A hotline and drop-in centre run by Real Change Collective (RRC) offered advice to over 70 BME women, improving their combined income by £150,000 over a three-month period.
The scheme, funded by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports’ Tampon Tax Fund (TTF) is working in collaboration with Arhag housing to provide a service to help women navigate the ‘complexities of benefits’.
As reported by 24housing in October, the cost of the service, covered by the TTF, saw Arhag and its five partners win £1m in funding earlier last year.
The free benefits hotline currently offers advice regarding housing, Universal Credit, and Welfare Benefits and is open every Tuesday from 10am-3pm.
The scheme reports that in one case, a disabled woman from Tower Hamlets saw her income boosted to £23,000 after initially having to live on just £59.75 a week.
The woman, known as ‘Ms A.’, receives regular care and support from NHS carers, who attend her home several times a day to assist with everyday livin. She also relies heavily on members of the Somali community, and friends from her local Mosque, in Tower Hamlets.
Despite this, she was told she had to find work and sign up for Universal Credit.
It was then that she decided to contact RCC, which runs a weekly telephone hotline and drop-in centre at Praxis Community Projects, in Bethnal Green, East London.
Memuna Kargbo, a welfare benefits adviser who works for leading housing association Arhag, part of the collective, said the woman was in “so much pain” she was lying on the waiting room floor when she met her.
Ms. A had her ESA and Disability Allowance stopped and was told she should apply for Job Seekers Allowance and then make a new application for Universal Credit, meaning she was falling behind with rent and council tax and had run up debts of £2,000.
Following the first meeting, Ms Kargbo called the DWP, Housing Benefits Office, Council Tax, and Disability benefits to find out exactly what was happening. After not being able to find a quick solution, she decided to appeal the decision of the medical assessment to reinstate her benefits.
After Speaking with Ms A. about all her medical issues, and seeing assessments from consultants and GPs, Ms Kargbo believed the woman was entitled to ESA and the higher-level PIP payments, as well as other support with mobility.
After just a few weeks, Ms A. received a letter from the DWP to tell her she had been successful with her appeal and that she was to get a range of benefits amounting to £23,200.
On the collaborative scheme, Arhag CEO Cedric Boston said: “The Tampon Tax Fund money is allowing us to bring real change to people’s lives.
“We’ve had a huge impact in just three months and believe this is just the start of measurable help we can bring to those who need it most.”