Benefits Agency is involved in a clients initial claims process.

  2.10  A worrying development in Leeds in recent weeks has been the suspension of all work-focussed interviews. It has been said that this is due to staff shortages. This has left many DIAL clients who are part way through the ONE process both worried and confused.

Positive aspects of the ONE pilots

  3.1  DIALs have identified a particular area in which the ONE system has had benefits for some disabled people. This has been in relation to clients with mental health problems and learning disabilities. Clients with these types of problems have found the process of dealing with a single adviser, someone that they have met before, much easier. Clients such as these are often wary of change so the continuity of the system is much less stressful for them.

  3.2  In the Suffolk ONE pilot area DIALs are very happy with the new system. Although they experienced problems initially, many of these have been addressed through a process of ongoing meetings and consultations. DIALs and other welfare rights groups were able to establish a line of communication with ONE managers at an early stage in the project. This resulted in ONE managers attending welfare rights group meetings and hearing first hand the problems that were being experienced. This ongoing communication with groups such as DIAL has led to changes in practice from the ONE project to address problems as well as ONE advisers referring clients to DIALs for further help when needed. This seems to be an ideal way of addressing the problems that disabled people are experiencing with the ONE system. While Suffolk has been successful in establishing a good working relationship with ONE projects, this has not been the case in all areas. In Leeds the DIAL has attempted to build such communications but their requests for meetings with ONE managers has been ignored. Consequently, the problems their clients experience have not been addressed.

Lucy Birkinshaw

Social Policy Worker

October 2001

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